Utne Blogs > Environment

Resuscitating the Mall

 by Lisa Gulya

Tags: Environment, Green Living, development, malls, OnEarth, New Urban News,

MallShopping malls, once proud bastions of air-conditioned capitalism, are transforming into less self-contained structures, reports OnEartha result of competition from strip malls and big-box retailers.

“In 2006 there was only one new enclosed mall built in this country,” says Ellen Dunham-Jones, director of the Georgia Institute of Technology’s archi­tecture program. In the 1990s, Durham-Jones says, it was common to see 140 new malls each year. Now, dozens of malls are dead or dying (witness the long list of the deceased at DeadMalls.com). To revitalize struggling malls, developers are converting them into “compact, well-planned, walkable communities with a dense mix of homes and small businesses” in communities from New Jersey to Colorado.

Mall makeovers tips in New Urban News include adding upper-floor housing, outdoor-facing stores, parking ramps in place of parking lots, and pedestrian connections to nearby neighborhoods.

“A lot of bad design practices are being resolved, knitting these malls back into the neighborhoods,” says designer Richard Huffman to New Urban News.

Outdated zoning laws obstruct mall conversions, urban policy specialist Christopher Leinberger tells OnEarth, but he believes increasing demand for "walkable urban living" will provide the necessary momentum to keep malls evolving.

Image by Nate Grigg, licensed under Creative Commons.