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The shopping mall, once a staple of American culture, has been on life support for decades. Malls have been razed across the country, and many of those that remain sit half-vacant or abandoned entirely, the stores that once filled them wiped out by the economic downturn or hobbled by consumers’ migration to online shopping.
Want proof? Visit deadmalls.com, a site dedicated to chronicling the downfall of the mall via sobering (and a little bit eerie) pictures of formerly thriving shopping centers now in decay.
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Today, approximately 1,100 enclosed shopping malls remain, though analysts expect about 400 of those to shutter in the next few years. ,But according to a recent story in the Wall Street Journal, the malls that remain may find new life via an unlikely source: the medical industry. More and more malls are now being reborn as medical and healthcare centers. The most recent is the former Atrium Mall in Chestnut Hill, Mass. The Atrium, located just outside Boston, shuttered in 2013 after years of decline — at its closing, its occupancy rate hovered near an anemic 20 percent. Early this year, following a $100 million overhaul, the mall’s owner, Bulfinch Companies, reopened the space as the renamed Life Time Center, a gigantic fitness-centric facility, complete with gym, healthy eating options and doctor’s offices.
And in early June, the Life Time Center scored its highest profile new tenant yet, when the renowned Dana Farber Cancer Institute signed a deal to lease two floors of the building as a satellite center for their downtown location. When it opens at the facility in 2019, the new hospital “plans to host clinical trials, exams, infusions, and other services to newly diagnosed cancer patients,” according to the Boston Globe.