The humble, downtown-killing suburban shopping mall has had a tough go of it as of late.

Long gone are B. Dalton, Merry-Go-Round, Imaginarium and Camelot Music (tear), replaced with barren parking lots and ghostly corridors. Many of these hulking retail wastelands struggle to support mall-anchoring giants such as Macy’s or JCPenney, let alone Spencer Gifts or Orange Julius.

While numerous (but not as many as you'd think) enclosed shopping centers have been unceremoniously forsaken and left to rot, other dead malls haven’t been allowed to go the full ruin porn route. Instead, they’ve been repurposed and granted the opportunity to live on — as medical complexes, college campuses, zombie hubs and even churches.

Some defunct shopping malls have been treated to even grander transformations, reemerging like a Cinnabon-scented phoenix from the ashes as mixed-use developments complete with housing, commercial space and parkland.

It would appear the one the Silicon Valley’s mightiest fallen retail giants, the Vallco Shopping Mall in Cupertino, will be one such faded retail hub getting a really dramatic overhaul: a $3 billion second chance as a vibrant and presumably Hot Topic-free town center — “the social heart of Cupertino” — helmed by Menlo Park-based Sand Hill Property Company and designed by celebrated (and sometimes not-so-celebrated) Uruguayan architect Rafael Viñoly alongside magnificent and prolific landscape design firm, OLIN.

A rendering of Cuptertino's new Hill at Vallco neighborhood designed by Rafael Viñoly Architects and OLIN.Rendering: The Hills at Vallco

A rendering of Cuptertino's new Hills at Valco neighborhood designed by Rafael Viñoly Architects and OLIN.Rendering: The Hills at Vallco

The development, rechristened as The Hills at Vallco, will be blanketed with what’s described as the world’s largest green roof, a 30-acre “integrated community park and nature preserve” complete with vineyards, orchards, community farms, a wildlife refuge and nearly 4 miles of pedestrian walking and jogging trails.

As you can see from the initial batch of renderings, it’s nearly impossible to tell that the remnants of a once-bustling shopping mall are hidden underneath that massive canopy of artificial foothills, which, when completed, would nestle up right next to the earthbound intergalactic spacecraft otherwise known as Apple Campus 2.

And to be clear, the Vallco Shopping Mall, opened in 1975 as Vallco Shopping Park and renamed Cupertino Square for a brief spell in the late 2000s, isn’t dead yet. There's still a pulse, but it's fading.

The struggling mall, smack dab in the center of wealthy Cupertino, has been in steady decline since the mid-1990s despite numerous expansions, renovations and other attempts to keep it afloat. According to a press release issued by Sand Hill, which acquired the complex in its entirety in Nov. 2014, the entire lower level of the three-level complex has been vacant for over a decade. Macy’s closed up shop this past March and Sears plans to do the same in October, leaving only beleaguered JCPenney as the remaining anchor at a withering shopping mall with an occupancy rate hovering around 50 percent.

One thing at Vallco Shopping Mall that isn't withering is the produce found in the wildly popular weekly farmers market held in the JCPenney parking lot.

The Hills at Vallco, essentially an entirely new neighborhood centered around two town squares, will still include a sizable amount of retail alongside 2 million square feet of office space, housing (680 market-rate rental units, a paltry 80 designated affordable apartments and 40 apartments dedicated to senior living), numerous dining options and the massive green roof/park (slated to be the largest in Cupertino, by the way).

A rendering of Cuptertino's new Hill at Valco neighborhood designed by Rafael Viñoly Architects and OLIN.Rendering: The Hills at Vallco
A rendering of Cuptertino's new Hill at Vallco neighborhood designed by Rafael Viñoly Architects and OLIN.Rendering: The Hills at Vallco

However, most retail at The Hills of Vallco will be “new” and, most likely, upscale. Here’s hoping that they preserve the existing Claire’s as a sort of living artifact, a reminder of the redeveloped site’s frizzy-haired salad days as a bustling regional shopping mall. Besides, every New Urbanist-styled development needs a joint where you can get your nose pierced, right?

Non-retail tenants that will be retained and incorporated into The Hills at Vallco include Bowlmor Lanes, AMC Theaters and the mall's longtime ice rink along with “fitness and banquet facilities.”

Boasting an “authentic sense of place, connection, innovation and beauty,” in the words of Sand Hill Property Company managing director Reed Moulds, the vision for the transformed mall is also an environmentally sustainable one.

The developer will pursue LEED Platinum certification through various means including the use of recycled water for irrigation along with heating and cooling systems. Sand Hill plans to partner with local water agencies to supply the new community with recycled water. The green roof itself, which will be planted with native and drought-tolerant species, will help to insulate and shade the buildings, driving down energy costs. A “vast majority” of existing trees on the 5-acre site will be preserved while a small army of new trees will be planted.

As mentioned, the roof-cum-park will be a veritable outdoor recreation hotspot complete with organic agriculture operations, playgrounds, amphitheater and bird refuge.

While some parking would remain at street level, parking will largely be moved underground to promote the development's car-lite leanings and encourage walking and biking. Road work would be performed to improve existing traffic patterns through the area and a new transit center would be built. A free community shuttle would also whisk Cupertino residents to and from the Hills at Vallco.

A rendering of Cuptertino's new Hills at Vallco neighborhood designed by Rafael Viñoly Architects and OLIN.Rendering: The Hills at Vallco

A rendering of Cuptertino's new Hill at Vallco neighborhood designed by Rafael Viñoly Architects and OLIN.Rendering: The Hills at Vallco

Also planned for The Hills of Vallco is an Innovation Center for local high school students, which will “serve as an incubator space for students throughout the district and will spawn creative endeavors including student-led businesses and serve as a hub for the District’s work-based learning initiatives and a place where students can build projects, display art, perform and host robotics competitions.”

From the sounds of it, The Hills at Vallco truly does have it all.

Well, except for approval.

As reported by the San Jose Mercury News, following an extensive community engagement process, Sand Hill has initiated the environmental review process. Plans will be handed over to the city for review in the coming weeks. Obviously, this dying mall has a ways to go before it's officially put out of its misery.

Silicon Valley: Any thoughts or concerns? Do you like what you see or would you rather the mall be reborn as something a little less, well, showstopping? And those outside of Silicon Valley: how have dead/dying suburban shopping malls been repurposed/revitalized/reborn in your neck of the woods?

Via [Designboom], [Mercury Online]

Matt Hickman ( @mattyhick ) writes about design, architecture and the intersection between the natural world and the built environment.

Dying Silicon Valley mall to be reborn with world's largest green roof
The man-made foothills are most definitely alive in Cupertino.