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PODCAST: What are we going to do about all these dead malls?

This latest post–a podcast actually–is already over a week old, which would make it pretty stale by blogosphere terms, except that it’s particularly relevant for Urban Indy, in the wake of all the closures at the Circle Centre Mall (the most recent of which seems to be Abercrombie and Fitch, though I wouldn’t hold my breath for yet another closure before February).

At any rate, this latest podcast has Aaron Renn of The Urbanophile interviewing me about my experience with this formerly ironclad retail typology.  No new malls have been built in a decade, and virtually all downtown malls in urban centers of mid-sized cities have closed; Indy’s Circle Centre is one of the last holdouts.  And the mall is failing even after tremendous investment in housing, including a 28-story apartment tower going up just a few blocks to the east.  Worst of all–there doesn’t seem to be another retail building typology to take its place.  Lifestyle centers, outlet malls, festival market places–while many are successful, none have proven a panacea for the ailing shopping culture.

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The food court at the Steamtown Mall in Scranton, PA.

So, what are we to do with all this space?  Clearly we can focus on the many malls–mostly upscale–that are still succeeding, or we can dwell on what type storefront uses are flourishing.  But these hulking, windowless department store shells offer a challenge for civic leadership, just as much as the revived downtown department store (aka Carson’s in Indianapolis) may also soon be a thing of the past.  Please check out the podcast, and we encourage comments as always.

Here’s the link to the podcast.  Enjoy!

 

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20 Responses to “ “PODCAST: What are we going to do about all these dead malls?”

  1. mike says:

    I wish the stores that are leaving the mall would open up street level stores in vacant spots downtown.

    • Tyler says:

      that the street level of the vacant nordstroms for example? yeah that’d be nice. except for abercrombie, that turd needs to be flushed.

  2. Chris Barnett says:

    I commented over at Aaron Renn’s blog, too:

    Given the shifts in consumer spending and in demographics, some malls ought to be looked at as potential “senior life centers” encompassing regular condo/apartment units, assisted living units, skilled-care facilities, and even hospitals and medical/surgical offices.

    Food courts could be repurposed as dining commons areas. Some small retail component could serve the older demographic: hair salons, coffee/snack shops, small clothing stores, bookstores, and vinyl record shops.

    The oldest baby boomers turned 70 this month…and in 10 years we will have a tidal wave of over-80 folks. These are people who still read books, listen to records, and shop for clothes in person. 🙂

    Circle Centre is no exception, and could probably serve an upscale clientele interested in proximity to cultural events but unable to afford $500K-1million condos.

    • Steve Cooper says:

      The pretentiousness of your comment is breathtaking. How old are you? 18? You have no idea what baby boomers want. Your comment is all about what YOU want. Since you brought it up, here’s my vision. Millennial centers. Somewhere you could live and text and make student loan payments. You could use some of the empty space as safe zones. Of course I’m being facetious, but your vision for an urban core in this very suburban city does not include me. If you want to live in a dead mall, that’s your business. Of course that’s not it, right? You want me to do it. No thanks. I’m going to Phoenix to play golf. When you grow up, you’ll understand.

      • Chris Barnett says:

        I am, in fact, a baby boomer, and my wife and I will be able to do what we want in retirement. (It will not include a single round of golf, however.)

        But that’s not the reality for many boomers who will be reliant on their social security checks, who may have less-than-perfect health, who may not be able to drive, and who will want to stay near their families. But why should you worry…you’ve got yours, right?

  3. Tim says:

    I live near Eastgate. I am glad that something is going on in there but now with the solar panel “farm” it is more unattractive than ever. Landscaping and trees in a buffer zone around this facility would really help.

  4. Bruce says:

    Carmel commissioned Jeff Speck to do a study of Merchants Sq at 116th and Keystone. It was posted on UrbanIndy. http://www.urbanindy.com/?s=Carmel+merchants&x=13&y=9

  5. JEFFERSON says:

    how bout some of the smaller retail stores take ground level storefront and if at The SIMONES take They Head out of They Butts They could Shop a Retail Department Store like DILLARDS,JCPENNYS, AND BY INDY BEING A SPORTS TOWN HOW BOUT CABALLA’S IN CIRCLE CENTRE MALL MAKE A OPENING FOR MORE SMALL BUSINESS CAUSE IT WON’T BE LONG BEFORE THE INDY STAR MOVE OUT AS SOON AS THEY(INDY STAR)FIND A PIECE OF LAND DOWNTOWN HERE COME YOUR NEW HIGHRISE SO WAKE UP CIRCLE CENTRE AND GET SOME WORKING TENANTS THAT WILL BRING LIFE BACK TO THE CIRCLE CENTER MALL.

  6. evan bour says:

    How about first we stop building new malls and retail centers until we fill these up? Greenwood at I-65 is a good example.

    • Paul says:

      You can’t just exert some kind of top down all out government control of land to satisfy a certain development. It doesn’t work like that, nor should it.

      • While the libertarian in me agrees with you, Paul, isn’t that to a large extent exactly what zoning often does? Zoning overlay districts or special districts in particular often strive to hone in on a specific developmental result. It happens all the time. Zoning is unapologetically top-down, but the fact that the vast majority of urbanized areas in America have zoning ordinances is proof that they are quite popular at shaping the landscape, and, the most fine tuned ones absolutely exist to accommodate certain developments.

        To be fair, many planning commissions have come under fire for colluding with developers to adopt zoning ordinance amendments that favor the–or a–developer.

  7. JDindy says:

    When you have an area the size of the metro Indy area, with no natural boundaries, the only thing to do with these dead malls is tear them down. People and developers will constantly expand and build new. This is even more so when the city gives out tax breaks for new business all over the city. The far east side has seen this on Washington St., and to the lesser extent Washington Sq. Mall. Dick’s Sporting Goods and the theater came and got the tax breaks. I’m surprised that the Dick’s at Wash. Sq. is still open since I would rarely see anyone in it. I think it has been ten years, so their tax break should be up. Additionally, we saw the building of three new, small scale strip malls, which means fewer possible tenants for the mall.

    Make these areas nature preserves, tree sanctuaries, until someone wants to buy them up. These malls need to be bulldozed, along with tons of the abandoned homes and other small footprint buildings around this city.

  8. RWH says:

    One big problem relating to the mall is the lack of proximate housing. Highrise apartment or condo buildings could be connected to the mall which could give it new life. Retail supporting these residents would be needed. Stores such as Z Gallery and CB2 could be a perfect location if adequate housing was proximate. Indianapolis needs more highrise housing in the heart of the downtown.

    • T says:

      oh a Zara or CB2 would be awesome, unfortunately hoosiers are notoriously cheap, probably part of why Nordstrom ditched. They really need to update and open that mall though. entering it is like entering a cave and climbing out. so dark and closed off. Also looks dated inside, they should remodel it and pull from the fashion mall, light, white, bright.

      • M says:

        LOL…. you suggest that a Zara would be “awesome” and in the same sentence accuse Hoosiers of being cheap? Get a clue, man. Zara is NOTORIOUSLY cheap, barely a step above H&M. And Nordstrom didn’t “ditch”…. they simply moved a few miles north. They are STILL in Indianapolis. What rock are you living under?

    • At this point, I don’t see housing density having much impact on the Circle Centre Mall. The mall was jam packed all the time when it opened back in 1995, and downtown Indy’s population was probably one-third of what it is today. If anything, the high-rise going up at Market and Alabama will help stimulate activity at the City Market.

      I also don’t think the $20M proposed investment will have much impact. At this point, the owners either need to orient as much of the mall as possible to the streetscape (in keeping with the mall’s successful restaurant scene) or completely rethink the uses of the interior in-line tenants.

      Nordstrom couldn’t support two stores in a market of this size. Few of Indy’s comparable markets have more than one.

  9. Baise says:

    Washington Square mall got over run by young people causing fear so did Lafayette square, Glendale mall, Circle center mall, people won’t go somewhere to shop if they feel unsafe

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