To the Editor:
I recently visited the Illinois Star Centre Mall and was dismayed at how abandoned it had become. Yet, new businesses with their related infrastructure were being constructed nearby. I will not pretend to understand the legal encumbrances regarding the mall or overestimate the ability of local government to do what must be done, but there is a path forward. Letting the mall continue to decay cannot be an option.
Americans have been abandoning malls for years and spending their time and money online and outdoor multi-purpose shopping centers. Marion is not unique. By some measures, as much as one-third of all malls in the country are dying.
There are some well-known examples where local government worked with public and private interests to transform dying malls: an ice rink in Tennessee, Google offices in California, and college space in Texas. These are likely not feasible for Marion, but it shows the collaboration and ingenuity required.
Demolishing most of the current structure and transforming it into a multi-purpose outdoor complex makes sense and leverages the existing infrastructure that can accommodate a significant amount of traffic. Perhaps, scaled-down shopping complemented with an amphitheater, offices, farmers market, brewpub, casino, hotel or business incubator?
Local government undoubtedly worked tirelessly with private business in landing the mall almost thirty years ago. We need to see the same kind of drive and creativity to transform one of the largest pieces of real estate of the region into the economic driver that it can be.
Queens, New York