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Thread: Too much retail!

  1. #1
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    Too much retail!

    Anybody been in a city that has too much retail?

    Back in the 80s Saint Paul was on a retail spurt. They were trying to draw people downtown more. It really only worked for a short while before people realized that they could just get what they needed at the local mall, even if Saint Paul was fancier. Three major developments were built: Town Square, Minnesota World Trade Center, and Galtier Plaza.

    Basically, all of these places ended up bombing. They still exist, though it's creepy walking through a dead mall. They all seem to be in the process of being converted. Galtier is pulling itself up again, though the mall area is filling up with commercial services instead of the high-class boutiques that used to be there.

    The Minnesota World Trade Center is now Wells Fargo Place, as Wells Fargo has now taken up most of the old retail space there and converted it to offices.

    Town Square is still quite dead. The City of Saint Paul used to operate an indoor park on the top complete with trees, fountains and a carousel but recently pulled out because of the expense (over $1 million a year to operate).

    What ultimately killed all of these developments that did thrive at one time was the brand new Mall of America. MOA was heralded with great delight by Bloomington, but was quite controversial for the effects that it would have to the region. And it turns out that what many predicted turned true: Minneapolis and Saint Paul turned into retail ghost towns.

    Only in the past couple years has downtown been becoming alive again.

    Now, I'd like to point out that the downtowns of the two cities weren't abandoned... they just completely cleaned out after 5 o'clock or so as people headed home.

    I'll post some pictures in the photo gallery eventually. I put in a request for a Minneapolis/Saint Paul section to be added as I have many, MANY photos to add and it would be nice to keep the organized.

    What are your stories of retail decay?

  2. #2
    Cyburbian The One's avatar
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    Hello...hello....hello......(echo)

    Anyone from Edmonton want to chime in on the negative/positive effects of a Mega mall on a large city???

    I would just say.....at least you can look forward 20 or so years to the point when that giant mall dies and needs to be redeveloped....
    Skilled Adoxographer
    I have two emotions....Silence and Rage

  3. #3
    Cyburbian boiker's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by The Shadoe
    What are your stories of retail decay?
    Probably similar to many. Downtown Peoria was the regional shopping hub for over 100 years, through the 1960s they managed to keep 3 major anchor stores in the downtown. The last of which, Sears, left for the mall 1993-95'ish. The minor retail followed and now we have a small collection of unique shops along the riverfront. One of which is a 5-story warehouse converted into a fantastic antique shop. Retail is in city plans in a portion of downtown that will be getting 2 museums (one a history musuem the other a musuem for Caterpillar)

    The downtown is far from dead during the workday hours. After 6pm, dead. weekends.. dead. Riverfront, somewhat active during dining hours and we have one strip of clubs that maintains activity till 2pm.

    Peoria has two 'regional' malls. One an enclosed 1970s era mall and the other is a 2002 Lifestyle center. Each has maintained itself wonderfully. They have distinctly different stores, distinctly different clientele, and different anchors. I'm very surprised that the market has oversaturated itself.
    Last edited by boiker; 11 Jan 2005 at 3:53 PM.
    Dude, I'm cheesing so hard right now.

  4. #4
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    Both Downtowns have department stores, though some of them went under (like Donaldson's). Another problem was when Dayton's name changed to Marshall Field's. People in this area don't associate with Marshall Fields, and Dayton's was a common stay since late in the 1800s.

    Downtown Minneapolis has a new multi-level Target store which is pretty neat. It isn't "big-boxy" at all. The building is quite classy and you don't feel like you are in the suburbs at all.

    I hate the Mall of America and I've only been there a couple times when I was young. Maybe this sounds silly, but I'm protesting it by not going there. It won't mean much, but I just don't like what it's done.

  5. #5

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    Well, downtown Fairfield is pretty much a few business services and some smaller retailers. Our "real" downtown is a large regional mall, with a collection of nicer big box stores nearby. That's where the activity is.

    Downtown Vacaville is pretty sleepy, too. A couple of nice restaurants, some office space, a couple of retailers, a coffee shop/bakery (brand new German bakery-pretty neato!) There is a collection of god-awful strip centers and big boxes near the freeway, along with a glorified strip center "The Factory Stores" with outlets, that is the real downtown.

    If I want a "real" downtown, I have to drive to Sacramento or San Francisco.

    There is also Walnut Creek, a major "Edge City," that has been quite successful at melding the outdoor mall, lifestyle center, and an older, traditional downtown with small shops. There is substantial office space, and there is beginning to be some impressive new high density residential. A pretty neat town center for a suburb.

  6. #6
    moderator in moderation Suburb Repairman's avatar
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    Victoria, TX went through an eventful period involving big boxes before my family moved. In the space of about three months they built a Walmart Supercenter (4th one in the nation as I recall), a Super Kmart, a Super Target, a Toys-R-Us and a Sam's Club. Kmart died within two years (this is way before their financial problems). Victoria only had about 60,000 people at the time with about 85,000 in the whole county.

    San Marcos, TX (population around 50,000) had an Office Depot, OfficeMax and a Staples built within a year of each other; only Office Depot remains. This city has so much retail with the largest aglomeration of Factory Outlet stores in the U.S. that it has actually become a top 5 tourist destination for the state of Texas.

    "Oh, that is all well and good, but, voice or no voice, the people can always be brought to the bidding of the leaders. That is easy. All you have to do is tell them they are being attacked and denounce the pacifists for lack of patriotism and exposing the country to danger. It works the same way in any country."

    - Herman Göring at the Nuremburg trials (thoughts on democracy)

  7. #7
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    I just found a really good site about dead malls: http://www.deadmalls.com

    It appears that they haven't updated recently, but it is still a fascinating read. The common thread that I notice running through it all is that a huge reason why malls die is because of saturation.

  8. #8
    This past holiday season I had the displeasure of visiting the "old mall" and the "new mall" in the town one door over. The old mall had a small Gap, Walden Books, Sam Goodie and other major chain outlets when I moved here. Then the new mall moved in across the street from the old mall and sucked up all the patrons. Gap left the area entirely. The old mall was truly a dead mall while the new one was vibrant. Then Dillard's acquired Bacon's and located in both malls (women's department in one, everybody else in the other). The new mall started downhill. Now the old mall is vibrant (at the holidays it was freakin packed!) while the new mall is a ghost-town. The new mall is scheduled to have a Bass Master open this summer, so it will be interesting to see how that impacts the two malls.

    I loathe shopping, so I get these glimpses of mall action on an infrequent basis.
    Je suis Charlie

  9. #9
    Cyburbian
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    We have a few malls that are teetering on the brink, and are gradually having more community and commercial services--ofices and such--added. Maybe this is the way of the mall of the future, if it isn't torn down entirely for a lifestyle center. Less retail, more a mix of services like a traditional downtown, minus the interesting architecture and residential aspect, plus tons of parking and a pretzel place.
    A year or so ago, I went to a mall in a small city that had virtually no chain stores. It was a tiny one-anchor mall, but almost every single store was a mom-and-pop (tm) or a chain that I had never heard of. It was a surreal experience. Nearly all the tenant spaces were filled, and it was busy, so it was doing something right.
    I don't dream. I plan.

  10. #10
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    I work in a mall that was really on the edge of being torn down. The city (well, suburb) even appropriated $3 million to the owner to fix it up and the city also landscaped around it because the place looked really trashy.

    A few years later they fix it up, our rent has gone down and companies are moving back in. Funny how that works, eh?

    As Walt Disney said, "You have to spend money to make money", and that was part of why Disneyland was and is such a big success.

    Though it's interesting to take a look at the Disneyland resort as well. The new park they built there (Disney's California Adventure) was criticized for having too many restaurants and stores, not enough rides, and too many "off-the-shelf" attractions. Needless to say, it seems to be a flop, though new management is apparently working on fixing this (though there is no silver bullet for the problem).

    Lots of retail requires a very large mass to come in, otherwise it is guaranteed to flop.

  11. #11
    Cyburbian
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    Quote Originally posted by The Shadoe
    I work in a mall that was really on the edge of being torn down. The city (well, suburb) even appropriated $3 million to the owner to fix it up and the city also landscaped around it because the place looked really trashy.

    A few years later they fix it up, our rent has gone down and companies are moving back in. Funny how that works, eh?

    As Walt Disney said, "You have to spend money to make money", and that was part of why Disneyland was and is such a big success.

    Though it's interesting to take a look at the Disneyland resort as well. The new park they built there (Disney's California Adventure) was criticized for having too many restaurants and stores, not enough rides, and too many "off-the-shelf" attractions. Needless to say, it seems to be a flop, though new management is apparently working on fixing this (though there is no silver bullet for the problem).

    Lots of retail requires a very large mass to come in, otherwise it is guaranteed to flop.
    What mall do you work at? I'm trying to picture what mall in the Twin Cities was on the verge....

  12. #12
    Cyburbian DetroitPlanner's avatar
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    Shadoe, we had the same problem in Detroit when all the Hudson Stores were converted to Marshall Fields, but at least the anchor store is still around in MN. Personally I think Target should have kept the names seperate, but now that they;ve sold em, I realize they were packaging them as on neat upper-midwest retailer for someone who needed to get into the market to buy.

  13. #13
    Cyburbian jordanb's avatar
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    Well, James Howard Kunstler seems to think that every sidewalk, atrium, square, park, lobby, pedestrian tunnel, courtyard, and alley should abut retail space to "turn it into an active space."

    He takes pictures of fat people at McDonalds and calls them "eyesores" but he never stops to consider how obese we'd all be if we spent enough money buying chocolate double lattes to support all of those retail establishments.

  14. #14
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    Quote Originally posted by Blue
    What mall do you work at? I'm trying to picture what mall in the Twin Cities was on the verge....
    Not a very large one -- the Shoreview Mall (now Shoreview Village Mall).

    It was a complete problem for the city of Shoreview. The place looked like a slum and had been the target for vandalism. It's doing a lot better now. Occupancy is near 100% and the place got a face-lift. But I'll never forget how I called Dance Studio #4 "Lake #4" because the ceiling in there dripped all the time and after a heavy rainstorm it ruined our suspended wood floors.

    But I consider it unrelated--it isn't on the same level as the Regional Malls and didn't have anything to do with Downtown Shopping or MOA.

  15. #15
    Cyburbia Administrator Dan's avatar
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    The good 'ol days, a decade or so before my time.



    Let's zoom in a bit to get a feel for the era.



    "Get outta' my way, you old broad!"

    Anyhow, when I was a kid in the 1970s, there weren't just two or three big department stores in downtown Buffalo. There were six; Adam Meldrum and Anderson, Hengerer's, LL Berger, Hens and Kelly, Sattler's, and W.T. Grant. That's not including five-and-ten stores like Woolworth's, or the large men's clothiers that were common at the time like Kleinhans and Bond's. In the 1970s, there was far more retail in downtown Buffalo then at the malls. Granted, stores downtown, both large and small, were a bit grittier and dated than their suburban equivalents, but they were still very popular.

    What happened? The common belief is that "all the stores just left downtown," but it's a bit mmore complex then that. No locally owned department store chain ever closed just their downtown Buffalo store, while leaving the suburban stores open. I think that the changing face of retail, with smaller chains going bankrupt and the survivors being consolidated into larger national chains, ultimately killed retail in downtown Buffalo. A suburban location didn't guarantee success for a chain, as the following shows:

    W.T. Grant: national chain went bust, downtown store closed about 1978, along with every other Grant's in the nation.

    Sattler's: small low-end full-service department store chain with three stores. The downtown store closed around 1982, along with the other two stores (one at the very popular Boulevard Mall, the other in an inner city neighborhood). The Sattler's store in Boulevard Mall became a Hengerer's (see below).

    Hens and Kelly: local mid-end, locally owned department store chain with about ten stores. The chain went bust in the mid-1980s. Their suburban stores were usually located in 1950s-era outdoor plazas or malls that were then dying; they weren't in the bigger, more popular malls. The downtown store was the last in the chain to close. Some suburban stores were reused by AM&As; others sat vacant for years and were demolished or converted to other uses.

    Hengerer's: upper mid-end, locally owned department store chain with about ten stores. The chain was sold to the Rochester-based Sibley's chain in the mid-1980s. The downtown store was closed in 1989, before the Sibley's chain was absorbed into Kauffmans.

    L.L. Berger high-end, locally-owned department store chain with about five stores. The entire chain went bust in the late 1980s. The downtown store was the last in the chain to close, in 1991. The stores in the suburbs weren't later occupied by national department store chains; the buildings were divided into smaller retail spaces and leased to smaller stores.

    Adam Meldrum and Anderson: middle-end, locally-owned department store chain with about 15 stores. The chain was sold to Pennsylvania-based Bon Ton in 1994. Bon Ton promised to keep the downtown store, but a year later decided to close the 300,000 square foot flagship; the chain's policy was "we don't do downtowns". A Toronto businessman opened an upscale department store in the former AM&As building in 1998, but it failed a year later.


    There were other department stores in the city limits in the 1970s, too; a giant Sears store north of downtown, The Sample in North Buffalo, and the flagship Kobackers and Sattler's stores in the Broadway-Fillmore neighborhood. Sears closed most of their urban stores nationwide in the 1970s; Buffalo's huge Sears store closed in 1980. The Sample chain died in 1990 (city store was the last one to close; the previous owner of the chain died, and the children didn't want to run the business). The Kobackers and Sattlers chains both went bust, with suburban and city stores closing.



    Again, I think retail in downtown Buffalo died not because it was downtown, but because of poorly managed local chains (where all the stores closed), and national chains that "didn't do downtowns" which bought out locals.

    Do the suburbs have too much retail? You bet. Two Buffalo-area malls were demolished in my lifetime (Seneca Mall, Thruway Mall), one was converted into an office park (Como Mall), and three are struggling (Eastern Hills Mall, Summit Park Mall, McKinley Mall). Buffalo's suburbs are still filled with 1950s-era shopping plazas that are almost unaltered from the time they were built; in other cities, they would have long since been replaced, but there the old shopping centers live on ... barely in many cases. The economic forces that drive demolition or retrofitting of old shopping centers just isn't there in Buffalo. Even with these struggling centers, though, new power centers continue to be built on previously undeveloped land nearby.
    Growth for growth's sake is the ideology of the cancer cell. -- Edward Abbey

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