Malls of a Certain Age

The shopping mall: a look back

In the 1980s and ’90s, enclosed malls were the supermodels of American commerce: youthful, gorgeous, and incredibly seductive, the people’s choice for Best Place to Spend Disposable Income on Candlesticks. In 2011 they’re America’s retail cougars, doing everything they can to stay sexy while competing with younger, fresher shopping paradigms. In Cleveland the Galleria at Erieview now features a tomato garden in its food court—or as the mall describes it, with a touch of hopeful pathos, a “resource center for sustainability education.” Others resort to more radical facelifts and tummy tucks. Nearly 40 percent of the square footage in the Highland Mall in Austin, Texas, is now owned by Austin Community College. The Tri-County Mall in Oliver Springs, Tennessee, is now home to the Beech Park Baptist Church. 

It has been five years since a new enclosed mall opened in the United States. Green Street Advisors, a real estate research firm, estimates that 10 percent of the nation’s 1,006 malls are on the verge of failure. The genre’s last great hope, the Meadowlands Xanadu Mall in New Jersey, sits unfinished after eight years of development, a poignant, 2.4-million-square-foot monument to cost overruns, a bad economy, and investors’ waning faith in the idea that the best way to beguile shoppers is to stuff movie theaters, bowling alleys, and as many Hot Topics and Capezios as you can fit into a massive, windowless container.

Today the enclosed mall’s DNA lives on in “lifestyle centers” and “vertical power centers.” The former typically combine upscale retail, office space, and residential units in village-like developments that feature curbside parking directly in front of single-level shops and fieldstone walking paths lined with palm trees and trophy lakes. The latter stack Targets and Best Buys and Home Depots on top of each other in an almost parodic fashion, the KFC Double Down of retail.

The enclosed mall itself, though, is as dead as your average big-city newspaper. Which is to say: not dead yet, exactly, but no one’s betting on its future. Except for a few real estate developers, no one seems all that sad to see the Galleria in such a beleaguered state. The old-fashioned enclosed mall exists most powerfully now as a symbol of tasteless consumerism, ugly architecture, and bland corporate hegemony, revealing our recent past as unsophisticated suburban rubes. Yes, we were once dazzled by indoor fountains and Sunglass Huts.

Even Victor Gruen, the architect who invented the enclosed mall, ended up hating his creation. In 1954 he designed the Southdale Center in Edina, Minnesota. Featuring not just department stores and smaller retailers but a public auditorium, a kiddie zoo, a post office, a garden court, an aviary, and the first works of art commissioned specifically for a shopping center, it was an ambitious, utopian attempt to bring urban density and the kind of pedestrian-friendly European café culture that Gruen was familiar with from his Viennese childhood to the sprawl and isolation of the suburbs. It would eliminate trips to traffic-clogged, crime-ridden downtowns. It would give harried suburban automatons a place to walk safely and bond with their neighbors. It would foster community.

In Gruen’s estimation, the malls that followed and the crowds that flocked to them were too focused on handicrafts and frocks and not attuned enough to creating rich civic spaces. In 1980, after he’d retired from his architectural practice and returned to Vienna, he dismissed malls as a “bastard development.

Not coincidentally, this was precisely the moment when malls were achieving their greatest cultural potency. While America’s cities were still bleak enough to inspire dystopian films like Escape From New York and Blade Runner, America’s suburbs, formerly modest developments consisting almost entirely of tiny utilitarian tract houses and lawns, were adding business-casual industrial parks, higher-ed-casual community colleges, and, most impressively, malls. In 1982’s Fast Times at Ridgemont High, the school got top billing but the mall—as dazzling as Phoebe Cates emerging topless from a pool, but with pizza to boot—was the movie’s true star. An engine of both cultural and economic liberation, it was where Ridgemont’s teens went to seek adventure, autonomy, and the paychecks that fueled their fast times.

The mall made America’s previous standard of retail extravagance, the urban department store, look puny. It was a skyscraper of commerce tipped sideways, a symbol of America’s newly democratized affluence. No longer was the idle activity of spending all day shopping for nothing in particular confined to Manhattan swells in glitzy temples of commerce. The consumers who flocked to the nation’s suburban malls may not have been as rich as the patrons of Saks Fifth Avenue, but collectively they could sustain stores devoted entirely to shaving products, sandals, or hot pretzels. To win their favor, developers furnished the world’s most spectacular escalators, soaring glass-ceiling atriums fit for a palace or museum, and food courts that magically aggregated all the cuisines of the world into one convenient space. At the mall, the average American suburbanite shopped in more deluxe accommodations than their urban betters.

The enclosed mall did more than stoke our taste for cascading indoor waterfalls; it developed our preference for ubiquitous specialized choice. The department store had a teen clothing section. The mall had entire teen clothing stores aimed at discrete teenaged subgroups. It hastened the shift from the mass market (served by newspapers, broadcast TV, and Macy’s) to the era of specialized connoisseurship (served by lifestyle magazines, cable TV, and stores that sell nothing but fitted baseball caps). Yet it accomplished all this in a way that was promiscuously inclusive, uniting under one roof consumers who varied widely by age, class, and interests.

With their multiple levels and wide, open sightlines, shopping centers didn’t just merchandise material goods to customers; they merchandised customers to each other. From the viewpoint of a balcony food court, there were dozens of tiny dramas unfolding in the proscenium-like storefronts of Sharper Image and The Body Shop. Malls were stadiums for shopping. That’s one reason the concerts, pageants, and other public extravaganzas that Gruen dreamed of facilitating never became quite as widespread at the mall as he hoped. Shopping itself was the show, with customers playing both actor and audience. In this respect, the mall was hardly an agent of passive consumerism. It was a live-action venue for user-generated content, blazing the trail for video games, the Internet, and other modes of entertainment that require consumers to also function as producers.

Alas, it’s been a long time since the mall felt revolutionary. Today we’re too busy updating our Facebook statuses to shop for jeans in one store, then electronic gadgets in another. We want all that stuff at our fingertips instantly, or at least in a place that lets you park right in front. Meanwhile, as we have come to expect that our soft hot pretzels will come in at least 17 different varieties and be made by artisans who specialize only in their manufacture (using locally sourced ingredients), our tastes have grown increasingly rarefied. The shoddy mass-market polo shirts of The Gap cannot possibly please us. We want handmade polo shirts sewn by bearded hipsters in Vermont and curated at exclusive men’s wear shops in urban neighborhoods with strict anti-chain regulations.

Few people listen to the Sugarhill Gang these days. Fewer still use Motorola DynaTAC 8000s or other ’80s-era cell phones. It is the peculiar fate of the most revolutionary cultural trailblazers to make themselves not just obsolete but sort of comically rudimentary in comparison to all those who follow in their wake. The enclosed mall, however, belies this phenomenon. It may not be as sophisticated as the latest and greatest lifestyle center, but it remains remarkably functional. In coming years, in fact, a renaissance is bound to occur as cultural tastemakers seeking heritage shopping experiences rediscover the mall. They’ll crow about the spaciousness and no-frills utilitarianism of the vintage parking lots, the unmatched authenticity of hot dogs on a stick. Get the jump on them and go now. 

Contributing Editor Greg Beato (gbeato@soundbitten.com) writes from San Francisco.

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  • ||

    "The genre’s last great hope, the Meadowlands Xanadu Mall in New Jersey, sits unfinished after eight years of development, a poignant, 2.4-million-square-foot monument to cost overruns, a bad economy, and investors’ waning faith in the idea that the best way to beguile shoppers is to stuff movie theaters, bowling alleys, and as many Hot Topics and Capezios as you can fit into a massive, windowless container."

    One word: Xanadu

  • Barely Suppressed Rage||

    As if northern NJ needs any more malls. I grew up in that vicinity, and in my lifetime I saw probably a dozen malls built - including some very large, upscale ones. We were malled to death.

  • Old Salt||

    As a great pervert once said: "I feel your pain!"

    I'm in Orlando and out of EIGHT indoor mega-malls within a TWENTY minute driving distance, only TWO could be considered healthy!

    The first, The Florida Mall, has been around long enough to be considered historic but has managed to stay relevant with constant refurbishments and being located in a major traffic artery for Central Florida.

    The second mall, The Mall at Millenia, is also located in a major traffic artery and stays on top as it is the only mall in the Orlando area that caters to the upscale and wealthy.

    The other SIX malls aren't really that old and all of them are situated in high density areas. Despite having a decent amount of tourists, even back before the current economic shit storm, these mega malls were hemorrhaging like a coed camp counselor at Crystal Lake.

    Hell, most of the the Central Florida indoor mega malls are now listed on zombie mall blogs and this is with Disney and Universal Studios being within spitting distance!

    The "open air" mall, boardwalk mall, and village mall formats are becoming all the rage down here in the Sunshine State as it seems everyone wants a more laid back experience.

  • Olivia Newton John||

    Hey it was a good idea.

  • Ted S.||

    It's a place where nobody dared to go.

  • ||

    Such a shame. It would be the perfect place for a salon called "Xana-Do".

  • WTF||

    That place is also a fucking eyesore.

  • Rebecca Black||

    Well, I like the Mall! Toodle!

  • Ska||

    OH God, are you the fucking spastic white girl dancing in the pink dress with a face that says "I'm also getting an enema while producing this video!" ?

  • waffles||

    I am inspired to go eat lunch at the food court of the mall you have pictured. Hell I can see the damn thing from my desk. It's far and away the most ghost-like shell of a mall I've ever lived near. More mallwalkers than shoppers, mostly.

  • Robert||

    Are you on that hill across old Rte. 22 from it?

    I remember when that mall was new. Before that, the big shopping center in the area was the Miracle Mile, to the east of there, before they bypassed what's now Business Rte. 22 with the interstate. Also when the Monroeville Mall was new, they used it as the setting for "Dawn of the Dead".

  • waffles||

    I'm huddled the corner of one of the 1970s Westinghouse office buildings. They're more or less renovated and called Penn Center now. This place is a weird mix of retired blue collars mixed with ghettoized suburbia. I walk through the mall sometimes with a stupid grin imagining the shoppers as the undead, just barely clinging on to what they remembered from their former lives.

    It is truly a zombie mall now.

  • Mensan||

    But is it still infested with the living dead?

  • waffles||

    Absolutely. But I just checked it out and trhe Chik-fil-A sandwhich was the best fucking 4-dollar chicken sandwhich I have ever eaten. It even had good tomatoes when all the other fast food have frozen crappy stuff.

    I try to limit my visits to less than once a month and less than a half hour. The residents tend to get quite bitey.

  • Mensan||

    You have tomatos up there? I'm jealous. None of the restaurants around here can get very many, so they aren't putting them on anything unless you specifically ask for them.

  • Saddamn||

    Why the fuck would I want to blow up the Chick-fil-A? It's fucking delicious!

  • sounds real good||

    Chik-fil-A with tomatoes? I've never heard of this. A proper Chik-fil-A has a bun, pickles, and a deliciously savory fried chicken breast, with nothing else. McDonald's has introduced a "Southern Fried Chicken" sandwich that is their Chik-fil-A analogue. They explain on the box that it's so delicious it doesn't need anything else. It's not as good as the real thing though.

  • ||

    The grilled sandwich comes with lettuce and tomato. It's good if you are watching what you eat.

  • sounds real good||

    mallwalkers, aka "malkers."

  • Really?||

    I would be interested to see a exposition on how government incentives played a huge role in both the life and death of the indoor mall. I know that economic incentives were present for the indoor mall, and goofy structures like TIFs and the like have helped usher in that indoor mall killer, outdoor walking mall.

  • Tony||

    The only real hitch with online shopping for clothes is that you sometimes have to sacrifice the first purchase from a particular store as you figure out how their sizing works. For me, malls straddle the line, like so many other things, between fun and torture.

  • pancakes||

    probably like posting on H&R, yeah?

  • Barely Suppressed Rage||

    The newest and fanciest "malls" in the suburbs of Richmond are open-air malls that are meant to feel like you're strolling through a little village.

  • Paul||

    This seems to be the latest trend. A number of these have opened in the northwest in the 'burbs of Seattle. Strangely, you'd think the first person to suggest an open-air mall in the northwest was crazy. It's cold and rainy nine months a year, and the other three months are dicey. Yet several in the area have gone up. The one that's actually in Seattle proper, University Village uses the french bicycle-borrowing system for umbrellas. They have these little umbrella stands all over the place that people can just grab one while they're shopping, then "put them back" when they're done.

    However, the concept is still the same as the enclosed malls: A bunch of stores in a fixed geographic location on property owned by one company.

    I do admit I prefer (in the summer time) being out in the weather, so at least it provides a better atmosphere, even if the general concept is the same.

  • ||

    I've seen a couple of open-air malls, but more common in my area, and more mystifying to me is a trend whose formal name I'm unaware of -- "clustered shopping centers" perhaps?

    These clusters, which I guess derived from developers' fear that loss of an anchor store could kill a conventional mall, are effectively "anti-malls". Each store is surrounded by its own parking and is a couple hundred yards away from the next one. Sure, you can park closer to the particular store you want, but if you want to go to more than one, you essentially _have_ to drive between them, or risk not only the elements, but being run over. And the usual horror of driving in mall traffic is compounded by all of that inter-store traffic and by people meandering around trying to find the particular store they want.

  • Paul||

    Good point. We have one just south of where I live called Westwood Village.

    I wouldn't go as far as saying "a couple of hd yards between stores" but they are definitely surrounded by parking lots and have much greater distance between. It is certainly 100s of yards from end to end, though.

    If you're disabled you're probably going to drive between the stores, and even if you're not disabled, you're definitely stuck in the elements which, in Seattle consists of sideways rain for at least 4 months of the year, with straight down rain another 5.

  • Red Rocks Rockin||

    There's one like this in Denver right where the old Stapleton Airport used to be. It's got something of a "central" walking area, but it's surrounded by Big Box stores with their own parking areas. It's an absolute pain in the ass to try and navigate.

  • Franklin Harris||

    I do not get this. We have one of those in Huntsville, Ala., too, and the only difference between it and an old-fashioned enclosed mall is the stores are even more expensive and you get to freeze/sweat/get wet going between stores. How exactly is that an improvement? Oh, yeah, it looks like a sub-Disney clone of an Italian village!

  • Mensan||

    Agreed. I don't see much upside to an outdoor mall here in Florida. Sure, they may be nice during the 2 months of winter when it's 60 degrees out. It's the 5 months of summer when it's in the high 90s and rains everyday that they would be miserable. I'd prefer an air conditioned mall anyday.

  • ||

    Never could figure out why these open air malls are so popular. The buildings all face towards a center "street" that is usually so packed that driving into that is a mistake. The mall ends up looking like the butt side of a bunch of big box stores huddling together like football players.

  • db||

    What, no zombie-related alt-text on the Monroeville Mall pic? FAIL.

  • DNS||

    It was a live-action venue for user-generated content, blazing the trail for video games, the Internet, and other modes of entertainment that require consumers to also function as producers.

    Indoor Malls: The Community Daycare and Hipster Homeless Shelter.

  • Mango Punch||

    Haven't read the article, but judging by the blurb your thesis seems broken. You should look at cap rates on commercial properties, and see how companies like GGP and Simon Property stay in business.

  • NeonCat||

    I liked malls better before they ripped out all the fountains and plants to make room for merchandise carts. I know they need the money, but malls were more… inviting the old way.

    I had a job several years ago that took me around the country looking at different buildings. Dying malls are just sad, depressing things to be in.

  • Mango Punch||

    It has been five years since a new enclosed mall opened in the United States


    This is wrong, Simon opened a mall in LA like a year ago.

    investors’ waning faith in the idea that the best way to beguile shoppers is to stuff movie theaters, bowling alleys, and as many Hot Topics and Capezios as you can fit into a massive, windowless container.


    Investors never thought that - anchor stores have always been the key.

    I'm not even going to bother reading the rest. Simply asserting that because lots of low quality malls are going out of business the entire mall universe is dead is like saying that because people are getting foreclosed on american homeownership is dead. Yes, the market needs to be cleaned, but the model isn't dead.

  • Paul||

    It has been five years since a new enclosed mall opened in the United States

    This is wrong, Simon opened a mall in LA like a year ago.

    I also wondered about this. My guess is, it might depend on how you define a "enclosed mall".

  • Kristen||

    Anecdotal, but of the 3 malls that are close enough for me to consider shopping in them, two are totally fucked. They're like ghost towns, except for the few Dollar Stores and DMV branches.

    The one viable mall near me, The Fashion "Centre" at Pentagon City (interestingly, a Simon mall - they must know what they're doing), has the same anchor stores as other malls that have failed miserably - Macy's & Nordstrom.

    What I think Pentagon City does best is that it has some stores that you can't find in most malls (Coach, Cole Haan), and it has a decent food court. It also has some more modern village-style shopping and sit-down restaurants around it (Pentagon Row) that attract a lot of shoppers. But the big thing I think that keeps it alive is its proximity to the city, and distance from the actual 'burbs. I think developers would do well to look closer to cities, especially now that real estate is so depressed.

  • creech||

    How're the malls at Tyson's Corner doing? Last few times I was there, business was roaring.

  • ||

    They're both doing spectacularly, thank you very much.

  • The Gobbler||

    I purchased a tee-shirt about twenty years ago with a young handsome, smiling Elvis Presley face and the caption "I'm Dead". It is a treasured item worn only once every five years or so.

  • ||

    Not true--there are no new enclosed malls in LA. Westfield renovated a couple malls: Fox Hills and Woodland Hills. A new lifestyle center opened in Downtown Glendale a couple years ago. A new outdoor mall/town center opened in Rancho Cucamonga about 7 years ago. A new upscale outdoor mall replaced an aging enclosed mall in downtown Santa Monica last summer.

  • The Fringe Economist||

    Oh Jersey! When will you learn?

  • Sandi||

    I took a shit in an enclosed mall once.

  • ||

    Was it in Ohio?

  • Pip||

    Brookdale (in Brooklyn Center, MN) was the second enclosed mall ever built. Presently, it sits empty. One of the primary reasons the businesses inside failed was copius shoplifting. Someone recently purchased the building with hopes of renovation, but unless they can figure out a way to reduce the shoplifting rate, it is doomed to fail too.

  • Pip||

  • Paul||

    Apparently Northgate Mall in Seattle was the "first mall" in the United State, built in 1950. At least that's the lore I've always heard, and Wiki "Eric is a fag" Pedia backs that up.

  • Robert||

    Where in the line of succession did the Cherry Hill Mall stand?

  • Tim||

    Malls, just when you thought they were finished, they come back, like bell bottoms and Moammar Qaddafi.

  • ||

    So now the malls themselves are the undead??

  • Mango Punch||

    Threaded comments not working, but I rescind this statement: "This is wrong, Simon opened a mall in LA like a year ago." There hasn't been a new mall in 5 years, but malls have been re-done. I was thinking of Santa Monica Place (which isn't owned by Simon) which was completely re-done and re-opened a year ago.

    My view stands however, there are a lot of people betting on malls.

  • ||

    I agree. People are betting on malls. OUr dirt mall a mile from our really nice mall just completed a couple year make-over and is really friggin nice now, so much that the nice mall is now the mall we wonder if we'll ever go to again. And the small 'burb I live in, 10 miles from it is re-doing our zombie mall and it's doing much better with half the stores accessible from the outside only, the boutique shops that SUV moms love. The affordable, useful stores are inside and they took out the old movie theater and are going mega MEGA MMEEGGAA!! theater now.

    But I live in upstate NY so the idea of an open-air mall is stupid for us.

  • ||

    And the mall that replaced Santa Monica Place is an urban outdoor mall, not your typical suburban enclosed mall.

  • Mensan||

    Speaking of malls, there was a craptacular movie on the Sci-Fi channel (I refuse to write it as sy-fy) last night called Mega Python vs. Gatoroid.

    How is that related to malls? Well, it starred Debbie Gibson AND Tiffany.

  • Tim||

    I think you're alone now.

  • Franklin Harris||

    +1

  • Mensan||

    In my own defense, I only watched about 3 minutes of it while the show I was actually watching was at commercials.

  • 29InNet||

    I caught that too for the same reason...what stopped me was the massively breasted woman spilling out of her dress. I hit info and saw that Tiffany and Debra Gibson were "starring" in the film.

    Debra still looked good, but Tiffany is definitely not alone now...no doubt my python would...

    nah, that's too cheesy.

  • Da_Truth_Hurts||

    I remember enjoying my youth at the Montgomery Mall in a suburb of Philly. The arcade there was called 'Spaceport' and was the bomb. I used to play the hell out of those games. I was a total badass in my denim jacket with the Iron Maiden logo on the back.

  • Da_Truth_Hurts||

    Fuck, I'm old.

  • Paul||

    You were the king of Defender?

    I was more of a Tempest man, myself.

  • ||

    Yes, Truth... I aged 20-some years the day they wiped out the Spaceport and turned that corner of the mall into a food court.

    But hey, it has a Chik-fil-a!

  • ||

    I had my identity stolen somewhere and used at the Strawbridges at the Galleria to buy "leather goods" once. And I actually did take a massive dump at the Galleria once. True story. I love you guys. (bro hug)

  • Da_Truth_Hurts||

    Defender, Joust, Tron, Karate Champ. Yep, Tempest was cool but was bad at the dial control.

  • Da_Truth_Hurts||

    Threaded comment fail.

  • Paul||

    Ahh, Joust. I remember that game. Oh, I was also a big BattleZone fan as well.

  • ||

    Was that the one where you were a "first-person shooter" in a tank, shooting at other tanks? Loved that one.

    And joust was cool....

  • Paul||

    Yes... 'first person shooter'. Wow, that's interesting. Could Battlezone be the earliest true FPS game?

  • ||

    I remember going to Gold Mine at Central Park Mall. Started out with pinball machines, but they were mostly video games by around, oh, '79? Aaah, good times...

  • ||

    I remember that! My parents wouldn't let me go in there because it was some den of evil. I think it closed when I was about 10.

  • ||

    When I was a child, malls had kid-friendly amenities like play courts, video arcades, book stores, and interior-attached movie theatres. Also, different malls had different stores - both anchor and alleyway. There were real independent restaurants, not just chain pubs and food courts. And the concourses were clear and broad for easy walking.

    Today:
    1) Every mall has the same very narrow selection of franchise stores, chain restaurants, food-court stands and anchor stores, with few if any independent shops or food vendors.

    2) the concourses are crowded with pushcarts and creepy salespeople bothering you to try to hard-sell you some crappy skin cream products while you are walking along.

    3) the bookstores and movie theaters are broken off from the main building, and the play courts and video arcades have disappeared.

    I blame a combination of landlord greed, fear of lawsuits, and lack of foresight for the fate of the great American shopping mall.

  • Paul||

    For what it's worth, Americans have become more sophisticated in their shopping-- it's no longer enough to simply provide a space with stores, you now have to provide an experience. When I compare what "shopping" was when I was a kid compared to how it is today, it's actually quite different. As a kid I was bored to tears when my parents took me shopping. Sitting under flourescent lights in a JC Penny while my mother picked out window treatments was a soul-draining experience. My kid actually has a fun time when we go out.

    While I'm sure part of it has to do with my markedly different parenting style (as compared to my parents' style), the experience of shopping has changed for the better, in my opinion.

  • Quikboy||

    Many malls still do. Don't know where you live, but the Willowbrook Mall in Houston opened a new play court for tots and kids to hang at. Memorial City has an arcade, ice skating rink, and movie theater. There are still independents depending where you look.

    Small bookstores are almost gone, because big chains like Borders an B&N offer way more stuff, and deals. Plus most people don't care about chain/franchise stores if they visit there so often. Many around the city. Also, some kiosks/carts offer cool things, and those usually are often independent!

  • Paul||

    What I find interesting about the modern enclosed mall is that it actually reduced suburban sprawl, not encouraged it. It created a fixed space with a large number of closely-packed retail centers and fostered pedestrian traffic by encouraging people to get out of their cars and walk. The modern American Mall was essentially the 20th century bazaar.

  • Mensan||

    I always thought the flea market was more analogous to a bazaar.

  • Paul||

    It is more literally analagous, I agree.

    The mall (to me) represents more of a corporate bazaar: a place where people can come together and peddle their varied wares in a fixed geographic location. My point is that the mall actually brought different retail establishments together instead of having them spread out across dozens or hundreds of city blocks.

    It also allowed people to create stores which specialized in a more narrow selection of goods because before the mall it might have been difficult to get traffic into these same stores if they stood alone on some lonely street.

  • Paul||

    "literally analagous"... hmmm... have to rethink that one.

  • Quikboy||

    Thank you! Someone with sense. In southern cities, people tend to drive to areas more, not because they're lazy, but because they want to avoid staying in the heat too much.

    Malls are a great way of putting stores in one area, having refreshing AC, and not have to drive around so much. Though malls are having to compete with big chains like Walmart, they're working on making themselves more unique or higher end.

    Unfortunately, the malls Beato sees as being dead, probably had bad management, ridiculous rent, terrible security, and other shoddy bits that made the area attract more poor people than anything. Plus the economy still being down hasn't really pushed developers to work on big projects as much.

  • ||

    If the malls are dying, where are the next generation of adolescents going to go to loiter and irritate their elders?

    -jcr

  • ||

    Your lawn?

  • ||

    The mall I mentioned above that has taken over for the nice mall a mile away has done something wise. They allow kids under 18 to be there without an adult. The other one doesn't and is losing business from those free-spending ruffians who never really caused that much trouble to begin with around here. Better food court, better movie theater, better treatment of people who are going to spend money...better mall.

  • Cool factor||

    What is the point of this article? Is the mall still cool or not?

  • fish-fry fridays||

    MALL RATS IS STILL A VERY GOOD MOVIE. MALL STILL COOL.

  • One Objectivist||

    I feel like this article could have been published, word for word, in Utne Reader.

    I shouldn't have had to check, but that leftist rag is still being published, god help us all.

  • MrGuy||

    Hooray for the internet, the true cause of mall-death.

  • sounds real good||

    In 1981 I visited Quebec during Carnavale with my high school French club. There was a huge mall there, two stories, and I had never seen anything so wonderful! The exchange rate was favorable for Americans in Canada. I spent more waking hours at that mall than anyplace else during that trip. If I'd only known how much I'd come to hate malls, within a few short years...

  • jtuf||

    The average mall could be refurbished into a vertical farm. I wonder why it isn't happening.

  • FUCK YOU THATS WHY||

    BECAUSE MALL IS HORIZONTAL AND NO WINDOWS ALLOWED.

  • ||

    2 words grow lights

  • jtuf||

    The malls near me have skylights and ample interior sunlight.

  • ||

    Enclosed malls died from welfare-induced crime waves: organized shop-lifting, gang warfare in the parking lots/garages (in a few of them, in the middle of the mezanine food courts), as well as the expected "rest rooms as drug-dealing outlets" and the odd gang rape.

    It requires a basic level of self-control for people to use malls without destroying them or using them as hunting grounds. Too many Americans no longer have enough self-control to wait for the traffic lights to change color. *sigh* Drive down I-35 from Round Rock, Texas, through to the south end of San Antonio and see how the enclosed malls have fared. Watch the local evening news shows and do a body count at the "shopping plazas" that seem to be the mall replacement. Same problems, same causes; solutions? None in sight.

  • Quikboy||

    I'm from the Houston area, and most malls are nothing like this. The Galleria is the largest in state, the Woodlands is constantly growing, and other malls are adapting and faring well too. Malls with GOOD security, with enough guards to go around parking lots, and around indoors tend to have almost no issues.

    There are about 2 malls that maybe dying. Sharpstown was great in its heyday, but as the area grew poorer, crime increase, and then they had to rename it PlazAmericas, remodel it to target a certain demographic. Hope it works. Greenspoint is also trying, though I don't see anything changing too soon. Nothing new at Northwest; all major anchors gone, and it's mostly food court restaurants now. They'll all within city limits, though that's not to say all malls inside the city are bad. Houston Center is faring very well.

  • ||

    Now that most enclosed malls have emptied out, I rather like them.
    The power centres are OK if we're talking Home Depot, but do I really need a 40,000 sq ft store for a bag of dog food, then have to get back into my car and drive a half-mile to get a bottle of Aspirin, then get back into my car and drive another half-mile to get a bottle of wine?

  • ||

    Thank you u.s.a . Security is real important. Christian products should be acceptable. Industrial malls are uncool. non wall Public eating is uncool. Uncaring police are not cool.Bullys are not cool. 10 dollar hockey guide magazine is uncool. Junky jail food bowling alley is uncool. A lot of us desire cool or romantic life not industrial and bully mall. Notice industrial restaurants. Notice scumy house partys. harvard and ivy league seem like 100% evilist stalin helpers.Let ya go. Thanks. Rev 12:9kjvz. Gal 3:3kjvz. demons fools us- repetitive thoughts. col 3:11kjvz. righteousnness. New genetics, a new person!! no to abortion. Be ready for evil armys.Keep christianity and protesting legal. Libertacommun?

  • ink guy||

    Interesting. This article could have been published in the NYT. But that context would have given it an entirely different flavor.

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  • sophie||

    Last quote heard from Toni’s dad after abruptly leaving for good upon hearing that his wife was pregnant with their one and only child.

  • Island Dude||

    Well so much for malls and zombies. The new Lifestyle Centers ie "Village" harken to another cult classic "The Prisoner". Once you notice the widely different building styles and security cameras you know that you too may be just another number. Patrick McGoohan moreso than Victor Gruen has inspired 21st century retail centers.

  • oil paintings||

    Once you notice the widely different building styles and security cameras you know that you too may be just another number. Patrick McGoohan moreso than Victor Gruen has inspired 21st century retail centers.

  • oil paintings||

    Once you notice the widely different building styles and security cameras you know that you too may be just another number. Patrick McGoohan moreso than Victor Gruen has inspired 21st century retail centers.

  • Sean Scallon||

    "Alas, it’s been a long time since the mall felt revolutionary. Today we’re too busy updating our Facebook statuses to shop for jeans in one store, then electronic gadgets in another. We want all that stuff at our fingertips instantly, or at least in a place that lets you park right in front. Meanwhile, as we have come to expect that our soft hot pretzels will come in at least 17 different varieties and be made by artisans who specialize only in their manufacture (using locally sourced ingredients), our tastes have grown increasingly rarefied. The shoddy mass-market polo shirts of The Gap cannot possibly please us. We want handmade polo shirts sewn by bearded hipsters in Vermont and curated at exclusive men’s wear shops in urban neighborhoods with strict anti-chain regulations."

    Hmm....sounds like the free market in action. So sorry to all you the mass production zone.

  • Steve||

    "The old-fashioned enclosed mall exists most powerfully now as a symbol of tasteless consumerism, ugly architecture, and bland corporate hegemony, revealing our recent past as unsophisticated suburban rubes. Yes, we were once dazzled by indoor fountains and Sunglass Huts."

    Yep. "tasteless consumerism", and "bland corporate hegemony" says it all. I don't shop in malls anymore unless I absolutely have to.

    I find most of what's on offer in the stores - and this is especially true of the clothing stores - is unappealing, tasteless, low-quality and grossly overpriced junk. (Maybe 'junque' might be a better word to use to express the empty rhinestone glitter that permeates the average suburban mall these days.)

    One reason why many malls are infested with junky clothing stores is that they appeal to a certain demographic - brainless teenaged kids and equally brain-dead twenty-something people who don't know what value for money is, or how to recognize real quality.

    Then again, stores like these are just profitable enough to cover the usually scandalously high rents that most malls charge.

    Beyond the crappy merchandise, selection is also poor. I've yet to see a mall electronics shop that can offer the selection and depth of service that any good online (or big-box) electronics retailer can provide.

    If all that wasn't enough, I hate the way malls are designed. They're like mazes designed to keep you endlessly circling around in hopes you'll give up trying to find the way out, and buy something.

    Finally, I find malls are hot, stuffy and uncomfortable because mall management routinely chintzes out on the air conditioning to save a few nickels.

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  • Quikboy||

    Enclosed malls are NOT dead. Just because no major ones haven't been built in 5 years, doesn't mean they're dead!

    If you haven't noticed, the economy has seen better years, and obviously new malls aren't exactly a high priority. Plus big chain stores like Walmart Supercenters & Target have really attracted more people for one-stop shopping. Some malls are adding NEW wings, like the Galleria Houston did about 5 years ago. 35 million annual visitors isn't bad.

    I would like to gander and say the Willowbrook Mall in Texas is about 90%+ occupied. About 4-5 storefronts are empty, but 2-3 of those are under construction for a new store.

    Plus in cities located in Southern regions across the USA, they're a wonderful AC haven for shopping. It also is better for the environment, b/c people can park, and not have to drive around to each shopping center or store.

    The only malls that are truly dying in the Houston area is Northline, Northwest, and Sharpstown. All in poor areas, high-crime, and lack of wealthy residents.

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