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Thread: The fragility of the traditional enclosed mall shopping center

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    Cyburbian mgk920's avatar
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    The fragility of the traditional enclosed mall shopping center

    I has truly amazed me how very fragile enclosed mall shopping centers have become in the past decade or two. What was once a crowded and sometimes attractive gathering place of shopping, mingling and plain old people watching of the post-WWII era can come crashing down within a breathtakingly short time.

    The latest case in point is the former Port Plaza Mall, now called Washington Commons, in downtown Green Bay, WI. It was opened in 1977 as a very large two-level new construction downtown mall, added on to a few years later (about 1984), and throughout that time was a fun place to visit, wander around and buy a few things, even for someone who lived here in Appleton.

    Fast-forward to February, 2006:
    http://www.greenbaypressgazette.com/...5/1206/GPGnews

    <sigh...>

    An aerial image of it is at:
    http://www.terraserver-usa.com/image...97&Y=24647&W=3

    Sad to say it, but the best thing that I can see for it is to remove the mall, restore the street grid and sell off the reformed blocks to private developers for new projects. Port Plaza served its purpose well for much of a quarter-century, but it is time to move on and to look at this as a new beginning opportunity for the otherwise resurging downtown Green Bay area.

    Mike

  2. #2
    Cyburbian TOFB's avatar
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    This is really unbelievable. I worked in for the City in the Mid 80's and P Plaza was seen as an innovative answer to the then traditional suburban mall. The City worked very hard to attract it to Downtown and when I left in 1988, it was thriving and fully occupied.

    I never thought Bay Park Square and East Town would really compete with the size and selection at Port Plaza, and frankly Fox Valley Mall in your neighborhood, while nice, was not considered competition at all.

  3. #3
          mentarman's avatar
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    "Retail doesn't work here," said John Steffen, owner of Pyramid. "The only way you can have an inward-facing mall is because it is so busy on the streets, there is nowhere to go but inside. That's not the problem in downtown St. Louis."



    http://www.stltoday.com/stltoday/bus...4?OpenDocument

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    Cyburbian
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    St.Louis Pyramid Cos. Is that the same group involved in that mess in Syracuse. Looking for way to many public give aways. I can see some for affordable housing but not the high end stuff.

  5. #5
    Cyburbian DetroitPlanner's avatar
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    Only indoor malls that seem to be doing well these days are the super regional centers; those of well over 1 million square feet.
    We hope for better things; it will arise from the ashes - Fr Gabriel Richard 1805

  6. #6
    Cyburbian Cardinal's avatar
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    During the sixties and seventies, several small and rural cities managed to get malls which very effectively emptied their downtowns. Think of places like Pierre, South Dakota, with about 17,000 people between itself and its neighbor, Fort Pierre. These places have fallen into the hands of smaller, relatively poorly managed REITs which have not invested in renovations and do not have very good leasing programs. One such mall I am dealing with has fifteen vacancies - almost half of its shop spcae. It has not been remodeled since the 1970's, and I have to wonder if one of the anchors is going to renew its lease. This is significant because, as I mentioned, these malls replaced downtowns as retail centers. When they fail, the local market turns elsewhere (other cities) to shop, and ends up pulling their business from the remaining downtown businesses as well as the businesses along the highway strip.

    On the other hand, some little malls have made it. Look at the downtown mall in Manhattan, Kansas. This is a city about the half the size of Green Bay. Unlike the funky mall in Green Bay, this one has the feel of a mall when inside. It is also very well integrated into the streetscape outside.
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    Cyburbian
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    Quote Originally posted by Cardinal
    During the sixties and seventies, several small and rural cities managed to get malls which very effectively emptied their downtowns. Think of places like Pierre, South Dakota, with about 17,000 people between itself and its neighbor, Fort Pierre. <snip>
    I'm sure this story is playing out all over, but you could replace "Pierre, SD" with "Mattoon, Illinois" and your story fits for here perfectly.

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    Quote Originally posted by Cardinal
    During the sixties and seventies, several small and rural cities managed to get malls which very effectively emptied their downtowns. Think of places like Pierre, South Dakota, with about 17,000 people between itself and its neighbor, Fort Pierre. These places have fallen into the hands of smaller, relatively poorly managed REITs which have not invested in renovations and do not have very good leasing programs. One such mall I am dealing with has fifteen vacancies - almost half of its shop spcae. It has not been remodeled since the 1970's
    Redding, CA has (had???) a bizarre mall built in the 1970s where they basically covered over the old Main Street. A strange combination of "modernized" turn of the century storefronts (i.e., Victorian buildings covered with lucite panels during the 1940s and 50s) and 1970s tacky mall stuff. A weird, weird place that was pretty desolate when I saw it.

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    Cyburbian Cardinal's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by BKM
    Redding, CA has (had???) a bizarre mall built in the 1970s where they basically covered over the old Main Street. A strange combination of "modernized" turn of the century storefronts (i.e., Victorian buildings covered with lucite panels during the 1940s and 50s) and 1970s tacky mall stuff. A weird, weird place that was pretty desolate when I saw it.
    I think the mall in Muskegon, Michigan was like that. It has been 13-14 years. Maybe I have the wrong city in mind. Anyway, there was one in the Great Lakes region like that.
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    Unfrozen Caveman Planner mendelman's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by Cardinal
    I think the mall in Muskegon, Michigan was like that. It has been 13-14 years. Maybe I have the wrong city in mind. Anyway, there was one in the Great Lakes region like that.
    Yeah...such a contraption was in Muskegon, MI, but it was recently demo'd (mid-2005?) for redevelopment.

    Downtown Muskegon redevelopment
    I'm sorry. Is my bias showing?

    The ends can justify the means.

  11. #11
    Cyburbian DetroitPlanner's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by mendelman
    Yeah...such a contraption was in Muskegon, MI, but it was recently demo'd (mid-2005?) for redevelopment.

    Downtown Muskegon redevelopment
    I stopped in once to see the Muskegon Mall (probably 1989-1990) I could not belive the place. Basically put a roof over main street, and ripped down all the surrounding buildings to create a big parking lot.

    Now Alpena Mall, thats a keeper!
    We hope for better things; it will arise from the ashes - Fr Gabriel Richard 1805

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    Cyburbian illinoisplanner's avatar
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    In my youth (10-20 years ago), Randhurst Mall in Mount Prospect, IL was always a happening place. It was built in the 50s, and was the largest mall at the time it was built. When I was growing up, this 2-level mall had every major department store, a massive food court with new restaurants popping up all the time, and every specialty store you can think of. This was in the late 80s-mid 90s. Fast forward to the late 90s/early 00s, and it now has only one department store. Circuit City, Kohl's, Old Navy, Montgomery Ward, JC Penney, and others have come and gone. The only viable anchors are CostCo and Carsons, and what's left of the mall is nothing but primarily services and small offices with only a handful of stores left. It's sad to see. The combination of shifting demographics, downtown retail development, the Deer Park Town Center, power centers, poor mall management, and big bad Woodfield Mall have all likely contributed to the mall's downfall.

    Other notable examples in Chicagoland include Waukegan's Lakehurst Mall which has since closed (mostly due to Gurnee Mills), the withering Charlestowne Mall in St. Charles (primarily due to Geneva Commons), and other smaller malls.
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  13. #13
    Unfrozen Caveman Planner mendelman's avatar
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    Off-topic:
    Quote Originally posted by DetroitPlanner
    Now Alpena Mall, thats a keeper!
    You must really like the Alpena Mall. You are constantly talking about it.

    It's a decent enclosed mall considering it is in Northern Michigan and serves a population of about 30,000, but all the stores currently in the Mall could easily be located in Downtown Alpena and not really have a problem.
    I'm sorry. Is my bias showing?

    The ends can justify the means.

  14. #14
    Cyburbian DetroitPlanner's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by mendelman
    Off-topic:

    You must really like the Alpena Mall. You are constantly talking about it.
    Sometimes I mention the other malls like Fashion Square or Crossroads just to make the others in the state feel good. Heck my favorite is the Franklin Park Shopping Towne in Toledo.
    We hope for better things; it will arise from the ashes - Fr Gabriel Richard 1805

  15. #15
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    The thing that interests me about the death of shopping malls, and the greyfield phenominon in general (if it can be characterized as such, which I think it probably can), is that the death of a mall can effectively signal the death of the only meaningful public/quasi-public/quasi-private space for the informal gathering of diverse groups of people in suburban neighbourhoods or urban areas that have no other town centre. Clearly, shopping malls mean a lot more to communities than just places to exchange money for goods and services. In a consumer and car-oriented culture like ours, the failure of a big mall can create a significant void for local communities - people naturally gather at malls for a variety of both sanctioned and unsanctioned activities, and when this gathering space is lost how can or should that gap be best filled? In other words, I guess I feel the failure of a regional shopping centre is an important social issue, at some level, and not just an economic one. Where else, I ask, do both senior citizens and teenagers loiter in the same place?

    I'm not saying "save the mall to save communities" or anything drastic like that, I just think that issues of collective identity in neighbourhoods can be caught up in shared experiences of the built environment (like the omnipresent mall), which makes this an interesting issue for planners to think about.

    CanCon

  16. #16
    Cyburbian iamme's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by CanCon
    The thing that interests me about the death of shopping malls, and the greyfield phenominon in general (if it can be characterized as such, which I think it probably can), is that the death of a mall can effectively signal the death of the only meaningful public/quasi-public/quasi-private space for the informal gathering of diverse groups of people in suburban neighbourhoods or urban areas that have no other town centre. Clearly, shopping malls mean a lot more to communities than just places to exchange money for goods and services. In a consumer and car-oriented culture like ours, the failure of a big mall can create a significant void for local communities - people naturally gather at malls for a variety of both sanctioned and unsanctioned activities, and when this gathering space is lost how can or should that gap be best filled? In other words, I guess I feel the failure of a regional shopping centre is an important social issue, at some level, and not just an economic one. Where else, I ask, do both senior citizens and teenagers loiter in the same place?

    I'm not saying "save the mall to save communities" or anything drastic like that, I just think that issues of collective identity in neighbourhoods can be caught up in shared experiences of the built environment (like the omnipresent mall), which makes this an interesting issue for planners to think about.

    CanCon
    People bemoaned the death of downtowns and the rise of the mall in just the same way you are taking a retrospective of greyfields. People have an innate need to meet and socialize, it will get met.

    Why would a lifestyle center not provide this? Why would a downtown not provide this? I guess, I don't understand what you think is replacing traditional regional malls that lacks the (limited) social aspect of which you speak?

    Oh, and uhh, welcome to cyburbia.

  17. #17
    Cyburbian AubieTurtle's avatar
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    People get bored. Malls were a new way of shopping and lasted as the primary retail development pattern for about four decades. But just about everything you can do with a mall has been done. People want something new. That's why lifestyle centers are coming into fashion. They don't really have any special benefits. Mainly they mix some of the worst aspects of downtowns (exposure to the elements) and malls (located in a sea of parking, limited connection to other uses or pathetic token mixed uses). But they are different and offer a new experience (and we are now in the "Experience Economy"). When you consider that most mall and now lifestyle center shopping is really shopping for amusement, it should be obvious that since the malls are unable to evolve very much that they're doomed. There is nothing exciting about going to the mall anymore.

    The fact that power center and strip malls continue to be successful is because most of that shopping is necessity shopping rather than "Hey I'm bored, let's go to Twin Oaks Mall" type shopping. People want to get their car close to the door of Wal-Mart, Home Depot, etc. (something you can't do at the mall), walking in the door and get their stuff. As anyone who’s been to a big box store knows, they're not made to be beautiful or entertaining. Even with the large size, you can still get in and out much faster than at a mall.

    If you would like to see the rotting carcass of some of the great malls of the past, visit http://www.deadmalls.com
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    Cyburbian Random Traffic Guy's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by CanCon
    Where else, I ask, do both senior citizens and teenagers loiter in the same place?
    Ummm, places like this? Meatspace contact is so 1980s.

  19. #19
    Cyburbian michaelskis's avatar
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    I think that this is the constant progression of things. Downtown suffers because of the smaller malls. Then small malls suffer because of larger multi story regional mall. Now they will start to suffer because of Life Style Centers, which look like downtowns.

    I wonder if Life Style Centers will suffer because of downtowns and the circle will be complete. All within 60 years!
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  20. #20
    Cyburbian DC Librarian's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by AubieTurtle
    If you would like to see the rotting carcass of some of the great malls of the past, visit http://www.deadmalls.com
    Dead Malls.com is a great site. Being from a small city in the Rust Belt (Niagara Falls, NY) that had two relatively large malls that have both died in recent years, it's great to reminisce over this site.

    On the whole, I think that Upstate New York is probably a little "over malled", especially due to shrinking populations. Large regional centers like the Galleria Mall in Buffalo and the Carousel Center in Syracuse have added to the quick death of many of the smaller malls in these cities too.

  21. #21
    Cyburbian mgk920's avatar
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    Revisiting this thread with some new developments

    Quote Originally posted by mgk920 View post
    I has truly amazed me how very fragile enclosed mall shopping centers have become in the past decade or two. What was once a crowded and sometimes attractive gathering place of shopping, mingling and plain old people watching of the post-WWII era can come crashing down within a breathtakingly short time.

    The latest case in point is the former Port Plaza Mall, now called Washington Commons, in downtown Green Bay, WI. It was opened in 1977 as a very large two-level new construction downtown mall, added on to a few years later (about 1984), and throughout that time was a fun place to visit, wander around and buy a few things, even for someone who lived here in Appleton.

    Fast-forward to February, 2006:
    http://www.greenbaypressgazette.com/...5/1206/GPGnews

    <sigh...>

    An aerial image of it is at:
    http://www.terraserver-usa.com/image...97&Y=24647&W=3

    Sad to say it, but the best thing that I can see for it is to remove the mall, restore the street grid and sell off the reformed blocks to private developers for new projects. Port Plaza served its purpose well for much of a quarter-century, but it is time to move on and to look at this as a new beginning opportunity for the otherwise resurging downtown Green Bay area.

    Mike
    A little old business regarding this early 2006 thread about the death of a 1970s-era mid-sized city downtown mall.

    It looks like the plan is indeed to do just that, as there is now a current active plan to restore Adams St (the main north-south street cut off by the center of the mall in the above aerial image) through the mall for automotive and pedestrian traffic with more likely to follow.

    See:
    http://www.wbay.com/Global/story.asp?S=5859553

    Green Bay
    Downtown Revitalization Plans Tackle Adams Street

    Dec 26, 2006 05:37 PM

    By Chris Duffy

    A street in downtown Green Bay that's sometimes forgotten may soon get some much-needed attention.

    Adams Street is sandwiched right between the active entertainment district of Washington Street and the government district of Jefferson Street.

    On one Washington Street block, every building is or will be full in the near future. But venture just one block east to Adams Street, and it's a much different story with consecutive bare buildings, endless options for retail and office space; besides a shoe store and a bank, this block looks pretty much deserted.

    "I wouldn't say it's a forgotten little street, but for the past 30 years it's been a dead-end street," Jeff Mirkes of Downtown Green Bay Inc. says.

    That dead-end is the former Washington Commons mall. It now sits empty, and its shortcomings have had a domino effect on nearby businesses. On one block of Adams Street alone there are five buildings with space available.

    (see link for rest of article)

    Very interesting indeed.

    Mike

  22. #22
    Cyburbian
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    Quote Originally posted by nemo31 View post
    St.Louis Pyramid Cos. Is that the same group involved in that mess in Syracuse. Looking for way to many public give aways. I can see some for affordable housing but not the high end stuff.
    I agree, since a mall that has cannibalized other retail business from a 100 mile radius should not, under any circumstance, be declared an Empire Zone, or receive any of the other tax abatements that this vapor mall is slated to get.

    Quote Originally posted by savemattoon View post
    I'm sure this story is playing out all over, but you could replace "Pierre, SD" with "Mattoon, Illinois" and your story fits for here perfectly.
    Even in Florida we have a couple of those (Think Lake City).
    Last edited by mendelman; 04 Jan 2008 at 11:16 AM.
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  23. #23
    Cyburbian Planit's avatar
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    Bump

    New article in USAToday continues to reinforce the trend:

    http://www.usatoday.com/news/nation/...ownmalls_N.htm

    For 46 years, it has been a holiday tradition at Midtown Plaza mall in Rochester, N.Y., for children to ride on the monorail that circles the atrium, going past the tall, decorated tree and the area where they could later sit on Santa's lap.
    If all goes according to plan, the mall, among the first built in the 1960s to lure shoppers back from the growing suburban retail areas, won't make it to a 47th holiday season. It is slated to be demolished this year to make way for a new headquarters for telecommunications firm PAETEC Holding Corp.

    Finding a taker for downtown mall properties is an issue in many cities across the USA. In Dayton, Ohio, despite repeated proposals, the old Arcade mall has stood closed since 1991, according to the Ohio Preservation Alliance.

    In Niagara Falls, N.Y., the Rainbow Centre Factory Outlet mall, blocks away from the waterfalls that are a destination for tourists worldwide, remains an unwanted eyesore since shutting its doors in 2000 after years of declining business, according to former mayor Vincenzo Anello.
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  24. #24
    Cyburbian Cardinal's avatar
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    Unlike a suburban mall, a downtown mall usually needs to have nearby residents and workers who can access the mall by means other than a car. Downtown areas often cannot provide that. The exceptions may be true destination locations like Chicago's Magnificnet Mile. The reality is that most people making a trip to the mall to shop want the convenience of driving, parking easily and without cost, and also being close to home. As I have noted in other threads, what is the difference between malls in any metropolitan area? They all have the same Sears, Penneys, Macy's and perhaps regional chain. The easiest and most convenient destination is the suburban mall, which is closest to home.
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    One of the more fascinating mall histories is that of the Mall of Memphis, which opened as one of the largest malls in the country in the early 1980s -- and was demolished in the early 2000s. The demise of the Mall of Memphis has been well-documented at http://www.mallofmemphis.org.

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