Worth Knowing: What to do about all that empty commercial space . . .

You may have already noticed this, but there's an awful lot of commercial space sitting empty in West Lebanon. There are the two spaces at Glen Road Plaza left vacant by Illuminations (now a shuttered business) and Country Cobbler (moved to smaller space at 75 Main Street in old West Lebanon - previous story). 

Former home to Illuminations

Former home of Country Cobbler

Moving towards the main part of the West Lebanon strip in the Big K-Mart Plaza there's a big empty hole where Payless Shoes used to be. 

Sears left the Upper Valley Plaza some time ago leaving its space next to CVS gaping and empty. Now HomeGoods is using the space as a hiring center for its new store across the parking lot. It'll be empty again when HomeGoods departs in the next week or so. 

The former Sears location

Next there's a small commercial space sitting unused next to the relocated Abby's Closet in the Staples plaza, but there's a sign in the space next to that telling us that a new vape shop is coming soon. Whoopee.

Crossing to the other side of 12-A, there's an empty store right next to Wal-Mart. 

And there are three - three! - empty stores sitting in the North Country Plaza that's home to Panera. The empty store fronts are right next to each other. 

Two empty store fronts at North Country Plaza

Empty store front at North Country Plaza

 Finally, continuing back up 12-A onto Main Street in old West Lebanon, the Mattress Center is now closed and the building empty. 

I have to say that I find all of these empty spaces depressing.

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Depressing in part because these empty spaces are so ugly. Make no mistake, I think  just about all of the architecture housing these big box and fast food joints is ugly. Call me crazy but I think that an empty ugly space is even uglier than one that is occupied. 

Depressing in part because they're mostly marooned in the middle of big box-fast food hell.

Depressing in part because that big box-fast food hell looks like just about every other soulless concentration of big box stores and fast food joints on asphalt fields across the country.

And depressing in large part because I'm just not sure what kind of businesses can survive in this day of Amazonian domination and big box stores and fast food joints.  Wouldn't it be great if the titans that own the big box stores and fast food joints put their heads together and figured out a productive use for all of this empty commercial space? How about sponsoring locations where the countless minimum wage workers keeping big box-fast food hell open could go for wellness resources like exercise and some basic healthcare education and provision? Or how about using the some of this yawning space to teach minimum wage workers new job skills so they have options other than working in big box stores or fast food joints?

If you don't think this is something that should fall to the private sector, how about the federal and state governments stepping up? 

Better yet, how about a combination of both - a public-private partnership to convert unrented commercial space in mall areas around the country into educational and wellness centers to train the American workers who may have never been offered the skills to advance and who may rarely have access to basic wellness resources? I know, it's wishful thinking. But that's not a reason to not think about it.

What do you think? What's the future of all of this empty commercial space sitting in West Lebanon and similar big box-fast food hells? Do you have a suggestion? 

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