For years, the mall’s sole purpose was to be the go-to place for a community’s shopping needs. Among the national anchor stores, shoppers had access to retailers that offered everything from apparel and footwear to furniture and fixtures to toys and sporting goods – and everything in between. As online shopping gained popularity, the once-thriving malls began to seem irrelevant. More and more stores began to close their doors and it seemed like most malls were destined to do the same.
While that is the case for some malls, others are adapting to these changing times. Instead of being a destination for commerce, many PA malls are saving their properties by adding attractions that their communities actually need – and value.
Here are a few of the great examples of how many PA malls and shopping centers have transformed into community-focused centers.
The Center at the Mall
A prime example of repurposing retail space as a community center can be found at the Beaver Valley Mall in Monaca, PA. Designed to give Beaver County residents over 50 a place to socialize and stay active, the Center at the Mall community wellness center accomplishes this mission through its fitness center, WiFi cafe, information center, and various programs, classes, activities and events.
Free to join, the Center at the Mall currently has over 12,000 members, making it the largest senior community center in the area. Managed by the nonprofit Lutheran Service Society program with funding provided by the Beaver County Office on Aging, Pennsylvania Lottery and community sponsors, this thriving senior center also features a popular lunch program every Monday to Friday from 11:30 AM to 1:00 PM.
If you’d like to know more about the Center at the Mall, be sure to check out their monthly newsletter!
Berks Community Health Center
After a major supermarket chain closed the doors of a store located in an Eastern PA shopping center, the 37,000-square-foot retail space stodd vacant for five years. Rather than lease the space to another retailer, forward-thinking community members decided to convert the space into a Federally Qualified Health Center (FQHC) to better serve the underrepresented residents of Reading. The result is the innovative Berks Community Health Center.
Designed to provide first-rate healthcare to area residents (regardless of insurance or economic status), the Berks Community Health Center serves the community by providing affordable and comprehensive health services.
A shining example of repurposing former retail spaces to better address the needs of the community, the Berks Community Health Center is also in an ideal location for community members who walk or rely on public transportation.
The Centre Region Active Adult Center
Located in an empty storefront of the Nittany Mall, the Centre Region Active Adult Center is another wonderful example of reimagining retail space for the greater good of the community at large.
Formerly known as the Centre Region Senior Center, this first-rate community resource offers active adults aged 55 and older access to a wide array of classes, activities and events. From fitness programs to a variety of clubs, the center also schedules numerous outings throughout the year along with monthly meals, events and guest speakers. You can keep up the latest news and events by viewing or printing out the monthly calendar!
These are just a few of the many ways communities in Pennsylvania and throughout the US are repurposing their former shopping centers and malls as community spaces. This is a trend that we see continuing and evolving as public demand for more community resources increases.
If you’ve enjoyed this article and would like to learn more about existing and new community centers and spaces in your PA neighborhood, be sure to sign up for the Good For PA newsletter!