Shopping malls: The future of healthcare?

As consumer interest in shopping malls has decreased throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, healthcare systems have begun filling the unused space in record numbers, according to a Feb. 6 report from NJBiz.

According to a 2020 report from Moody's Analytics, millions of square feet of mall retail space are expected to become available in the next several years. 

A national database run by Atlanta-based Georgia Institute of Technology professor Ellen Dunham-Jones has found that space in 32 malls has been turned into healthcare facilities already, with about one-third turning as a result of the pandemic. 

Malls provide opportune spaces for medical facilities, as they often offer plenty of square footage. They also contribute to increased foot traffic for remaining retail stores. 

Malls are also often located in densely populated areas and close to major highway systems, making them easy to access for patients. 

Since malls are already existent, they also save money for health systems on construction. There is already ample parking available, access to bathrooms, and plumbing and centralized electricity and IT capabilities. 

In 2022 alone, four notable health systems announced plans to move into malls across the U.S. In November, a JCPenney at Gallatin Valley Mall in Bozeman, Mont., was under construction to be converted into a 45,000-square-foot SCL Health ASC. 

In April, University of California San Diego Health opened an 11,000-square-foot GI and digestive clinic in a shopping mall. 

A health system in New York and a health system in New Jersey also shared plans to convert Sears buildings into ASCs in March. 

The same month, Essentia Health said they were building a 41,000-square-foot surgery center at Miller Hill Mall in Duluth, Minn. 

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