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"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 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'scommercial 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.

Originally posted to Bob Giloth on Tue Mar 31, 2009 at 08:07 AM PDT.

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Comment Preferences

  •  This is good news (5+ / 0-)

    I'll never understand why people need 3,500sqf houses in the first place.

    Less malls, less McMansions, less Hummers... this crisis is the purge the nation has needed for 20 years.

    •  But there won't be any less (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:

      malls or McMansions.  The buildings are there.  They are being, and will continue to be, abandoned and left to deteriorate.  And not only that, they are energy guzzlers due to their very design.  All those high ceilings are fantastic until you realize it takes much more energy to heat and cool the building.  We have to think of how to not only best use them, but how to improve upon the slapped-up crap that occupies so much of American suburbia.  Not necessarily an easy task.

      I personally like the idea of turning each and every one of them into a local Democratic HQ.


      Unthinking respect for authority is the greatest enemy of truth. - Albert Einstein (-6.5/-7.33)

      by pidge not midge on Tue Mar 31, 2009 at 09:08:57 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  best use? tear down. recycle the parts. n/t (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:

        John Edwards:"One America does the work, another America reaps the rewards. One America pays the taxes, another America gets the tax breaks."

        by BlackSheep1 on Tue Mar 31, 2009 at 09:54:23 AM PDT

        [ Parent ]

      •  Let 4 or 5 immigrant farm worker (0+ / 0-)

        families live in the McMansions. There is plenty of space for at least a dozen people in most of them.

        They can even fix up the pools so the kids have a place to play. And since most of them are right up against the farmlands, they can walk to their jobs in the fields.

        Interesting turn of events, eh?

        "Be yourself; everyone else is already taken." - Oscar Wilde

        by greendem on Tue Mar 31, 2009 at 10:22:46 AM PDT

        [ Parent ]

  •  I lived in Columbia, MD for (5+ / 0-)

    13 years.  The concept was wonderful!  Rouse had some really good ideas.  

    No apartment complex could contain more than 10% "Section 8" tenants....the idea was to have people of little means live with people of more means and the two could learn from each other.

    Neon was outlawed....all signs had to blend with the environment...the buildings were earth tones, strict rules on what color you could paint your house.  There are villages within the town of Columbia, each with a grocery store, package store, some kind of restaurant, specialty store, faith center, park.  The town had bike paths everywhere, and little lakes near each village.  EVERY street had a sidewalk.

    It had many of the right ideas for a way to lose some of the segregation of our society, be it due to race or income, age or gender.   Lots of mixed-race couples lived in Columbia in the early to mid-1980's, before it was "accepted" more widely.

    However, it was built a long time ago and while there is a certain charm to the 70's style homes, they are older and crumbling.  The mall was enlarged, making parking difficult.  The two-lane road off I-95 into town was expanded to a 6-lane highway.  The hotel "downtown" is inadequate, so a few chains set up show just outside the town limits to get away from the neon restrictions.  Same with those strip malls of "eateries"....while we had places like "The Last Chance Saloon (and Grill)", TGIFridays and Olive Garden were moving in.  And the people who owned the apartment complexes didn't put in the money for maintenance, allowing some to become run-down.  And some of the managers of the apartment complexes broke the rules, allowing 15 people to live in 2-bedroom apartments, which created a "slum" of sorts.  There grew an invisible train track through town, with a "good side of town" and a "bad side of town". Police substations were set up on that bad side of town.

    I attribute the decline (and it has declined greatly) to greed and the "need" for growth.  I don't know why, but expansion became a buzzword and it was all downhill from there.

    While the idea is nice, it usually breaks down.  I give the guy credit though.....his "dream" lasted for close to 20 years before it started to break down.  

    I, personally, hope Americans' love affair with the shiny object abates and we get back to interacting with each other more.  

    •  An unfortunate result of mixed-income development (3+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      BlackSheep1, Cedwyn, PsychoSavannah

      is that we have seen a net decline in public housing.  Hope VI allowed entire "projects" to be demolished but there were no provisions for replacing public housing units one-for-one, or even adding to the number.

      Whenever the virtues of mixed-use development are extolled I get a queasy feeling in my stomach, wondering where all the poor people will go.  In my county alone (mostly occupied by my city of ~100K) we have over 800 families on waiting lists for housing, and the Section 8 list is closed.  This should not be happening in 2009.

      You're absolutely correct about greed being the cause for the mess we're in, and I will go a step further and say that that same greed also involved gentrification masked as "healthy growth" that was supposed to rid cities of crime and poverty.  What they really meant was that we'd get rid of housing for the poor and replace it with new strip malls and luxury apartments for up-and-coming professionals.

      Unthinking respect for authority is the greatest enemy of truth. - Albert Einstein (-6.5/-7.33)

      by pidge not midge on Tue Mar 31, 2009 at 09:16:51 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  Good or bad (0+ / 0-)

    It is unfortunate for the people that work at these places for sure.  

    To me it doesn't matter if your house is a McMansion or not, someone has to build it. We don't need to be smaller we need to be more sustainable.  

    The size of someones house is a personal preference deal.  If you can afford and sustain it then go for what you know.  Having everyone live in small houses and buy less doesn't mean it will be better.  

    Quality over quantity every time.

    You'd be a lot cooler if you were from Minnesota!!!

    by mim5677 on Tue Mar 31, 2009 at 08:33:09 AM PDT

  •  I live in a formerly abandoned inner city (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Pandoras Box, Dems 2008

    Things are really coming back to life here.

    The condo units are full. The theater from the 20s has been refurbished and major acts are playing concerts every weekend there. People are walking the streets, the city has shiny new transit lines. Grocery stores are opening downtown. You can live without owning a car and get all your needs met.

    Life in the city has not been this good in years.

    I hope people realize that they can have excellent quality of life in cities.

    The suburbs may become vast wastelands once gas goes back up to $4 a gallon. Get out while you still can.

    "Be yourself; everyone else is already taken." - Oscar Wilde

    by greendem on Tue Mar 31, 2009 at 08:50:34 AM PDT

    •  Not everyone wishes to be surrounded with (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      BlackSheep1, blindcynic

      asphalt and concrete and exhaust fumes, stacked like rabbits in a hutch.  Some of us prefer an open view of the sky to that of the of the nearest brick wall.  Some of us prefer to see real trees and breathe fresh air and drink clean unfiltered water from our own well.  We'll get more fuel efficient vehicles and better insulated homes.  We'll keep doing what we're doing, because wild nature is our sustenance, and because our tolerance for close contact with other humans is limited.

      •  Rural life is great. Good for you. Stay organic. (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:

        I'm just saying cities now offer a very nice alternative to dying sprawling suburbs, these days.

        We own a cute, 100-year old craftsman bungalo with really nice features. Less than 1,000 square feet, but that is good. Keeps us from acquiring crap we don't really need.

        Both the wife and I ride bikes to work but transit stops at the corner to take us into the Central Business District.

        If you like people, consider coming back to a city.

        "Be yourself; everyone else is already taken." - Oscar Wilde

        by greendem on Tue Mar 31, 2009 at 10:18:09 AM PDT

        [ Parent ]

  •  Glen Beck was right!!!! (0+ / 0-)

    troll rated for football!!!

    by superHappyInDC on Tue Mar 31, 2009 at 09:14:29 AM PDT

  •  Dead Malls dot com. (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    Unthinking respect for authority is the greatest enemy of truth. - Albert Einstein (-6.5/-7.33)

    by pidge not midge on Tue Mar 31, 2009 at 09:19:35 AM PDT

  •  I would like to see the list where this came from (0+ / 0-)

    "More than 400 of the 2,000 largest malls in the U.S.have closed in the past two years.."

    I do not believe this factoid.

    I voted with my feet. Good Bye and Good Luck America!!

    by shann on Tue Mar 31, 2009 at 09:27:00 AM PDT

  •  Bitter, but reality-based medicine (4+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    greendem, Cedwyn, citydem, dadadata

    The de-malling of America is a good thing; a sign that we're waking up, however painfully, from the 60-year, stupor of auto-oriented sprawl that James Howard Kunstler rightly calls a huge, unsustainable waste of energy and resources.

    The Congress for the New Urbanism is at the forefront of the growing movement to turn away from superficial, clownish development patterns that cannot be sustained as we hit peak oil, and toward something more sustainable  and person-oriented.

    De-malling in favor of "Main Street" shopping. De-emphasizing highways and the local-collector-arterial roads hierarchy that forces people to drive and creates traffic jams in favor of connected street networks and improved public transit. Rejecting new highways in favor of improved intercity passenger rail -- including true high-speed rail.

    We'll need it all, and the Obama Administration gets it, as the ARRA's $8 billion investment in high-speed rail, and the recent directive that HUD and the U.S. DOT work on linking land use and transportation planning show.

    I guess that's Reason No. 75,839,712 to thank God that the adults are in charge again.

    •  Tipped for "clownish" (0+ / 0-)

      superficial, clownish development patterns

      That's a perfect description of the patterns, the promoterrs, and the local government bozos who approve this stuff.

      And their tightfisted, penny-wise addiction to never hiring consultants or planners or telling the applicants to "prove it" when someone comes in with an assertion uttered by a bought-and-paid-for credential for hire.

      Gosh, the B&PF consultant MUST be telling the truth! Local citizens don't have certificates! Degrees! Whatnot! Whatever! They don't know anything!

  •  Not just unmalling... (0+ / 0-)

    But cutting down on the whole "mass production" concept.

    How long can we sustain a model built on consuming labor and resources... for something we aren't even sure people want to buy?

    The fashion industry making crap that falls apart and pushing "trendy" that maybe 5-10% of the female population looks good in?

    The furniture industry making cheap furniture that looks terrible six months later, and doesn't last too much longer.

    The obsolescence cycle in electronics, when it could be recycled and revamped much more than it is.

    We have to stop making things and then convincing people to buy them.

    Pootie fan? Me too! Check out my cat advice blog.
    The Way of Cats

    by WereBear on Tue Mar 31, 2009 at 10:28:55 AM PDT

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