What to do with Bangor Mall

With Sears closing its store, Aerie closing soon, and rumors that JCPenney will be shuttering its doors as well, it’s not hard to imagine Bangor mall becoming a quiet building with only a handful of open shops. Malls across the country are experiencing the same lack of interest in the traditional methods of shopping. It’s probable that online shopping has slowly killed these brick and mortar shops similar to the demise of brick and mortar bookstores in 2011. Regardless of the cause, it’s clear that malls and traditional shopping are becoming a thing of the past.


But that doesn’t necessarily mean the demise of Bangor Mall. True, it will have to make some changes to bring back customers, but it would be much better than dying a slow death as first the cornerstone shops close followed by the smaller shops until nothing is left.


There are many malls around the country that have made changes in order to bring customers back. Many of these malls have been completely repurposed to add growth to the local economy in a different way. In Antioch, Tennessee, while there are still traditional stores, parts of the mall there were repurposed to include a satellite location for a college, a library, and a recreation center as well as a hockey rink! Talk about diversifying!


I think something like that would be a great way to bring back the Bangor Mall. Perhaps a satellite location for the University of Maine. Or maybe a location for a program which addresses two of Maine’s issues – the aging population and childcare. Wouldn’t it be great to have a space with free or low-cost childcare where our older residents could go to volunteer with the children and impart their wisdom? Or maybe even just a senior center?


But hold onto your hats because I have even bigger ideas!


How about that recreation center idea? I think it would be great to have a place where you could walk a track (the mall itself) and do some laps in a pool. After all, there’s already a fitness and wellness center in the mall, why not expand even further?


One thing that I see lacking is something that draws the real backbone of mall income: teenagers. You know what I mean. Once upon a time, malls were teaming with teens. In fact, it was the place to be dropped off by parents. You could wander with your friends for hours, buys some clothes, hit up an arcade, and catch a movie. Those things aren’t as attractive to today’s teens, so what is? Would an indoor ropes course and full arcade (think Dave and Busters) draw the teens back in? What about an adventure course including a trampoline park like this one opening in Massachusetts?


If we’re going to do this, let’s make it as efficient as possible. Imagine a mall that’s run off of solar power from an array of solar panels on the mall roof. Or, even better, what if the parking lot were rebuilt using solar roadways technology?  No more plowing snow and ending up with giant snow piles taking up parking spaces. Best of all, there could be classroom space in the mall to provide training in becoming a solar technician. So instead of snow plow drivers losing their jobs, they could learn a new trade and put it to use immediately.


While we’re brainstorming here, how about a walkway between the mall and movie theater? It seems silly to drive from one parking lot to another when it’s close enough to walk. Heck, let’s think big – how about an electric shuttle or tram (run off solar power of course) that goes between the mall, the movies, and maybe even downtown Bangor?


Okay, I’m getting excited and carried away, but wouldn’t it be great to replace some things in the mall with things that benefit the community? There could still be stores where we could purchase things. I don’t know about you, but I’d love to see a Mardens attached to the mall!


What do you think? What would you like to see in Bangor Mall? What attractions or stores would bring you out on a weeknight or weekday? This could be your time to speak up. After all, there’s a new owner of the old Macy’s space. Perhaps we could sway them with some new ideas!

Jennifer Jelliff-Russell

About Jennifer Jelliff-Russell

Jennifer is an employment specialist and writer with novels in women’s fiction and science fiction. She and her husband, Jason, decided to move from Tennessee to Maine and homestead using the most environmentally sound farming practices possible such as organic farming and permaculture. At the same time, they will also be slowly renovating their 1900s Maine farmhouse in order to make it more self-sufficient with the eventual goal of going off grid. Let the homesteading (mis)adventures begin!