In the middle of the tale of revenge that is A snail story for Black Friday/Buy Nothing Day, I made the following bittersweet observation.
While many malls are in trouble or have closed, such as the Northland Mall next to where I teach, the Somerset Collection is still thriving. One of these days, it will close, but not any time soon.Vox noticed the wave of shopping mall failures in What America's shopping mall decline means for social space.
The mall was America’s third place — for better or for worse.Oh, shiny! Vox used clips from at least one of the two documentaries themselves recycled in The End of Suburbia. I'd ask at the video if that's where they found those segments, but the comments section to the video has been overrun with trolls. So much for chasing that shiny object.
Our lives are lived in 1 of 3 places, the home, the workplace and the “third place,” which is anywhere outside of those two.
Toward the end of the 20th century, the regional shopping mall had become that third place, the hang-out spot in suburban America. This was largely by design — an immigrant architect created the first mall in the vision that it would be a community gathering place.
The plan didn’t work out as he intended. While malls did take off, they more often than not couldn’t quite catch on as ideal “third places.” But with an estimated 25% of shopping malls expected to close in the next five years, there’s an opportunity to re-examine where Americans spend their time and what could be the next iteration of the third place.
More seriously, malls did not make ideal "third spaces" because they did not exhibit all eight characteristics. The Steampunk fans ejected from San Diego area mall four years ago found that out the hard way. They ran afoul of rules intended to keep gang members from frequenting the mall and scaring away shoppers. As the KPBS article I quoted pointed out, "Malls are private property. They have the right to determine who shops there." That means you!
Vox isn't the only YouTube creator to notice the decline of malls. This is Dan Bell has an ongoing Dead Mall Series on the subject. Here is the most recent installment: DEAD MALL SERIES : Palm Trees and Broken Dreams : West Oaks Mall : Ocoee, Florida. posted just three days ago.
I admit I find a certain macabre fascination to the series, which is on-topic for this blog. I might return to it, as Bell has a video of two declining malls in Flint, Michigan, and another of an abandoned K-Mart. That reminds me; K-Mart is closing stores and Toys R Us is going out of business. Those are definitely topics for another day.