Just after finishing a project with St. John’s University in Rome and in the midst of starting his development company, Macro Sea, in 2009, David Belt went back to the Pennsylvania suburbs to visit his parents. He was driving around and found himself in a vast expanse of vacant shopping malls, which was not an uncommon sight so soon after the initial brunt of the downturn.
“I became sort of obsessed,” Mr. Belt recalled while sitting in his Brooklyn office with Commercial Observer this September. “It’s one thing to take a beautiful building in Rome and redo it, but my legacy—where I came from—is these shitty spaces. What could we do with strip malls? How do you repurpose this in some interesting way?”
And that was Macro Sea’s first project. Mr. Belt spent the next few months traversing the U.S., looking for empty shopping malls to purchase and repurpose. He then turned his focus to the parking lots of the malls, and thought of creating a “country club,” where people could rent a personal pool, have a cabana and a grill and swim with their family and friends. The personal pools, however, would be repurposed dumpsters, an idea a friend passed along to him.
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