The Mall of the Future Will Have No Stores

PHOTO: FORD LAND At Fairlane Town Center in Dearborn, Mich., Starwood Capital brought in Ford, which converted a former department store into a workspace for its engineering and purchasing staff.

Shopping-center landlords are rethinking the traditional mall model—and shops aren’t necessarily part of the equation

As retailers close bricks-and-mortar stores at an accelerating pace, shopping-center landlords like Starwood Capital are facing a vexing question: What to do with all this empty space?

Some landlords plug empty spaces with churches, for-profit schools and random enterprises while they figure out a long-term plan. Others see a future in mixed-use real estate, converting malls into streetscapes with restaurants, offices and housing. And some are razing properties altogether and turning them into entertainment or industrial parks.

Many mall owners are trying to liven up the experience, bringing more dining and entertainment tenants and eschewing the traditional mix.