I think I had an "AHA!" moment after seeing photos with shopping centers and supermarkets from the 1950s, their parking lots packed even though the weather and lack of decorations provide evidence that it 's nowhere near Christmas. It's been years since I've seen a completely full parking lot at any supermarket, mall, plaza or big box retailer, even on Black Friday.
Thruway Plaza in Buffalo. Nowhere near Christmas, obviously. Designated parking spaces are a communist plot!
Another 1950s scene.
In 1970, in the United States, there was 11 square feet of retail space per person. In 2005, there's 20.2 square feet of GFA per person. The opposite of that ... in 1970, there were more shoppers per square foot of GFA than today. More shoppers = more intensive use of retail space than today.
Shopper behavior was much different in the 1950s and 1960s than today. With grocery shopping, for instance, instead of a weekly trip, housewives -- remember them? -- made grocery runs daily or every other day.
Shopping centers also had a much different tenant mix, with tenants that tended to resemble what would be found in neighborhood commercial districts. In regional centers and malls from the era, supermarkets, banks, liquor stores, bakeries, locksmiths and other daily errand go-to stores were far more common as tenants than today.
Are today's parking requirements rooted in the day-to-day reality of the 1950s? I'm probably wrong, right?