Do not call it a shopping mall; call it a campus

With the opening of several hundreds units of housing on a former portion of the Fox Valley Mall, one leader used a different term than “mall” to describe what was unfolding on-site:

Photo by Armin Rimoldi on

While the mall has been around since 1975, Samson said he even has stopped calling the burgeoning “live, work, play” development by that name.

“Notice how I didn’t say mall,” Samson said. “It’s a campus.”

A shopping mall is primarily about commercial activity. A campus implies something different. Probably the most common usage of the term refers to college campuses. On such a campus, there is a variety of activity: residential spaces, social spaces, academic spaces, athletic spaces, and more.

Many shopping malls are hoping for transformations that help them move beyond just stores and a few eateries. The shopping malls that survive the next decade or two could include apartments, condos, townhouses, hotels, restaurants, entertainment venues, and cultural attractions in addition to stores. All of these options would help make the mall/campus more lively throughout the full day rather than just during shopping hours. In this sense, the goal is not that different than numerous mixed-use developments in suburbs and cities: create a home base of residents plus a steady flow of visitors who spend money and contribute to social activity.

Will the term campus catch on to describe former shopping malls? Time will tell and certain influential actors, such as developers, architects, and local leaders, can help make it happen.

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