These Libraries Built In Old Big-Box Stores Will Blow Your Mind

When a big-box store skips town for wider asphalt prairies, it leaves behind a great, empty space, waiting to be snatched up by a similarly large replacement. If, like me, you hope for a good use for these spaces, these libraries built in old big-box stores will blow your mind.

Across the U.S., buildings that once housed department stores, supermarkets, shopping malls, electronics retailers, and other huge business chains now sit vacant. Their parking lots crack with weeds, their exteriors fade, and pretty soon no one even wants to look at them anymore.

Because of their size and infrastructural advantages, however, abandoned big-box stores are unlikely to be demolished. Rather, these spaces will remain until another business comes along to claim them. Most of the time, those replacements are other big-box stores.

This was not the case in Eden Prairie, Minnesota, however, where a former Lunds grocery store became the new home of Hennepin County's Eden Prairie Library in 2004. Over two years, architects turned the vacant eyesore into a stunning public building, with plenty of natural light, meeting spaces, and reading room.

As gorgeous as the Eden Prairie Library is, it still has far to go if it wants to beat the record set by the McAllen Public Library of McAllen, Texas. The 124,500 square-foot public building is the largest 1-floor library in the U.S., and its wonders don't stop there. From weburbanist.com:

The library even has an acoustically separated lounge for teens as well as 6 teen computer labs, 16 public meeting spaces, 14 public study rooms, 64 computer labs, 10 children’s computer labs and 2 genealogy computer labs. Other new features include self check-out units, an auditorium, an art gallery, a used bookstore and a cafe.

The next time a big-box store leaves your town, petition to have the space turned into a library. It's better for the community than leaving the building empty.