COVID-19 is just the latest blow for many shopping malls struggling to draw customers to their stores when they can more easily shop online. 

The pandemic stunted already fading foot traffic and sped up the exodus of mall anchors including Macy’s, J.C. Penney and Dillard’s, leaving cavernous empty spaces in their wake.

In the Cincinnati suburb of Springdale, Tri-County Mall will lose its last anchor tenant when Macy’s shuts its doors in April, following exits by Sears and Dillard’s.

Every major mall in the Cincinnati area has been hit with bankruptcies by smaller tenants too, like J. Crew and Forever 21, so replacing closed stores with new stores may not be the best plan in today’s environment, experts say.  

As a result, mall owners in Ohio and across the country are coming up with creative ways to fill the glut of empty space with tenants they hope will revitalize dying malls and produce steady foot traffic.

Here are five examples: 

Supersized arcades  

A drop tower ride is seen at Scene75, a 225,000-square-foot, two-story entertainment venue that recently opened in a former Macy's store at Tuttle Crossing Mall in Columbus, Ohio. [Jim Weiker/Dispatch]

Taking a cue from the behemoth Mall of America in Minnesota, an increasing number of malls have adopted a “go big or go home” mantra to attract shoppers.

That includes the Mall at Tuttle Crossing in Columbus, Ohio, which in 2019 opened a supersized arcade with games, rides and other amusement park-like attractions in a space formerly occupied by one of its anchor tenants, Macy’s.