Weekend Reading: The Decline of Malls

-This week Chris, a loyal reader and friend of the blog, sent an article from The International called “The Death of the American Mall and the Rebirth of Public Space.” It describes how indoor malls—which redefined American shopping the last half-century—are in decline.

“In 2007,” writes Robbie Moore, “no new malls were built in America, for the first time in 50 years. A mall in Salt Lake City which opened in March 2012 was the first to be built since then.”

They are being replaced not only by outdoor ones that provide a more urban experience, but by online retailing, which last year grew at 5x the rate of retail sales overall. Yet malls are still publicly subsidized, making them yet another industry gambled on by government, despite their clearly weakening output. One recent case was in New Jersey, where the “ambitious $4 billion Xanadu mall and indoor ski slope – now re-financed and re-named the American Dream Meadowlands – still languishes, half-built. According to the New York Times, the American Dream, which was conceived before the crash, has struggled despite receiving upwards of $1 billion in the form of tax write-offs, free land and a highway connection from the state.”

This decline, Moore continues, is part of a broader trend by America back to the cities:

“Architect and critic Mark Hinshaw argues that the mall’s ‘terminal decline’ corresponds with the fate of America’s exurbs, in which large-scale malls are chiefly located. Writing for Crosscut, Hinshaw points to census data showing extremely low growth in the outskirts of cities. In 2011, cities and dense inner suburbs grew faster than emerging suburbs and exurbs, after decades of flight to the fringe. William Frey, a demographer with The Brookings Institute, believes the trend may be the ‘new normal:’ ‘The fact that outer suburban growth has continued to falter two years after the recession ended calls into question whether today’s younger generations will hold the same residential preferences as their forebears’.”

-Also much thanks to the Baltimore blog Welcome to Baltimore, Hon, for publishing my article on the city’s heroin problem. The blog deals with miscellaneous city issues, particularly on the cultural front. Check it out when you get a chance.

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