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Wai To Wong

Prof. Hoyos

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Arch 499

1/16/2018

Societal
Changes and Urban Space

            Formally malls are
defined as “many buildings combining to create a complex of shops representing
merchandisers, with unified walkways allowing guests to walk from unit to
unit.” Informally, they are the center and hub of societies, the
foundation of retail economies, and a social hub for people everywhere. In
recent periods, the idea of the shopping mall, which has its roots in the state
and became a well-established modern retail tendency there in the post-WWII
era, has thrived all around the world. The five largest malls in the world now
reside in Asia. China’s New South China Mall in Dongguan stands at the top of
the heap with 2.9 million square meters of space.

Brands
like Sears and Macy’s taught a newly urban America to become very comfortable
with conspicuous consumerism. In its truly modern restatement, the mall was the
brainchild of Victor Gruen, a short, stout, unkempt man from Vienna who
came to the United States soon before the outburst of World War II. Malls
weren’t just feeding America’s new suburban population; they were turning out
huge sums of money for investors. “Suddenly, all over the United States,
shopping plazas sprouted like well-fertilized weeds,” wrote urban
historian Thomas Hanchett in his 1996 article “U.S. Tax Policy and the
Shopping-Center Boom.” “Developers who had been slowly accumulating land
and considering over the shopping-center concept shortly loosened their
projects into high gear.” The first wave of shopping malls born from
projects “shifted…into high gear” washed over the country in 1956.

However
it didn’t last long, the last new enclosed mall was built in 2006; 2007
marked the first time since the 1950s that a new mall wasn’t built in the
United States. The 2008 recession was
a gut-punch to already flailing mall systems: at a 1.1-million-square-foot mall
in Charlotte, N.C., sales per square foot fell to $210, down from $288 in 2001.
Between 2007 and 2009, 400 of America’s largest 2,000 malls closed. Shopping
malls were huge in the 1980s and ’90s, so much so that they defined an entire
generation. But by the 2000s, attendance at malls around the country started to
dwindle. Many factors have contributed to the decline. Within the next 15 to 20
years, many believed half of America’s malls could die.

Many
factors have contributed to the decline, one of the main reasons of their
failure could be the rise of online shopping and technology. Busy hubs of
commerce and social activity that once stood proud are now in ruin, relics of
the past that serve as a stark reminder that American life isn’t what it used
to be. The internet has in some way changed how people shop and think,
especially the young generation. Consumers no longer see a distinction between
online and offline shopping. Whether it’s searching on a laptop, browsing main
street shops or hanging out at the mall, it’s all shopping to them. To adapt to
the competitive new reality, smart retailers are drawing on classic retailing
truths of the past and augmenting them for the now. Many dead malls will be
condemned to execution by bulldozer, but not all. In some communities, a dying
mall offers an opportunity for rebirth—the chance to turn a poorly conceived
shopping center into something that serves the needs of the community at large.
 In some cases, dying malls have been turned into office spaces,
while others have found second lives as churches, community centers or even
hockey rinks. By reimagining the American mall, it seems that some are
finally becoming the downtown that Gruen originally planned walkable, mixed-use
areas that bring a renewed sense of urbanism to a dying suburban landscape.

Online shopping delivers consumers with levels of
convenience. Malls will never be able to compete with the limitless product collection,
price contrasts and always-on nature of online. Nor should they try. Instead,
malls need to move in a different courses, away from shopping experiences and
toward a widened value proposition for consumers.

An emphasis on fine dining and events is also helping to
make malls the hub of the local community – a place to share quality time with
friends and family, not just wolf down a meal at the food court. In the
Dubai Mall, for instance, “Fashion Avenue” is an area dedicated to luxury
brands and services custom-built to the upscale customer, including a distinct
outside entrance and parking area. In the Central Word mall in Bangkok, home
décor is on the 5th level, technology on the 4th, and fashion apparel on 1-3.
This approach also represents a way for malls to ensure that customers don’t
get lost inside the ever-increasing square footage of malls. Another would be
increasing productivity and efficiency of the current mall base through a
strategic review of the tenant mix, considering consumer needs and retailer
economics. This analysis should guide the organization of rent pricing and
overall commercial planning. On the cost front, the focus should be on strict organization
of direct and indirect costs, combined with working efficiency, which is
critical for successful buyer experience transformations. The most innovative
malls today look nothing like their predecessors. Although location remains the
key real estate thought for malls, a distinguished design and structure is progressively
important. Open air malls are lending onto an atmosphere of a town center,
especially when they incorporate mixed use real estate. Many of the malls being
built in urban areas are open and fully integrated with the landscape such as
malls in a lot of Asian cities.

 

 

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