Before Super Walmart became a thing, Walmart often leased huge spaces in shopping centers, or built its own stores that were smaller than the supercenters we have today. As those supercenters became more popular (and prevalent), cities and towns began seeing abandoned Walmart buildings that nobody else seemed to want to use. They were too big for some retailers, and not suitable for grocery stores or home improvement stores. And so they sat. And sat, and sat.
Weburbanist says that the more than 698 million square feet of Walmart land is one of its biggest environmental impacts. That’s just over 25 square miles of land that they use. The abandoned buildings often fall into disrepair while Walmart moves on to the next bigger and better thing.
One Texas town, by the name of McAllen, decided that they were going to do something worthwhile and turned their abandoned Walmart into something that would serve the entire community. McAllen’s solution? Make it a public library. It is now the largest single-floor public library in the United States.
Architecture firm Meyer, Scherer & Rockcastle re-designed the entire interior in such a way that it won the 2012 Library Interior Design Competition. They made use of the bare warehouse ceilings and walls, and painted them white. They enclosed various spaces inside with glass, and lined the whole building with row after row after row of books and furniture.
In addition to general enclosed and open spaces, Weburbanist says the library also has an acoustically-separated space for teens, as well as six entire computer labs designated for teen use. They have 64 regular computer labs, 10 children’s computer labs, 16 meeting areas, 14 study rooms, and 2 genealogy computer labs, among other features.
New user registration went up by 23% in the month following the library’s opening. This is a fantastic way to repurpose old buildings like abandoned Walmarts. It can be used for education, public meetings, reading, learning, and is of general benefit to the community. Perhaps more towns dealing with abandoned Walmart buildings will take this idea to heart.
To see the photos of the library, visit Weburbanist here.
Featured image courtesy of Eve-Angeline Mitchell. Own work, used with permission.