When a big box retailer shutters a store, it leaves behind a big, vacant building. Sears Holdings, which owns Sears and Kmart, knows all about it. Sears closed 333 stores in the U.S. between 2010 and 2012, according to the company’s annual report. The average Sears store is 136,000 square feet, and the average Kmart store is 94,000 square feet. That’s a lot of space to remain vacant. Enter Ubiquity Critical Environments, created by Sears Holdings to market space from Sears and Kmart stores as a place for data centers, disaster recovery space and wireless towers.
This is a rather innovative and smart use of space for a company with a vast real estate portfolios. Sears Holdings has 3,200 properties in the U.S. spanning 25 million square feet of space, including dozens of Sears and Kmart stores that have been closed. As Sean Farney, the CEO of Ubiquity, told the trade publication, Data Center Knowledge, “It’s an amazing real estate portfolio.”
The first project slated to be reinvented is a Sears store in Chicago, a 127,000 square foot store that will close at the end of June. The former Sears store will be turned into “multi-tenant data center,” according to Data Center Knowledge. “It’s a building that’s lit very well, from both a fiber and power perspective,” Farney said. “It’s going to be great data center building.”
Since not all sites of former Sears and Kmart stores are suited for data centers, Ubiquity has other plans for them. Farney told Data Center Knowledge that mall stores could be used for disaster recovery facilities, and the rooftops of those stores could be used for wireless service. The store being closed in Chicago has a 100-foot high tower on its roof that could be used to provide high-speed wireless service. Although Sears and Kmart stores “never deployed wireless on the rooftops,” as Farney stated, there is interest in doing so. “I will put as many of the rooftops in play as I can,” he vowed.
The former Sears store in Chicago is not the first site where a big box retailer used to be that has been reinvented. A former Walmart in McAllen, Texas stands as a well-known example. The 124,000 square foot building now houses a state-of-the-art library. A few states over, in Alabama, the town of Hoover has seen a number of former big box retail sites turned into other uses. Businesses that wish to expand or relocate are filling the former sites.
The South is not the only place where former big box retail sites have been turned into other businesses. A former Kmart store in Lockport, Illinois, now is now home to several shops. Only 11,000 square feet of the 55,000 square foot building is empty. In the northern portion of the Bay Area of California, an empty Linens ‘n’ Things site was turned into indoor kart racing.
Photo: Flickr user, justj0000lie