2012: Is the shopping mall becoming extinct? A recent article at Atlantic Cities points out that no new malls have been built in the US since 2006, and the lack of new highway construction means that building prospects are slim, and extant malls are facing the prospect of closure:
About a third of our malls are still thriving, and those are the biggest, newest ones. But America is no longer building many new highways, which means we’ve stopped creating prime new locations for mall development. Some of the earliest amenities of the enclosed mall—air-conditioning!—no longer impress us. And the demographics of suburbia have changed dramatically. Malls draw the largest share of their customers from teenagers, and the baby boomers who largely populate suburbia no longer have teenagers at home.
For all these reasons, the suburban mall of Gruen’s plan appears to be victim of more than just the recession. Dunham-Jones, who has tracked this trend in her book Retrofitting Suburbia, estimates that more than 40 malls nationwide have been targeted for significant redevelopment. And she can count 29 that have already been repurposed, or that have construction underway.
1956: The Southdale Center, America’s first modern shopping mall, opened to great fanfare in Southdale, Minnesota. The mall’s architect, Victor Gruen, was a Austrian immigrant interested in ameliorating the lack of busy commercial space he perceived in suburban communities. The New York Times devoted a full-page spread to the mall’s opening and its many amenities:
The center’s stores are grouped around a blocklong garden court three stories high and covered with louvered skylights. The court is decorated with birds, trees, flowers, fountains, sculpture, and other works of art.
In addition to offering constant comfortable temperatures—in a city marked by climate extremes—all stores are but a few feet apart. If these stores were placed side-by-side on a normal shopping thoroughfare they would extend nearly a mile. Southdale has been planned for ease of shopping, with all soft goods being offered on the upper level and general merchandise, food, etc., on the lower level. This also applies to goods in the two department stores.
Canadian subscribers add $10; All other international subscribers add $40.