Tuesday, January 6, 2009

Salvation! Aisle Four.

Abandoned and vacated houses aren't the only result of this economic fallout. Abandoned strip malls and big box stores are becoming a major issue. A WalMart Supercenter can be as big as 187,000 square feet. When it's up and running, it employs 350 or so workers and stocks more than 142,000 different items. When it closes its doors, that's a lot of building.

I met architect Ellen Dunham-Jones during a conference this fall and she told me a story that I could not stop thinking about—vacated WalMart stores are being retrofitted for mega-churches. I recently got a copy of Dunham-Jones's new book in the mail, Retrofitting Suburbia: Urban Design Solutions for Redesigning Suburbs, and it includes some examples of these churches. The book offers a study of the infrastructure of America's sprawling, suburban lifestyle and makes a compelling argument for a more urban-focused approach to suburban design. I highly recommend it.