As Latest Retail Apocolypse Victim, O.C. Shopping Mall May Become Housing Hybrid

Friday night at the mall may be a thing of the past, but the dead complexes of decades past could help solve a modern dilemma

Many retail giants felt the full effect of the global pandemic these past few years, but for many of Southern California’s shopping malls, Covid-19 only served as the death blow of an inevitable closure.

Westminster Mall in Orange County is the latest and perhaps the greatest to fall in recent years. Now, Westminster officials are rethinking the building as an apartment complex, as the city is starved for housing, the Los Angeles Times reports.

Back in the 1980s, the mall served as a gathering spot for anyone who lived in the area. Now, it’s a bleak reminder of how life in Orange County used to be.

In 2020 alone, more than 12,000 retail stores shut down, according to the National League of Cities. In addition to this, Coresight Research estimates that 25 percent of the malls across the U.S. could be shuttered by 2025. And there aren’t many left to begin with. As of October 2022, there were only 700 malls left in the country, and that number could quickly shrink to 150 given closure rates, Fashion United reports.

If we’re pointing fingers here, the most probable culprit of the retail apocalypse is online shopping. This was amplified throughout the pandemic as consumers opened their laptops rather than heading out to stores and shopping centers.

Many are unlikely to ever return to the brick-and-mortar shopping experience, while others may follow the movement to shop locally and at independently owned stores, rather than the corporate retail stores typically housed in shopping malls.

In Orange County, the fate of its local malls is likely the same—but like many experiences today, Westminster Mall may go hybrid. The City Council is envisioning a conversion plan—turning its old space into a far more favorable outdoor shopping complex-apartment combo.

President and CEO of Shopoff Realty Investments Bill Shopoff said that the reason malls like South Coast Plaza thrive is that the combination of stores, food, and other attractions gives people a reason to go. 

“I think we need to do that in Westminster to create a sense of something,” he told the Times.

Stay on top of the latest in L.A. food and culture. Sign up for our newsletters today!