Wednesday, July 9, 2008

USES FOR DEAD SHOPPING MALLS

To my surprise, there is actually a website which features malls all across the country, that struggle to remain fully occupied. You can click here http://www.deadmalls.com/ to stroll down memory lane with your favorite shopping venue as you may have grown up with in the 60's, 70's or 80's.

In Greater Cleveland, the concept of the new style "big modern malls" featuring retail stores, banks, recreation, and other uses, all under one roof, blossomed in the late 1950's and hit a peak in the early 1970's --- so as my personal observation and experience shows me. Several downtown retailers could not resist the allure of a brand new facility with plenty of parking, as inner city retail districts were aging and often not meeting the demands of a new auto-dependent consumer base as trains and public transportation became the secondary means of getting around. Aging retail space base, crime, inadequate parking were all contributors of this flight of retail from the core.

But today, many of the original malls that killed the inner city retail base, have now themselves become victims of even further suburban sprawl----Many will call this out-migration of business phenomenon poorly planned urban growth and management. There are other driving forces for sprawl, but forces such as tax abatements are a story alone.

Nevertheless, there is now a re-discovery of the older inner urban retail infrastructure as many buildings and streets in downtown Cleveland, for example, are undergoing a slow, but steady revitalization. Still, this brings us back to the aging "first malls club"-- and I shudder to think that many of these retail behemoths could someday sit deserted amidst a vast sea of pavement which simply contributes to dirty stormwater runoff to our rivers and streams, also another story alone! With that in mind, I was inspired to dream up a new adaptive re-use of these malls as more than just retail alone.

I was a longtime patron of Randall Park Mall in Cleveland (Warrensville/North Randall) built in 1976. I remember when this crown jewel double decker mall opened and few people had ever seen anything quite like it. Huge anchor stores like Higbee’s, cascading fountains, red carpeted catwalks and ramps, theaters, and the list goes on.

Today, the mall is still a nice place to visit but nothing like it was when it first popped into the retail scene. I actually felt sorry for the place and so I offer some ideas on future uses for Malls like Randall Park, which struggle because of what I see, as an over production of retail space in North east Ohio among other factors.

I think malls as such can be great places not only for what, for example, the Randall Park mall is now, but for future "indoor neighborhoods" with trendy apartments, retail, post, groceries, fresh fruit and veggie and bakery markets, entertainment, all necessities for living, under one roof---maybe even a school or recreation center. Essentially, an "indoor complete neighborhood."

This is what they were in terms of just shopping in the past, BUT, adding social amenities like high quality living addresses, will see such a place transfer into a whole neighborhood and city under one roof. Huge areas where anchor tenants once stood, can be creatively divided into apartments, condominiums, with indoor atriums, pools and recreation/fitness facilities with skylights and courtyards. Then, rents could be collected from several sources, rather than one entity such as a large anchor retailer as in the past. Such a facility could be a national example of creativity and brilliant adaptive re-use! Good for North Randall.. Good for Greater Cleveland etc.

If marketed properly, all the above would be great for those who do not wish to rely on cars, or those who wish to reduce dependency on oil. I think this idea could really help revitalize the inner older suburban areas. I feel this may be the future of older but great malls like Randall. What are your thoughts?

No comments: