This article by Toronto’s Darryl Kaplan suggests that the love affair with shopping malls will be extinct within 15 years. Quoting Kaid Benfield who writes about the trends towards walkable downtowns and suburbs “This decrease in outer suburban development isn’t “urbanist wishful thinking”: it is fact. It’s also fact that central cities are growing again, after decades of decline – and, for the first time in a century, growing at a faster rate than their suburbs.
And people are driving less with annual decreases in miles driven peaking in 2005 and now at 1995 levels. People ARE using car shares, biking and walking and using transit. There is quite simply a modal split away from a motordom dominated life.
According to a 2014 article titled, America’s Shopping Malls Are Dying A Slow, Ugly Death, the news is bad , “About 15% of U.S. malls will fail or be converted into non-retail space within the next 10 years, according to Green Street Advisors, a real estate and REIT analytics firm. That’s an increase from less than two years ago, when the firm predicted 10% of malls would fail or be converted… Within 15 to 20 years, retail consultant Howard Davidowitz expects as many as half of America’s shopping malls to fail.”
Yesterday I was reminded that there were no neighbourhood bakeries or butcher shops in the local big malls, and how valuable those services are to the local community. Indeed those services ARE the community, the same as local merchants that support local events and sell the Girl Guide cookies on behalf of the neighbourhood troop. That fineness of grain and neighbourly attention to being part of the community is valued and coming back. As Kaplan states, “as quickly as retailers turned their backs on our pretty Main Streets some years ago, we will reject their giant flashing lights and empty parking lots. And when they see the future and seek to re-connect with a real community, we will welcome them with open arms.”