I hear that the UK town of Stockton on Tees is to demolish many of it's empty High Street shops, and create a park instead. Main shopping streets, and their shops, have been under attack for some while, and the current pandemic has only helped their decline.
I've not visited Stockton, but having looked at photos on Google Images, it looks to be quite an attractive town, on the banks of a wide river.
With the huge rise in online shopping, there is little doubt that more business premises will remain empty; so what to do?
Here's an idea. There is a lot to be said for replacing town-centre unwanted shops, with large grassy areas, with open-air covered market places; these can have so many uses, and they would be an asset to any community. The one above is in my closest small town; imagine a modern equivalent positioned in a large park in any UK town.
In future people will always use out-of-town mega-stores for their general shopping, but they would undoubtedly head back into a town centre for special events based under such a building.
They could house weekly Farmers' markets, concerts, summer fairs, weddings, dances, or even weekly boot sales; nothing can be ruled-out from their usage. Acting as a huge umbrella in case of rain, they are also perfect in areas of unpredictable weather.
Personally I would like to see communal BBQ facilities and even a community Bread Oven built into them.
The area where I live is awash with such buildings (the one above is at Monpazier), and several have been built in recent times, including this one (below) in my own tiny village which is very well used; as you can see.
This may not be the perfect solution to empty-shop-syndrome, but as a community facility they could only bring people back into the town centre; and that is what all failing town-centres need.
Any remaining empty shops should be refurbished as dwellings. Change those shop fronts into really desirable looking house facades, and simply rearrange the interiors. QED.