The rise and fall of the American mall

American malls were created in the rise of suburbia in order to create spaces for Americans to gather and form communities.
Starting with the opening of the Southland Mall in 1956, malls have been a vaulted piece of Americana for decades.
But with so many malls being built in close proximity to one another, the newer malls would often poach the department stores from the older ones nearby. Older malls — without their anchors — would be left to drift away and drown.
As the 2000s progressed, consumer habits shifted away from the department store altogether.
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Following is a transcript of the video.

Narrator: This is what many of America’s malls look like today: empty, eerie, dead. And while the pandemic has most people avoiding indoor gathering spaces, social distancing is not what emptied out the mall. This footage is from 2018.

For decades, the mall was both an economic and social hub. And for many, a way of life. Now, many malls in the United States have either collapsed or are on the verge. So, how did we go from this to this?

The story of the mall begins in the 1950s, when America was experiencing an unprecedented economic boom. The middle class had more money to spend than ever before, and they were spending it on houses and cars. Along with this came Eisenhower’s Federal-Aid Highway Act, which meant that people could drive to their jobs in the cities while living in a new kind of development, the suburbs.

Suburban populations rose astronomically, but they lacked what sociologist Ray Oldenburg called “third places.” Under this model, home is the first place, where you live. The second place is the workplace. And third places are the vital spaces where people go to exchange ideas, form relationships, and create communities. This could be a park, a bar, or, in today’s times, social-media platforms. In other words, the third place is a place to hang out.

Enter Victor Gruen, a man who would later become the “king of retail” for the era. Gruen, who ironically was a staunch socialist, had already made a name for himself in America designing boutique shops and storefronts, but now wanted to create something far more ambitious, an indoor downtown. In what would prove to be his boldest and most enduring project yet, Gruen set about designing the mall.

On October 8, 1956, America’s first indoor mall, the Southdale Center in Edina, Minnesota, opened its doors. Like no building ever constructed before, the Southdale Center not only had shops, but fountains, art installations, a bird sanctuary, and a sprawling courtyard, all within a single indoor complex. The mall received mostly rave reviews, deeming it an attraction on par with Disneyland, which had just opened a year earlier, in 1955. Walt Disney himself even cited Gruen as his main influence for the ideas behind Epcot.

With Southdale all over the news, everyone wanted to go to the mall. Malls began springing up in every American suburb, …read more

Source:: Business Insider


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