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COVID-19: NELSON Worldwide Repurposes Dark Anchor Spaces Into Healthcare Facilities



In today’s demanding and highly-overwhelmed healthcare system, hospitals and clinics are reaching into the communities they serve, to offer as many outpatient services as possible within close proximity to those in need. With a global pandemic still yet to reach its peak, the surge of patients has already left communities second guessing their ability to treat those who are ill, without the need of traveling far and wide for service. As a solution to patient convenience and care, parent company of FRCH NELSON, NELSON Worldwide, has been challenged with repurposing vacant space within malls to become multi-purpose destinations that are both functional and still visually appealing for developers and remaining anchor tenants. 

As a result of their findings, moving outpatient services away from the often confusing pathways of a typical older campus makes the most sense for both healthcare providers as well as for patients. Bringing healthcare services closer to residential clusters and demographic epicenters, such as malls, can make all the difference—as these are establishments that have existing strong ties with the community. Since the mid 90s, medically-based wellness centers began to repurpose shopping centers, offering not only clinical services and outpatient rehabilitation, but opportunities for upstream individual health control. By the new century, these centers began to gain momentum and now are a robust part of our healthcare system.

“Going beyond the current global pandemic, we have a growing population of aging baby boomers who are in critical need of more healthcare facilities,” says Brad Earl, AIA, Managing Principal at NELSON Worldwide. “The large number of dark anchor spaces that are becoming available throughout the country is an opportunity for health systems to move in and get ahead of future demands—potentially at a lower cost.”

Today, there exists successful healthcare centers that have been conceptualized from the repurposing of entire malls such as Vanderbilt’s 450,000-square-foot One Hundred Oaks Mall in Nashville, Tennessee. At present, the NELSON design team is repurposing a vacant Sears at Oakdale Mall in Johnson City, New York, for Ascension Lourdes Hospital. The rebirth will include approximately 30,000 square feet of hospital administrative and support services space, 15,000 square feet of clinical services, and 40,000 square feet of fitness and exercise venues, outpatient rehabilitation, and a three-pool natatorium.

About NELSON Worldwide 
NELSON Worldwide is an award-winning firm delivering architecture, interior design, graphic design, and brand strategy services that transform all dimensions of the human experience, providing our clients with strategic and creative solutions that positively impact their lives and the environments where they work, serve, play, and thrive. Our collective network includes more than 1,100 teammates in 25 offices, combining industry experience, service expertise, and geographic reach to deliver projects across the country and around the world. Client partnerships across the NELSON network include: Saks Fifth Avenue, Hershey’s, Kroger, Simon Property Group, Macy’s, Unibail-Rodamco-Westfield, SAP Fieldglass, Hilton, Target, T-Mobile, Dick’s Sporting Goods, American Girl, YUM! Brands, and many more. Visit to learn more.




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