A lot of malls lost tons of tenants during the economic downturn and have had a hard time finding replacement businesses to lease out the empty space. But at an increasing number of malls, the new tenants are churches. Why? Because church memberships are growing and they’re having a hard time finding places where there’s enough space to expand. Already, congregations in places like Kentucky, Michigan, Florida and Colorado taking over closed theatres and renovated department stores. Like the South Park Mall in Shreveport, Louisiana. The empty mall became a magnet for gang crime, until it became the Summer Grove Baptist Church complex. A former JC Penney was converted into a church. And other stores became banquet halls and classrooms. They also opened a food bank, daycare center, counseling center, charity store, and nonprofit pharmacy and donated space to the local school board and sheriff’s office.
City planners love the new mall-church trend, because even though they lose tax revenue when churches take over retail space - they save money by not having to fight crime inside enormous, abandoned buildings.
But malls with a mix of regular stores and a church or two aren’t as happy. That’s because churches draw people mostly on the weekends. But unlike stores, they don’t inspire people to spend money.