I want to believe
Malls are, in general, well-located for public works. The article isn't saying much about crazy redevelopment costs, though. I mean...
It worked with Barnes Gromatzky Kosarek Architects, who took a former JC Penney building and made it into what Rhodes calls “the galaxy’s largest learning emporium,” which has 604 computer stations, 200,000 square feet of instructional space, a library, and offices.
Each one of those carrels is about 10k worth of furniture and computing. Not to mention the total electrical and RCP redesign. So there's some money here. Then there's the whole "we donated a mall to Mars Hill" which isn't exactly poor... and allowed the developer to write off the estimated cost, rather than the actual cost. The author is stretching the truth a little, too...
Developers turned a parking lot of the Northgate Mall in Seattle into a mixed-use, walkable development that included the Thornton Creek Water Quality Channel, which takes storm-water runoff and uses it to create and nourish pools, terraces, and greenery that mimic a natural creek. The channel filters out pollution that had been feeding into a creek and damaging salmon.
Not shown: the parking garage Northgate built so they could sell off their parking lot to King County Wastewater, a corrupt organization known for profligate spending and shady accounting practices. Simon was essentially paid by the city of Seattle to build a parking structure.
The most ambitious project might be the one underway in Vancouver, Canada, which doubles down on a centrally-located mall. Last year, the Vancouver City Council approved a redevelopment plan that will seek to build a city on top of an old mall called Oakridge Center. The plan calls for 14 towers that are between nine and 44 stories tall, as well as retail, office space, and residential units.
This has far more to do with the truly batshit real estate prices in Vancouver than redevelopment. Oakridge is in a prime corner of the world; 10 years ago I watched a movie with buddies there and couldn't believe it hadn't been torn down yet.
I hate malls. I'd like to see them all go away. I'd like to see them come to good use even more. But this article seems to be shining on some of the very real inefficiencies associated with converting piss-poor retail space into useful public space.