For the world’s most populouscountry, China has a lot of places with no people.

Ironically, they tend to be the ones most elaborately designed to draw the crowds. Like, for instance, the $6 million airport on an island opposite North Korea that sees around 10 passengers a day.

Or Shanghai’s very own “Holland Town” and “Thames Town,” two of six surreal recreations of European cities plonked on the edge of the Chinese metropolis. Intended to mop up the overflow from Shanghai proper, today they serve chiefly as a backdrop to couples’ wedding photos.

Taking the title of Shanghai’s biggest single vacant building, however, is a development that takes its cues from the United States. The “Pentagonal Mart” is a vast mall based upon, yup, the five-sided HQ of the US Department of Defense.


Built to coincide with Shanghai’s 2010 World Expo, the mall reportedly cost some $200 million and occupies around 124 acres (compared to the Pentagon’s 148 acres). Most of it has lain virtually empty ever since it was completed in 2009.

Eerie photos show escalators gathering dust and shiny floors untrod by shoppers. A smattering of cars can be seen parked in one of the outer lots, where one of the few stores operating sells foreign foods.

State media puts Pentagonal Mart’s struggles down to “its location and its confusing inner structures.” China’s slowing economic growth could also have something to do with it.

“The place was originally targeted at becoming a small-commodities market, but failed to attract retailers,” the Shanghai Morning Post quotes a government official as saying. “Later, the local government tried to set up outlet centers of imported products, but failed to be appealing to customers.”

The mall lies in Shanghai’s Pudong district, one of several state-sponsored “new areas” on the outskirts of Chinese cities where the government promotes large-scale development — and where white elephants and ghost towns are wont to spring up.

The Pentagonal Mart’s luckless developers hope they might yet see some footfall when Pudong gets its newest addition: mainland China’s first Disneyland. The mall is a mere 5 miles from the site of the future Shanghai Disney, which opens this summer and is expected to attract hordes of visitors.

Something tells us that that US replica will have a little more success.

By Jessica Phelan, GlobalPost
This article is syndicated from GlobalPost.