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The fragility of the traditional enclosed mall shopping center

mgk920

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#1
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...?AID=/20060221/GPG0101/602210555/1206/GPGnews

<sigh...> :-(

An aerial image of it is at:
http://www.terraserver-usa.com/image.aspx?T=1&S=10&Z=16&X=2097&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
 

TOFB

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#2
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.
 

nemo31

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#4
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.
 
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#5
Only indoor malls that seem to be doing well these days are the super regional centers; those of well over 1 million square feet.
 
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#6
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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#7
Cardinal said:
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.
 

BKM

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#8
Cardinal said:
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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#9
BKM said:
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.
 

mendelman

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#10
Cardinal said:
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
 
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#11
mendelman said:
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!
 
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#12
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.
 

mendelman

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#13
Off-topic:
DetroitPlanner said:
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.
 
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#14
mendelman said:
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.
 
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#15
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
 

iamme

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#16
CanCon said:
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. :)
 
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#17
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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#19
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
AubieTurtle said:
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.
 
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