The Main Streetification of shopping malls

Perhaps you have seen the advertisements for Small Business Saturday – it will be fascinating to see if this campaign works. While the national retail market is not good overall, this piece suggests that “Main Street [is] making a comeback at the expense of the shopping mall.”

In short, the most successful malls usurped the role of Main Street as the commercial and even cultural center of the communities they served.

Now, however, many shoppers want Main Street back.

Development of new malls has almost completely stopped, with only two being erected in the country since the beginning of 2009, according to the International Council of Shopping Centers.

Outdoor town center concepts, featuring brick sidewalks, streetlights and even public clocks evoking the Main Street of yore, are climbing to a degree that many owners of enclosed malls are considering dramatic makeovers, some including plans to tear off the roof of, or “de-mall” enclosed shopping centers.

I feel this headline is a bit misleading: we’re not talking about a return to traditional downtowns. Rather, it is taking older shopping malls and adding “older” elements, creating a 21st century facsimile of what retailers and Disney want you to think old downtowns were like (but with modern amenities). This isn’t that different than the strategies a lot of older downtowns have pursued in order to become a little more mall-like. Perhaps the real story here is that we are moving toward an amalgamation of shopping mall and downtown where people want to purchase the latest and greatest but really feel like they are in a community setting. Perhaps we could call these new facilities “Main Street malls.” (Though I wonder how these are different from some of the new “lifestyle centers,” particularly the New Urbanist ones.)

I am a little miffed that the article provides little evidence that shoppers really want “Main Street malls.” Are developers not building malls because they are not needed or have the tastes of shoppers changed?

0 thoughts on “The Main Streetification of shopping malls

  1. Pingback: How Republicans became to be the party against cities | Legally Sociable

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