Friday, March 10, 2006

Dead Malls

Not exactly news, but I've run accross this site recently and thought I'd share it with the group. The indoor shopping mall, that giant that supposedly slaughtered downtown shopping as we knew it, is apparently now dying out itself in many places. I find this topic very interesting for several reasons.

First and foremost, I loved going to the arcade when I was younger and malls are where arcades used to be. I'm sad to see that so many arcades have dies. Malls in general are only worse off for it.

Secondly, I've always been intrigued by the relationship between downtown shopping, malls, and "big box" stores like Wal-Mart, Target, Best Buy, etc. Wal-Mart catches a lot of flack for killing Downtown USA but malls already got that ball rolling as early as the late 60's and early 70's in many locations. Also, those smaller Wal-Marts being left behind in the wake of building Super Centers is nothing compared to the gigantic carcasses left behind from a dead mall.

The third reason I find this sort of thing interesting is that I've personally seen the decline of all three malls I used to frequent as a kid out in Dallas, TX. One is finally dead (Forum 303 - listed on the Dead Malls site). It's death blow came when the AC went out and would cost $3,000,000 to fix. That AC was installed when the mall was new in 1969 and I can remember it failing quite often. The second is severely crippled with the loss of three of its four anchor stores (Six Flags Mall) with only a movie theater and a Dillards Outlet store keeping it afloat. Many of the stores surrounding this mall have been levelled now. To get an idea of the area, imagine an old chateau-style House of Pancakes converted into an adult book store. That actually happenend to a store just outside Six Flags Mall. The rest of the stores had even worse fates. The last mall is in such a crime ridden neighborhood that the mall has even changed its name from Red Bird to Southwest Center in an attempt to change its terrible image. Southwest Center is still hanging on with three of its 4 original anchors (out of 5 current anchor spots), but only because there is virtaully no competition in the area. I've also seen the death of Roswell Mall here in Georgia.

Some of the more interesting malls listed on this site are Dixie Square Mall in Harvey, IL. That is the mall featured in the car chase in Blues Brothers. Also Sherman Oaks Galleria is listed. That is the California mall where they filmed the interior mall scenes for Fast Times at Ridgemont High and was once the happening mall for the valley girl scene in California. The site also has a glossary with some pretty interesting terms like labelscars (Fading or dirt left behind from a sign on or in a mall. Labelscars leave a readable marking, which is very helpful when identifying former stores.).

So what is taking the place of the indoor mall? The two newest fads are outdoor shopping centers and power centers. Many of the outdoor centers claim to be outlet malls but don't typically have many outlet stores in them. Others are trendy "lifestyle centers" offering the upscale shops that malls used to have. The other trend seems to be the new "power centers." A power center is a shopping area that has several "big box" stores and little else. A good example of this is in the Buckhead area of Atlanta. There's a shopping center with a Target, Dick's, Office Max, and Publix. The parking is a deck in the middle of the stores and the stores themselves are on the perimeter.

Many of these dead malls are eventually converted into something useful but some, like Forum 303, are still standing since the cost to level the mall (which is built like a Soviet militray bunker) and rebuild on it is more than the land sitting on it is worth.

(Edited after further reading to clear up grammar a bit.)


Laddi said...

I've always wished that local government would establish a law which would require a business to sell or rent to another occupant within two or three years of abandonment or else be required to pay for the cost of levelling. Yes, it'll never happen, or it would be so business-unfriendly that the town would never grow, but what's really so wrong with that if that's the type of town you want to live in.

I have to applaud my not-by-choice hometown of Columbus, GA. When one of their malls shut down (after years of being a huge blight on the city), they replaced it with a modern library. Not that many residents in Columbus will actually use it, but the local university is nearby and it's much better than another box shop. So kudos to them.

On a separate note: while the empty "big box" phenomenon may be a US feature all its own, mom-n-pop stores being eliminated from downtown centers is not. The only mom-n-pop public stores in downtown Munich were either souvenir shops/tourist traps, travel-related, or a kbob (like Achim's) shop. Our tour guide even remarked on this matter, being that we were surrounded by a Saturn (CD/DVD chain), fashion stores (they even had a Foot Locker), and Big-Beer-backed restaurants. He said the rent had become so high that small fry owners couldn't afford the risk of being short a month. So they moved out and the big buck moved in. It was an interesting editorial for a city tour.

patsbrother said...

Burn, baby, burn! And good riddance.

From the following, I will leave out most of the verbs, direct objects, explantory notes, conjuncions, definite and indefinite articles, and other such staples of conversation and writing, as what I'm about to say really is just your typical whiney liberal rant. You may supply such linguistic ecoutrements at will.

Grid system! Mixed use zoning! Increased foot traffic! Communal space! Anti-sprawl! Non-disposable architecture! Gabled roofing! Muerta Box-Grande! Frame houses! Undergrounding phone/power lines! Tree-lining streets! Non-institutional governement structures! Greenspace!

Dante said...

Roswell Mall before its demise housed the Roswell Public Library for a while but the city eventually built a library closer to downtown.

"I've always wished that local government would establish a law which would require a business to sell or rent to another occupant within two or three years of abandonment or else be required to pay for the cost of levelling."

I've heard others throw around similar suggestions. The big problem with the idea in the scope of a malls is that generally one company builds a mall and then another companies builds a bigger, better mall. The first mall's tenants then slowly (or maybe quickly) abandon the old mall for the new one. Sometimes malls can coexist with out much trouble but ususally one of them thrives while one becomes run down. What's really interesting is that it's not always the newer mall that thrives. And it really doesn't help that in many cases the malls are built in separate but nearby cities and/or counties that are each trying to get as much sales tax and property tax revenue as possible.

patsbrother said...

What the hell is a "conjucion"? Is that like an Ugli?

Whoever typed that must be a moron.

And damn Blogger for not allowing one to edit comments without deleting them.

dadvocate said...

The big malls are failing because the parking is horrendous (you must walk 100 miles from your car to the entrance), then you walk another 100 miles once you get inside, prices usually suck, and the kids always want you to buy overpriced items at the food court or whatever. 90% of the time I can find a strip mall that I can run in and out of the single store I actually need to visit.

Bellevue Center in Nasville is on the list of dead malls which suprised me. It only opened in 1990. But, it's HUGE, too much walking. My sister lives about 1/4 mile from there and I've shopped there a couple of times when visiting. Very nice mall but with the parking problems, walking distance problems and high price problems many malls have.

When I'm looking for a particular item or items, I only go to the mall when I can't find the item(s) elsewhere.

mikey said...

You know, in general, I hate the mall. I didn't used to, but I didn't used to have to drive in mall parking lots either.

One thing I always did love about our local mall was the abundance of music stores, book stores, and video stores. We had 3 music stores, 3 book stores, and two video stores in the mall. I'd name them, but I'm having a hard time remembering what they were called (except Walden and B-Dalton books).

"Why can't I remember?" you ask. Well, it isn't because I haven't been to the mall lately (Valentines Day was just a month ago after all).

Nope, it's because those stores aren't there anymore. Instead we have one Best Buy (at the mall), one Circut City (down the road from the mall) A super Target (adjacent to the mall) a Super Wal-Mart (way on the other side of town) and a Books a Million (down the road from the mall).

All that and I still can't find a copy of Neil Gaiman's new book, any Stevie Wonder album, or Oliver Stone's Nixon.

My favorite thing about our local mall was the movie theater. From time to time my mother would want to go to the mall and go shopping for clothes or something. So we would all pack up in the mini-van and take a trip to the mall. Mom would go shopping and my brothers and I would catch a movie with my father until she was done.

Now there's no book store, no video store, no music store, and no movie theater.

We still have an arcade though.


Meredith said...

Nashville has more than one in the area that defies logic. Bellevue Center was right up there though. There was also another which was actually worse one but I can't remember the name.

I wonder how long it will be until Geogia Square makes the list.

Dante said...

Georgia Square if far from being the best mall on earth but it has a lot keeping it from death:

1. It's one of the few malls that is the right size for it's area. It's not too big and it's not too small.

2. Unless maybe Oconee County decides to build a mall, Georgia Square and the Tanger Outlets in Commerce will be the only malls in the area. It'll be a long time before somewhere like Jefferson or Lexington can support a mall of their own to compete with Georgia Square.

3. Georgia Square is owned by CBL. While CBL isn't as successful as other small mall and strip mall owners (like say Colonial who owns Beechwood and Lakeshore Mall in Gainesville), they do a good job of managing malls and keeping national chains in them. They also don't try to do stupid things like turning the mall into a flea market when the 3rd largest flea market on earth is 8 miles away (Forum 303 actually spent millions converting to a flea market with Traders Villiage in the same zip code).

4. Athens is considered a very small town by industry standards so it can get away with pretty low sales without an anchor store pulling out.

5. Georgia Square is right off of the loop. Unless an Interstate comes through Athens, the loop is still the major road in town making the mall very accessible.

You may think I'm crazy for saying it but I firmly believe North Point Mall in Alpharetta will hit the skids before Georgia Square will:

1. North Point is not off of an Interstate. As a result, GA 400 is and always will be seriously behind on expansion and will remain hard to travel down. Two of the three malls I've mentioned (Forum and Six Flags) are off of TX360 and got their clock cleaned by the Parks Mall located about 5 miles away off of Interstate 20. Interestingly enough, the Parks Mall and North Point Mall were designed and built by the same people (and it's very obvious).

2. The average income in Alpharetta has nowhere to go but down. That will lead to losses all around for the stores in the area. It will also lead to an increase in crime.

3. North Point and other 5 anchor malls will all be seriously compromised by Federated's decision to covert most of their stores to Macy's. This will leave North Point without an anchor in the south end of the mall (now Lord and Taylor's but there's already a Macy's in the mall) that has had trouble keeping tenants since the mall opened. Waldenbooks even moved to a smaller store further towards the food court to get more foot traffic in the store. The typical 2nd string anchors like Burlington Coat Factory, Best Buy, and Target all have larger stores nearby already.

4. The Mall of Georgia is bigger, newer, and more accessible to most of North Point's potential shoppers. Perimeter Mall may not be newer but it has diret access to an Interstate and is only a short drive from North Point, making it a more attractive target for many people.

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