Cyburbia is a friendly big tent, where we share our experiences and thoughts about urban planning practice, the built environment, planning adjacent topics, and anything else that comes to mind. No ads, no spam, and it's free. It's easy to join!
While I am not the biggest fan of Downtown Malls, Pioneer Place in Portland had a lot to do with bringing retail back into the center city. It does not shut out the city, rather it is integrated into the city amazingly well. It really is well designed architecturally and is site-specific. I stress that it is not the run-of-the-mill suburban mall. Compare it with Salem, Oregon's (50 miles south of portland) downtown mall which also supposedly revitalized downtown. There is practically no windows onto the street here, however, and too many skybridges mean that you walk from the garage to the shops without taking a step outside.
The City of Milwaukee, WI is currently trying to save its downtown mall, the Grand Avenue Mall. In recent years the big anchor stores have pulled out and now they are converting those areas to condos and office space. They are also giving big incentives to the remaining anchor. It's a very unique mall...part old, part new.
The City of Green Bay, WI is also trying to save its downtown mall, the Port Plaza Mall. While these examples do not show success (yet), you may get lots of good info. on the problems they have encountered, how they are trying to identify what is killing these malls, and what they propose to do about it.
City of Napa: Created a pedestrian "paseo" parallel to the traditional "First Street." Very pretty from an architectural standpoint, but not all that economically vital. Similar to the more successful example in Santa Barbara, a larger and much more affluent city.
Walnut Creek and Santa Rosa
Walnut Creek is a classic example of an "Edge City" They have a traditional "Main Street" environment that has remained somewhat successful (with many restaurants). Immediately next to this "Main Street" and directly connected is an outdoor mall anchored by three (I think) department stores. Very pleasant and very successful, with excellent pedestrian spaces, landscaping, and screened parking. The City is steadily improving the downtown area, with older "strip mall" type development being replaced by denser, more urban development (except in the old downtown, though, there is a reliance on national and regional chains, inevitable I guess.
Santa Rosa: Another City with a traditional main street (somewhat tarted up with wavy right-of-way, benches, and trees). There, the mall is a tradional enclosed mall right next to the main street. There is some attempt to integrate the two "sections," but the Santa Rosa Mall cannot disguise the fact that its a regional mall plunked in the center of town. Oh well, at least its not out in some greenfield site.
The best source I know on this subject, although a bit dated now, is the book "Downtown Inc." by Frieden and Sagalyn (1989). This tome provides detailed accounts of the development of a number of downtown malls, including detailed case studies on Horton Plaza (San Diego), Pike's Place market (Seattle), Faneuil Hall (Boston), Plaza Pasadena, and Town Square (St. Paul).
It argues that there has been a shift in the way city officials deal with (retail) development as a reaction to the downtown crisis brought on by commercial decentralization, and that this often includes the public sector taking an active role (via PPPs or otherwise) in getting such projects built.