Jump to content


Getting an "Insecure Connection" warning for Exisle? No worry

Details in this thread

The Death of the American Mall?

economy real estate B&M downturn e-commerce

  • Please log in to reply
13 replies to this topic

#1 Orpheus

Orpheus

    I'm not the boss of you!

  • Administrator
  • 17,841 posts

Posted 09 January 2013 - 02:03 AM

"The Death of the American Mall"

[I found this article interesting, but questionably researched. Their list of flagship chains that are "much the same now as in 2007" seems to overlook that Borders just recently downsized dramatically; that Circuit City shut down and was bought by Tiger Direct (which announced this year that hey are closing most) etc. ]

TBH, when I think of "The Death of the American Mall", I think of 1978-88. Malls were hit hard by two OPEC Oil embargo [1973, 1979] plus an economy reeling from Rust Belt unemployment (partly as a result of the first OPEC Oil Embargo), double digit inflation, etc. but it took some time for them to start showing big gaps in the storefronts, and even longer for some of them to start refilling .

Ironically, the late 70s were the tail end of a mall construction boom, which only added to the problem. I recall that the downtown Worcester Galleria was practically empty within a year or two of opening (It closed, and was replaced with a different mall-centric project, which also closed. Boston's downtown Lafayette Place in mid 80s, likewise went largely empty soon after opening [I think it was repurposed as a different project, with shopping and mixed use components, and may have pulled out of its nosedive, but I don't really know. All along the border, countless shiny recently opened indoor and strip malls were empty -- Methuen Mall comes to mind-- as well as small malls that had been thriving for many decades; this was blamed on the shutdown of factories in the former mill cities, like Lowell, Lawrence, Haverhill and the resultant unemployment plus "white flight" to the suburbs, but it certainly didn't help that they were maybe 5 minutes down busy expressways from the border to sales tax-free NH.

I suggest you look at DeadMalls.com which has a national map (far from complete, and sometimes out of date) to find malls near places where you have lived. It will bring back memories, if nothing else.

Suburban malls and those bordering on the city were hit hard, too, Arsenal Mall (Watertown) seemed to flag in the early 80s soon after opening but recovered, Billerica Mall (the border between metro Boston and metro Lowell) has seemed mostly empty since 1980, and faced closure in 2006 as did about Assembly Square in Somerville (on the fringe of urban/suburban, it had looked like it was dying for 20 years) and Dedham Mall (hurt by the loss of flagship Boston chain Filene's ca 1990 and the merger of the other flagships like Bloomindales/Macy -- all three now the same company), but Assembly square seemed to be getting better, and Dedham seemed to be positively thriving (temporarily? due to a new renovation) during recent visits. Note that the financial collapse didn't really hit until 2007 (in private) and late 2008 (publicly during the election), so that doesn't seem to be as obvious a causative factor, though it certainly makes recovery unlikely.

[I should note that rightly or wrongly, prevailing wisdom in the late 70s blamed several of these on the mill town syndrome, too: Waltham, Watertown, Somerville were also mill cities. Somervilleand Waltham didn't immediately decline like the other mill towns due to a developing non-mill facories and industries, and being located on Bostons major highways: 1-93, I-95/128 and the Mass Pike. Watertown, which borders Boston proper, became residential, downscale near the main streets but nicer just a block or two back]

All these decades, when the topic came up, the real estate mavens all complained that the US was "overbuilt" with malls, but in my experience, all too many malls experienced at most a brief surge of success before the empty shops began to freckle the halls. I suspect that they were really thinking of the money *they* would make from more developments, not the ultimate success of the malls.

It's funny how the phase of mall success runs before or after the overall economy: during the affluent 80s and boom 90s Somerville's Assembly Square Mall, and all of Watertown/Waltham and Quincy were dying despite being on the main highways out of Boston, but those malls that survived (Assembly Square and Arsenal) seemed to do a lot better after 2007.

The Internet hasn't helped either. It's cheaper and more efficient. Massive shopping malls may simply not be as necessary or desirable as they were in the automotive heyday (certainly not enough to pay for their construction and upkeep) -- and why should they be? Society has changed.

Then again, just as I decry the eradication of "local" amusement parks and drive-in theaters all across the country, I'm sure that many will feel we will lose something when "the mall" ceases to be an almost universal fact of life, with the closest equivalent being thoroughfares lined with standalone "Big Box" stores or worse, shopping online.

#2 Niko

Niko
  • Watchdog
  • 2,346 posts

Posted 09 January 2013 - 08:35 AM

I don't know.  I'm no expert, but in my area, there seems to be a third shift in shopping strategy going on.

We still have several active malls  (and several dead ones - mostly the ones that got a reputation for being in "bad" (aka urban :p) parts of town), and also have several Big Box zones.  But they've also been building these outdoor shopping "villages" that are basically like a open-air mall on quaint little manufactured streets.  And the success of THOSE has led to several smaller towns in the area to convert old spaces that weren't being used to their potential with similar ideas...  so a town that used to have a single "main street" style downtown, now has more of a downtown block of 2 or 3 streets, and that's become a shopping destination in its own right, with a mix of chain and locally owned shops, trendy restaurants, and even some new townhouse-style housing.

I'm actually kicking myself these days because an area I moved away from 2 years ago is FINALLY getting development to replace an old, falling-apart shopping plaza with one of these new shopping areas.  If I'd held out a couple more years at the old place, my property value would've probably seen a hefty jump.  :(

It is sad to see the actual Mall of my childhood dying out... but hopefully more places will be able to do this sort of bringing the shopping experience into their towns, so big boxes won't be the only alternative.
- Whatsoever you do to the least of my people, that you do unto me.    (Matthew 25:40)

- Do not let kindness and truth leave you; Bind them around your neck, Write them on the tablet of your heart.  (Proverbs 3:3)

#3 Omega

Omega

    Maktel shcree lotak meta setak Oz!

  • Moderator
  • 4,032 posts

Posted 09 January 2013 - 10:57 AM

I'm not sure what the pattern is to malls living and dying around here. There used to be several smaller malls in the suburbs of Nashville (Bellevue, Hickory Hollow), and a few closer to the city core (Harding, Hundred Oaks). Harding was torn down to build a Wal-Mart. Hundred Oaks was turned into a big collection of medical offices, after its third death as a mall. Bellevue mall sits empty; its main attraction was the fact that it was the only local serious shopping when it was built. After other malls came along, it died quickly. Most of Hickory Hollow is similarly empty. The core of the mall recently sold for $1mil, and there's still some hope of something mall-like coming of it.

Green Hills mall still thrives as the city's primary upscale shopping area. Opry Mills is doing fine post-flood. Cool Springs is practically a city. Not sure how Rivergate is doing. Murfreesboro and Mount Juliet have their own outdoor mall-like-things, and Bellevue has gotten one of those as well, all of which seem to be doing well.

I suspect there are two major factors: traffic access, and safety. Harding and Hundred Oaks didn't have good interstate access, and Hundred Oaks had a terrible parking lot design. Bellevue mall was so far from everything that it had to be a shopping destination to work, and when better destinations opened, it died. Cool Springs and Opry Mills, on the other hand, have off-ramps right into their parking lots. They're also difficult to access by walking from residential areas, making them less likely hang-outs for non-driving teens. Hickory Hollow died partly because it was perceived as unsafe. Open-air malls are also perceived as safer, not to mention more convenient. It's worth noting that while the "mall" portion of Hundred Oaks died repeatedly, the big-box stores on the lower level have consistently done fine. And anchor stores tend to remain open even when the mall cores close. Green Hills survives even with bad traffic access, but it has unique high-dollar stores that aren't anywhere else. And there's not a hint of danger.

Personally, I wonder what should be done with the empty mall structures. I love the Hundred Oaks medical plaza idea. I've also thought they'd make excellent schools, libraries, government offices...

Edited by Omega, 09 January 2013 - 10:58 AM.


#4 Tricia

Tricia

    To err on the side of kindness is seldom an error.

  • Islander
  • 10,245 posts

Posted 09 January 2013 - 11:21 AM

It's a small mall and still partially active in retail but West Hill Mall in Huntsville TX is now more than half converted to being the offices for Texas Dept of Criminal Justice. In other words the prison system's business offices. And likely it will take over the whole mall if JC Penney and the other four small stores close or move elsewhere.

I haven't really paid attention otherwise to major malls around here. I have my fave stores that I go to and they tend to not be located in large malls. Or I do like to shop online for the best deal.

But I do like the idea of repurposing empty or near empty malls.

In true dialogue, both sides are willing to change. --Thich Nhat Hanh


You don't need to attend every argument you are invited to


Do not ask that your kids live up to your expectations.  Let your kids be who they are, and your expectations will be in breathless pursuit.


#5 Orpheus

Orpheus

    I'm not the boss of you!

  • Administrator
  • 17,841 posts

Posted 09 January 2013 - 12:51 PM

The "shopping village" concept may have started here in MA in the 60s, we have several dating back to the 60s, incl perhaps the largest "shopping village" ever: Shoppers World in Framingham, which has been dying since the 80s, and may be actually dead, though dozen of malls of every size thrive within a few miles [I can't verify personally, I avoid the entire Rte 9 shopping mega-corridor, now that it's practical -- 20 years ago, it wasn't]. OTOH, the Mall of the US outside DC (50 shops, one for each state) had a similar architecture (a large mall connected by a internal unroofed community space with grassy areas and concrete event locales) years before Shopper's World, but without the village theme and "community" special events

I'm a huge fan of repurposing and multi-use, but in my experience (I semi-idly looked into renting office space at dying malls when I ran a company in the 80s, and again this year) mall management really isn't very interested in small renters. They wouldn't even give me a ballpark quote over the phone. They want to court big stores, and are barely willing to tolerate small shops that chase and beg for slots. It sometimes seems the mall management doesn't care AT ALL, and hopes that commercial realtors will bring tenants, but the commercial realtors mostly interested in big square footage, big commission clients.

I've come to believe that realtors/management (maybe banks) are killing many dying malls, not commerce. I know a lot of realtors --even took the license exam in my youth [it's ridiculously easy]-- and behind the scenes they emphasize fast turnover of big buck deals, not the welfare of buyer, seller, renter, etc. They'll brazenly pressure sellers to accept lowball offers, because making 20-40% less (for time already devoted) is great FOR THEM, vs devoting more time. A 20% cut is a big blow for a seller, but no loss to the realtor, who can more than make it up by using the extra time on another deal. Which would you rather have? 100% of one deal [commission], 80% of two, or 60% of four?

I can get newer, nicer mixed-use small office space [i.e. dual zoned residential/commercial, office and shop floor with loading dock] for less rent, a mile down the main drag the nearest dying mall. Charitably, this may be due to mall overhead, but I suspect the management has written the mall off, unless they can get a flagship whose rent will cover renovation of the common areas -- but what flagships they get open primarily onto the parking lot, often the "mall doors" are even locked!

My start-ups, then and now, don't really need the office space, but pricing it out, it's hard to see how malls can compete unless they go FULL mixed use, which means tearing up some of the gargantuan parking lots to add business and residential units, green spaces, etc. There's a bizarre resistance to this across the nation. Burlington (which has always had dozens of thriving malls and a longstanding successful mega-mall) has just recently had great success with basically "office park plus residences" model, which they didn't NEED to try, given their thriving commerce, but shopping in neighboring Billerica is squalid and dying -- perhaps it's hard to get zoning/license approval, because low-end yuppies buying its affordable homes don't *want* thriving commerce in that town when they can go next door for that. I've noticed that similar towns [comfortable middle class, but not affluent) surround many of New England's mega-malls. Maybe that's part of the selection process: large cheap blocks of real estate surrounded by a core customer base; affluent communities would reject a mall; lower class communities are poor sites.

Though I'm a huge fan of "new" things, I really hate when perfectly functional 1970s mall infrastructure and facilities languish or are demolished, even as newer projects are being built nearby. New Construction earns large quick profits for developers, banks etc. (often with a little cash under the table to town leaders), but doesn't necessarily do anything for subsequent commercial success and the community's tax base. Alas, shops must go where the foot traffic/buzz is.

As an engineer in (one of) my heart(s), I simply abhor wasted resources and effort -- but a lot of the US economy and business models are explicitly based on waste, excess and novelty: a new car every few years is ridiculously wasteful, but that's our model.

#6 Themis

Themis
  • Islander
  • 6,544 posts

Posted 09 January 2013 - 01:19 PM

Omega, isn't Hickory Hollow getting a library and some part of Nashville Tech?  There was some sort of announcement last night about a new owner.  I used to make the trip there from Bellevue for the mall stores, Best Buy and the surrounding restaurants and was sad when it started emptying.

Why are open air malls perceived as safer?  Shoppers more spread out?  BTW, that open air mall isn't in Bellevue, it's in West Nashville - hence the name, Nashville West.  (2 miles from my house - love it but want better restaurants)  I prefer shelter from heat and rain in traditional malls.

The internet just can't replace browsing, for me anyway.  And I can't buy clothing.  Women's sizes have no standards.  I can wear several sizes even in shoes, and mailing stuff back is a hassle vs. returns to a store.  I have a couple of catalogs I order from but I much prefer to try something on.  Men's clothing doesn't seem to have that issue.
Cats will never be extinct!

#7 Nonny

Nonny

    Scourge of Pretentious Bad Latin

  • Islander
  • 31,142 posts

Posted 09 January 2013 - 01:29 PM

Much as I like the concept of open air shopping, enclosed malls are better for me, at least here where they are all smokefree.
Posted Image


The once and future Nonny

"Give a man a gun and he can rob a bank, give a man a bank and he can rob the world." Can anyone tell me who I am quoting?  I found this with no attribution.

Fatal miscarriages are forever.

Stupid is stupid, this I believe. And ignorance is the worst kind of stupid, since ignorance is a choice.  Suzanne Brockmann

All things must be examined, debated, investigated without exception and without regard for anyone's feelings. Diderot

#8 Omega

Omega

    Maktel shcree lotak meta setak Oz!

  • Moderator
  • 4,032 posts

Posted 09 January 2013 - 03:02 PM

View PostThemis, on 09 January 2013 - 01:19 PM, said:

Omega, isn't Hickory Hollow getting a library and some part of Nashville Tech?  There was some sort of announcement last night about a new owner.  I used to make the trip there from Bellevue for the mall stores, Best Buy and the surrounding restaurants and was sad when it started emptying.

They've announced that, but I'll believe it when it happens. How many things have been announced for the Bellevue mall? :)

View PostThemis, on 09 January 2013 - 01:19 PM, said:

Why are open air malls perceived as safer?  Shoppers more spread out?

I'm not sure. Maybe that's just my impression.

View PostThemis, on 09 January 2013 - 01:19 PM, said:

BTW, that open air mall isn't in Bellevue, it's in West Nashville - hence the name, Nashville West.  (2 miles from my house - love it but want better restaurants)  I prefer shelter from heat and rain in traditional malls.

True. Bellevue goes way far out the other direction. :)

#9 offworlder

offworlder

    pls don't kick offworlders, we can find a place too

  • Islander
  • 5,363 posts

Posted 09 January 2013 - 05:58 PM

where I live I see a big balance mix of the styles, the central(near freeways) enclosed mall, and the new box type strip block center where you find say a petco and a sportzone plus Target, with Subway and Starbuck and Bestbuy, plus a multiplex, with parking(no stacked garage) splayed out and outdoor walk to each store... and the new gentrify village type design with shops in village fashion with high end condos(some in towers and some in lowrise like four stories more villagy) with parks and restaurants all in new-mix-village-design

biggest problem the malls have is rising leases, the most expensive retail in the state are the spots in those malls, so many stores especially smaller shops like accessories or hats or nicknacks move out to strip line store deals - but seems the enclosed malls are still healthy and get plenty traffic; I notice if I go on Friday night or Saturday the food courts are full, and weekend before holiday has concourse so full when you want to stroll you must Fit In the people traffic ;)

wher e I live I would not say death of malls yet
"(Do you read what they say online?) I check out all these scandalous rumours about me and Elijah Wood having beautiful sex with each other ... (are they true?) About Elijah and me being boyfriend and boyfriend? Absolutely true. We've been together for about nine years. I wooed him. No I just like a lot of stuff - I like that someone says one thing and it becomes fact. It's kind of fun." --Dominic Monaghan in a phone interview with Newsweek while buying DVDs at the store. :D

#10 FnlPrblm

FnlPrblm
  • Administrator
  • 12,510 posts

Posted 14 January 2013 - 10:28 AM

We've had a couple major malls close here in the last decade.  One, Northwest Plaza, being the 27th largest mall (at it's closure) and the largest when it was opened in 1963 (2million square feet).  However, it was only partially closed due to economics.  Crime had grown over the years (as it did at the other malls which closed) to the point of no one wanting to go there anymore.  It was sad as it was such a cool mall. :(
"It is an old maxim of mine that when you have excluded the impossible, whatever remains, however improbable, must be the truth." --- Sir Arthur Conan Doyle The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes: The Beryl Coronet

The Boscombe Valley Mystery: "There is nothing more deceptive than an obvious fact."

"Nothing astonishes men so much as common sense and plain dealing." --- Ralph Waldo Emerson 'Art,' 1841

"Such welcome and unwelcome things at once, 'Tis hard to reconcile." --- Macbeth IV.III.138-9


LauraBertram.net

"Once in one's life, for one mortal moment, one must make a grab for immortality; if not, one has not lived." -- Sylvester Stallone

Time to eat all your words, swallow your pride, open your eyes...Sowing the Seeds of Love - Tears4Fears

#11 UoR11

UoR11
  • Islander
  • 1,839 posts

Posted 17 January 2013 - 12:53 AM

We've got a fairly nice mall here that seems to actually be well run. But I think part of it is that it, and a nearby open air type mall are the only concentration of nice stores in the city. (Weirdly, between the two: Jimmy Swaggert's broadcast center.) I think part of it is that they mostly have things that aren't as suitable for online retail.
Yes, I am an economist. Yes, I do frequently sing "Can't Buy Me Love". No, I don't see any contradiction there.

#12 gsmonks

gsmonks

    Tree Psychiatrist

  • Islander
  • 5,137 posts

Posted 17 January 2013 - 07:00 AM

The following things have killed malls around here:

1) They charge far too much for rent.
2) When a big store like WalMart moves out, all the little businesses soon follow.
3) They charge far too much for rent.
4) Businesses have a life-cycle. People line up at the doors when they're new, but over time interest drops off.
5) Did I mention that mall owners charge far too much for rent?
6) The malls I've known were a big draw when new, but short-term planning caused a downward spirol in business.
7) Did I mention that mall owners charge too much, and even up their rates during peak months?
Capitalism is a pyramid scheme run by the 1%.

#13 Mark

Mark
  • Islander
  • 5,269 posts

Posted 17 January 2013 - 07:25 AM

View Postgsmonks, on 17 January 2013 - 07:00 AM, said:

The following things have killed malls around here:

1) They charge far too much for rent.
2) When a big store like WalMart moves out, all the little businesses soon follow.
3) They charge far too much for rent.
4) Businesses have a life-cycle. People line up at the doors when they're new, but over time interest drops off.
5) Did I mention that mall owners charge far too much for rent?
6) The malls I've known were a big draw when new, but short-term planning caused a downward spirol in business.
7) Did I mention that mall owners charge too much, and even up their rates during peak months?

Mark: It sounds like the mall owners are getting their karma paid back in full for being so greedy while their malls were full of renters, and they were stickin' it to 'em. I can rent a couple of very nice apartments here in El Paso for less than I could rent space for a kiosk (sp?) in a large hallway of my local mall...which is not doing very well by the number of cars I see there each week. I mean, a kiosk (which is just a glorified shopping stand) costing that much is just ridiculous...especially in a mall that is already in trouble and not getting the customers they need to stay in business.
Mark
Discussion is an exchange of knowledge: argument is an exchange of ignorance.
Peace is not the absence of conflict, but the ability to cope with it.
APOGEE MESSAGE BOARD

#14 gsmonks

gsmonks

    Tree Psychiatrist

  • Islander
  • 5,137 posts

Posted 17 January 2013 - 07:58 AM

View PostMark, on 17 January 2013 - 07:25 AM, said:

View Postgsmonks, on 17 January 2013 - 07:00 AM, said:

The following things have killed malls around here:

1) They charge far too much for rent.
2) When a big store like WalMart moves out, all the little businesses soon follow.
3) They charge far too much for rent.
4) Businesses have a life-cycle. People line up at the doors when they're new, but over time interest drops off.
5) Did I mention that mall owners charge far too much for rent?
6) The malls I've known were a big draw when new, but short-term planning caused a downward spirol in business.
7) Did I mention that mall owners charge too much, and even up their rates during peak months?

Mark: It sounds like the mall owners are getting their karma paid back in full for being so greedy while their malls were full of renters, and they were stickin' it to 'em. I can rent a couple of very nice apartments here in El Paso for less than I could rent space for a kiosk (sp?) in a large hallway of my local mall...which is not doing very well by the number of cars I see there each week. I mean, a kiosk (which is just a glorified shopping stand) costing that much is just ridiculous...especially in a mall that is already in trouble and not getting the customers they need to stay in business.

Exactly!
Capitalism is a pyramid scheme run by the 1%.



Also tagged with one or more of these keywords: economy, real estate, B&M, downturn, e-commerce

0 user(s) are browsing this forum

0 members, 0 guests, 0 anonymous users