On May 11, 2023, U.S. Senator Cory Booker (D-N.J.), along with U.S. Representatives Emanuel Cleaver (D-MO) and María Elvira Salazar (R-FL), introduced the bipartisan, bicameral Grayfield Redevelopment and Economic Advancement Through Effective Repurposing (GREATER) Revitalization of Shopping Centers Act, legislation aimed to address the challenges faced by abandoned and underutilized shopping malls and promote economic growth in communities across the United States.
“This bill is a critical step towards revitalizing abandoned and underutilized shopping malls, fostering economic growth, and creating job opportunities in communities across our nation,” said Senator Booker.
“With this bipartisan, bicameral legislation, we can empower local governments to invest in transformative redevelopment projects that drive economic prosperity and benefit underserved communities. I am proud to join my colleagues in introducing this legislation that will leverage the potential of these spaces to be vibrant, resilient communities for all,” he added.
With the increasing reliance on e-commerce, many shopping centers are struggling to adapt to changing consumer behavior. Studies have shown that a significant number of shopping centers may face closure in the coming years.
However, these spaces hold potential for redevelopment and revitalization, becoming drivers of growth and revenue within their communities. From affordable housing and transit to health facilities and corporate offices, the legislation would create numerous opportunities for repurposing shopping center sites and creating economic opportunities.
“As more and more Americans do their shopping online instead of in shopping centers, communities across the country have watched as their local malls devolve from major economic hubs into large, dilapidated buildings. But what some may see as an eyesore today, I believe can be an enormous opportunity for tomorrow,” said Representative Cleaver.
“With the GREATER Revitalization of Shopping Centers Act, local governments will have an opportunity to utilize public-private partnerships to unlock the additional investments needed to redevelop these economically distressed areas in a way that will stimulate economic activity and strengthen job creation. As a former Mayor, I’ve seen firsthand the power the Section 108 program can have on community development, and I’m proud to join Senator Booker and Representative Salazar in an effort to ensure more communities can benefit,” she continued.
To incentivize these redevelopment projects, the GREATER Revitalization of Shopping Centers Act would authorize grant subsidies in conjunction with the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development’s (HUD) Section 108 Loan Guarantee Program, which provides Community Development Block Grant (CDBG) recipients with the ability to leverage their annual grant allocation to access low-cost, flexible financing for economic development, housing, public facility, and infrastructure projects.
“Community redevelopment is critical to grow our economy and provide more affordable housing opportunities,” said Representative Salazar.
“My vision for Miami focuses on bringing prosperity and dignity to all our communities. This bill expands on this vital work by taking older, unused shopping centers and establishing incentives to build vibrant new developments in their place,” she explained.
The legislation would provide local governments with increased access to capital for investing in the redevelopment of abandoned and underutilized shopping malls, driving economic growth and job creation.
“ICSC supports efforts across the country to create places and spaces where people shop, dine, live, work, play and gather,” said ICSC CEO Tom McGee.
“We believe that strengthening public-private-partnerships can expedite and ease the redevelopment process, and the GREATER Revitalization of Shopping Centers Act of 2023 would help facilitate exactly that type of partnership. Effective adaptive reuse creates good paying trade jobs, helps stabilize and increase the sales and ad valorem tax base for communities across the country, and provides opportunities to alleviate our nation’s housing shortage,” he continued.
Key provisions of the GREATER Revitalization of Shopping Centers Act include:
- Authorization of $50 million per year in Fiscal Years 2024 and 2025 for grant subsidies in conjunction with Section 108 loans;
- Prioritization of projects that promote transit-oriented development, the reclamation and re-use of grayfields, the development of affordable housing, and the removal of existing grayfield infrastructure;
- Emphasis on grant applications that demonstrate extensive community engagement, benefit underserved communities, and include significant local match commitments;
- Assistance for malls that are 30% or less occupied, have two vacant anchor stores, occupy 20 acres or more, and have no less than 40 individual storefronts; and
- Authorization of funds to obtain technical assistance from local qualified service providers on leveraging Section 108 and grant subsidy funds with other assistance programs and incentives.
The bill is endorsed by the following organizations: National Development Council, ICSC, National Community Development Association, Council of State Community Development Agencies, National League of Cities, National Association of Counties, and National Association of Realtors.
2015 photo of Summit Place Mall in Waterford, Michigan is by Kevinwilburn1 via Wikimedia Commons.