New Uses for Empty Shopping Centers

Thoughts on what can shopping centers do when big box stores go under.
Small stores nearby struggle to survive due to lower sales resulting from
fewer walk-in visitors, because of the huge rise in on-line sales.

Prices drop, life goes on

The value of existing shopping centers from an investment point of view
must be dropping, with so many storefronts empty, instead of making money for
the shopping center owner/investor.
The old owner may have to short-sell their shopping center, since it’s not
making the kind of money anymore that they needed from it.
The new owner, purchasing the shopping center at a lower price, can now offer
renters a lower rent price which the previous owner could not do.
The renters can more easily afford to stay in the shopping center, despite
losing sales due to big-box store moving out, since their rent expense also
dropped thru the floor.

Big Box: School

Turn the big box store into a school — but, who should the students be?
Adults, not kids. Can adults be humble enough to learn, take the time to study & attend? To pay for their education? I would find people who can teach classes like “how to thrive in the new economy.” Directly address the issues people are facing now, both personally and as small businesses. Research and collect best-known-methods in these areas, and share them as widely as possible, to help the most people possible — primarily through these training courses.

Invite many entrepreneurs and business owners to talk about their businesses
and experiences, tell honestly what’s going on, what works and what doesn’t,
jobs for modern business, skills for modern business, etc.
Could the big box store not be zoned for creating a place of education?
Or is that not an issue, it’s a retail outlet, it’s a service organzation?

Big Box: Homeless Shelter

Homeless shelters and assistance organizations (food, supplies, etc.) are in
great need in many cities, more now than ever before.
The downside is that there will be more homeless people visiting the area,
which might interfere with sales and customer experience for the surrounding
stores in the shopping area. Maybe a per-shopping-center arrangement, so
there could be a “help center”, with each storefront holding a different type
of service to homeless people and poor people: shelter, food, clothing, etc.
One whole shopping area is dedicated to a mixture of these services, so that
other shopping centers can continue without participating in such services.

Below Living Wage Earners

Not just homeless could be benefited by setting up a central station
where people could come for food/water/shelter/clothing.
People who live below-living-wage, people who lost everything, people
making less than a certain amount of money per month who could use this
tpye of service, could use facilities like this.

Problem: if zoning is an issue, talk to the city about a new type of apartment
living space for lower working class families and individuals.

Meeting Place

Some stores could be used as meeting places, as the world becomes more mobile, more virtual, people could meet for short periods of time. For example business networking meetings party gathering areas with a nice environment to get people out of their local area perhaps when extended family is visiting, etc.

HOA meeting places, Meetups that people create to talk about common topics,
when a particular meeting will have extra people that would overflow a group’s normal meeting place (i.e. Annual voting meeting for an HOA), etc.
Corporate meeting spaces, individual private rooms to make telephone calls
or use the Internet without distraction, etc.

Virtual postal address

A new thing in our world today is the idea of a virtual location — you can stake your claim to a physical address in another part of the country, that is remotely accessible over the Internet from any location — along the lines of services like ipostal1.com . I just acquired an address in a state over 1000 miles away, where I can receive postal mail, and have someone at that address scan any letters that arrive for me in the mail, so I can see the contents online.

Escrow/clearing house

Exchange points for trading things between individuals (craigslist).

Modern Warehousing

Generic warehousing as a service, to store and retrieve types of items for
businesses that sell physical items of varying size/dimensions/weight.
Use roboticised warehousing equipment that’s a few years old to save money,
but still modern enough to be mostly automated, requiring the fewest employees to keep it operating. Not like old factories and warehouses of the past, where people had to do all the moving and lifting and sorting manually.

Any online retailers can use this service and location as their order shipping
station. The National Odd Shoe Exchange, for example, could use it as an
automated Shoe-sorting and shipping facility. The space would be structured
to best facilitate inbound huge boxes of randomly arranged discarded shoes
which enter the sorting end of the warehouse (with docks, if required).
Next would be a space for sorting, to place the inbound shoes into different
categories, onto shelves and bins for later retrieval, including inventory
checking capability.

The other end of the warehouse, past all the organized-stored shoes, would be
the order-shipment facility — a “pick” area, to fill orders, and ship them out
of the other end of the building. Pickup by UPS, Fedex, USPS, any providers
like that, the storefront has a street address for filled order shipments.
Sell to online retailers as their order shipping station.

Problem: Not zoned for warehousing/industrial?

Not sure how to solve that; need to look into it.

Problem: no dock for big trucks in some shopping areas?

Solution: grocery stores are sometimes the big-box that goes out of business.
They always have docks in the back, the back room can be the sorting room,
the main section of the store can be the warehousing of sorted products,
and the front area where checkout registers used to be would be the
pick and ship stations. The front of the store is the front address
where UPS, Fedex, USPS and other shipping companies pick up the shipments.

What if a customer warehousing company needs way more storage than one
grocery store sized space can handle?
Then you take over multiple empty grocery store areas and turn them into
effectively a single warehouse. Figure out where to draw the line between
items stored at each location, so perhaps certain items are only at
certain locations, not everything at every location, if that makes sense.
Basically understanding your customers — what combinations of things they want and where they are located, will help guide you to the right placement
of grocery-store-warehouse units, and how to populate them with the products to be shipped.

Utilize ingenious tricks of database redundancy that have been invented in the past few years to optimize the warehouses; each warehouse is like a database, it has limited-capacity (the size of the building) and limited-bandwidth (quantity of supplies that can move in and out), just like a database. How do you do sharding, with warehouses? Mirroring? 
Look into Riak KV, the distributed NoSQL database with high-availability and
scalability. Read the technical documents of how it is implemented, to get
good ideas for implementing such a creature with warehouses.
Read about rings, nodes, vnodes, and consistent hashing, in Riak.
You likely will end up with an “index” built in computer software that
oversees all the inventory at each warehouse, for optimal distribution.

Skills of database performance analysis can be applied to an already functioning warehousing system, to make it more efficient and speedier, require fewer workers, less energy and cost to operate.

Consider whether data structures concepts would help: tree structures, Binary trees, B-trees, red/black trees, game theory, etc.

What do you think the many empty shopping stores near you could be used for?

What human need could it meet, and where would the money come from to pay for such space?

All of these ideas could use a lot more research and polish.
In doing so, more ideas will bubble to the surface.