Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Unmalling America

"More than 400 of the 2,000 largest malls in the U.S.have closed in the past two years...[I]n the past 12 months,retail sales have dropped an unprecedented 9.8 percent."

The Week, "The vanishing shopping mall," April 3, 2009.

It's not just damn malls.It's the suburbs.

"The suburban dream of the big house and big lawn is vanishing. The Metropolitan Institute at Virginia Tech predicts that by 2025 there will be a surplus of 22 million large-lot homes..in the U.S."

Bryan Walsh, "#2 Recycling the Suburbs, 10 Ideas Changing the World Right Now," Time Magazine, March 18, 2009

There seem to be lots of ideas for the empty malls -- sites for Walmart, lifestyle centers, faux downtowns, etc. But all those empty houses. Having survived (and prospered from) the suburbs of the 1950s and 1960s I derive a certain amount of perverse pleasure contemplating the future uses of mega-homes -- maybe as communes and microfarms.

Of course, the other salient trend these articles don't talk about is the suburbanization of poverty -- the full capture of cities by elites (including environmentalists)and the apartheidization of metropolitan regions.

To be fair, all of Jim Rouse's commercial creations are in trouble -- suburban malls and urban food courts/playgrounds. While walking through Baltimore's fabled Harbor Place the other day I was astonished by the makeover of the second floor of the food court into a retail center -- and a badly done one at that. And it was sort of empty.

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