Between 2010 and 2013, mall visits declined by 50 percent—and this number has only increased in the last decade. The decline of brick-and-mortar retail has led to hundreds of underutilized malls and retail centers across the U.S., leading many communities to wonder: What’s next?
How do we revitalize these spaces for public benefit? The Congress for the New Urbanism and others propose the reclamation of these spaces—sometimes called ‘Greyfields’—through grassroots development efforts. “Greyfields are the underutilized places in between — often derelict shopping centers and strip commercial sites surrounded by seas of asphalt.” By reclaiming these leftover sites for mixed-use, mixed-income, pedestrian-oriented activities, we can improve access to amenities and our public life.
In our experience, cross-sector collaboration leads to the most successful projects. In this case, the Shops at Iverson management, the Community of Hope Church (a tenant of the mall), Farming 4 Hunger, local residents, and local teens worked together directly to produce a space that will re-energize the mall and benefit the greater Hillcrest Heights community.
From early on in the co-design process, NDC staff observed strong cohesion within the community. Recreating this incredible spirit within the site became a top priority for the co-design team.
The resulting plan incorporates this spirit, and community needs, while also allowing the flexibility for innovation and discovery in future uses. Grow Iverson, which totals over 30,000 square feet in size, is a balance of multiple distinct spaces, each with its own unique character. These one-of-a-kind elements—artistic interventions on the parking garage and fence, gardens, murals, and playful structures—make a unique, fun place that echoes the community’s creativity.
Following the completion of the garden and the soft opening celebration, we look forward to and continue to support our community partners as they work to actualize the plan. We can’t wait to experience the first growing season in the garden!