Karr: Shopping malls are making a transition to other uses

Rob Karr, president of the Illinois Retail Merchants Association. (Dave Dahl/WJBC)

By Dave Dahl

SPRINGFIELD – The shopping mall – retail destination of the seventies and eighties – is entering a new chapter.

Rob Karr, president of the Illinois Retail Merchants Association, likes to say retail’s nimble. But what’s less nimble than a gigantic, largely empty mall?

“If you think of it as only purposed for retail, then I think you’re right. But what we are seeing is that those malls that are less of a destination or don’t have a retail concentration are repurposing themselves. We’re seeing them become medical complexes. You want to see a group of, say, technology companies together or certain service companies together.”

Karr says this is happening in other places, too – and in some cases with residential development part of the mix.

Because of a railroad consolidation project, the Illinois Environmental Protection Agency is moving its main office across Springfield to – you guessed it, White Oaks Mall. And, in addition to what’s left of the food court, there’s a car dealer there for employees to check out.

Dave Dahl can be reached at news@wjbc.com

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