OK, brace yourself for this one– I considered making this a “6 straight jacket” project, but I figured that would just put me on a slippery slope because I would then be tempted to crank it up to “11.” The Foothills Mall in Fort Collins, Colorado, is a fairly typical indoor mall in decline. In recent years it has lost two of the four anchors, and the smaller stores have a vacancy rate of around 30% with more stores leaving at a faster rate than new ones are coming. Located in the center of Fort Collins, this piece of real estate is a prime candidate for redevelopment. But what to build? A large new commercial development on the south side of town has brought in many of the stores that would otherwise be interested in overhauling the Foothills Mall.
An interesting fact about Fort Collins is it’s close proximity to the Continental Pole of Inaccessibility in North America. Stay with me, I’m going somewhere with this. First of all, you are probably thinking, “WTF is the Continental Pole of Inaccessibility in North America?” It is the location in North America farthest from any of the oceans, and technically it is located in the far southwest corner of South Dakota. Fort Collins is arguably the closest major town to this point. Sorry Cheyenne, I don’t consider you a major town. Don’t take it personally.
So what, right? Well, anyone who is interested in going on a cruise in Fort Collins has a long way to go before they take their first step on a boat. This can be quite a deterrent for many people when making vacation plans. The latest cruise ships have so many attractions aboard they have literally become a destination in themselves. This kind of brings up the question, “If there is so much to do on the ship, does it need to go anywhere for people to have a good time?” And if the answer to that question is NO, then the next question becomes, “Why don’t we just start building the ships on land and save the costs of making it float, driving it around all over the place, and cleaning barnacles off the hull every few weeks?” So let’s build a luxury cruise ship right on top of the Foothills Mall. Sears and Macy’s can stay where they are now (being anchors and all), but everything in between will look and feel exactly like a luxury cruise ship. The first floor would be rebuilt as a traditional mall that is open to the general public. The upper floors would be accessible only to the people who have booked a cruise. The entire experience of being on a luxury cruise ship would be duplicated– from the compact sleeping arrangements to the elaborate dining halls to the continuous party atmosphere. And being the first land based cruise ship, people from all over the country would travel to Fort Collins to experience the novel type of vacation.
I see this as a win-win-win situation. The city gets a ton of new construction and service jobs, the cruise ship company that builds it gets to show off their fleet to a whole new demographic, and the mall gets a face lift. I’m sure there will be some issues getting permits, financing, and few random people saying, “Let’s just do exactly the same thing we’ve been doing for the last ten years and just hope, for reasons that are not clearly evident, the mall and the surrounding area will suddenly recover through our blindly loyal inaction,” but the everyone else can rally around the new slogan I just thought of: “Let’s Get Our Ship Together!”