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Reviews | Come in, we’ll save the mall


A series of U.S. and state Supreme Court cases, beginning in 1968, sought to limit free speech protections in shopping malls by claiming them as private property; the plaintiffs in these cases were trade unionists and anti-war and anti-fur protesters. In Amalgamated Food Employees Union Local 590 v. Logan Valley Plaza Inc. in 1968, one of the first such cases, Judge Thurgood Marshall, writing for the majority, argued that “businesses in the suburbs could largely immunize themselves” against criticism – this that went against the public interest in a suburban nation.

The whiteness of malls, at least, is changing. Geographer Wei Li coined the term “ethnoburb” in 1997, studying the rise of predominantly Asian American suburbs. Willow Lung-Amam has chronicled the rise of malls and organized malls for this demographic, and former white Southern malls have been reborn as mercados offering food, fashion and entertainment. Latinx and performing other community service duties.

What these Asian and Latin American projects have in common is a responsiveness to changing residential patterns and a willingness to support local businesses – displays of creative management beyond attracting the latest hot national brand. The approach of these culturally aware mall managers is more akin to the revolution promised by the festival markets of the 1970s than the high-tech malls of the 1990s. Architect Ben Thompson – a designer , along with his wife, Jane Thompson, and developer James Rouse of the Faneuil Hall, Harborplace and South Street Seaport urban markets – wrote, “Everything we build must inject the affirmative values ​​human beings need as much as possible. food – the pleasure of tactile and visual things, the assurance of physical security and freedom, the variety of stimulating impressions and experiences.

Ethnocentric mall redevelopments are just one of many strategies deployed in successful mall renovations, resurfacings and replacements. June Williamson and Ellen Dunham-Jones have been chronicling suburban reuse for over a decade. Their 2021 database and book, “Case Studies in Retrofitting Suburbia,” includes shopping malls that have become civic centers, schools, churches, and medical facilities — sometimes in tandem, reversing common single-use zoning. to the post-war suburbs.

The more sites are used, the more likely they are to have additional green space, whether it’s outdoor courtyards in the former parking lot at Austin Community College‘s Highland Campus or the Great Lawn at the boardwalk of Wayzata in Minnesota, which combines senior residences, a hotel and offices. Renderings for the Rise, the ongoing redevelopment of Vallco Mall in California, designed by Rafael Vinoly Architects, touts the 29-acre green roof as “the world’s largest” and claims it “restores the character of pre -development of the landscape of Cupertino”.

Some have even become parks. The second wave of mall construction in the 1970s often targeted low-lying areas that were difficult to develop for residential or other uses, and rightly so, as these were bottoms or stream beds prone to flooding. . Meriden Hub Mall in Meriden, Connecticut was one such location. In 2007, the city began work on a plan, using local, state and federal funds, to replace the mall with a 14-acre park, opening access to Harbor Creek, creating a public space that also functions as a water retention basin and the construction of a bridge and amphitheater. Mixed-income housing and an improved transit center now face the park, known as Meriden Green.

My favorite mall revival story comes from Detroit. Before Mr. Gruen designed Southdale, he developed some of his ideas for the new suburban Main Street in Southfield, Michigan, just north of town. Northland, which opened in 1954, had landscaped outdoor courtyards with modern sculptures connecting rows of stores and a branch of the city’s main department store, JL Hudson. The planted spaces provided space for women and children, or anyone else isolated in their home, to gather and shop, chat and play.