Adios, the Shopping Mall?

The shape of things to come?

Transportation planners in Metro Vancouver should take note that when planning very expensive fixed transit infrastructure to shopping malls, if the mall closes in 15 years, the transit system will have very expensive infrastructure to nowhere.

This is very true for SkyTrain and its $80 million/km elevated structure is impossible to move. LRT, with much cheaper costs would also cost about $10 million/km. to $20 million/km. to have the tracks relocated, but still very expensive to do.

A subway becomes a hole in the ground and in Europe, some abandoned subways have become mushroom farms in the middle of major urban centres.

So, with TransLink planning very expensive transit in shopping precincts such a in Surrey or on Broadway, could they be investing in ghost lines in 15 to 20 years hence?

The following is from Australian Broadcasting Corporation.

Dead malls: Half of America’s shopping centres predicted to close by 2030

Debris covers a fountain inside an abandoned mall in Virginia

Amy Ginsberg’s teenage years centred around White Flint Mall in Maryland.

“There were glass elevators and marble and high-end stores,” she said.

“When I was in high school in the 70s and 80s there was nowhere else to go, really.

“The mall was where the stores were, it’s where the movie theatres were.

“You would just go to the mall and hang out.”

But White Flint’s doors closed this month.

Like so many malls in America it had been ‘dead’ for a while – the term used when a mall’s occupancy rate falls below 70 per cent and it is on a downward spiral.

Mark Hinshaw, an architect, city planner and author, has been watching the decline.

“It’s a major phenomenon that’s lasted for six decades and I think people assumed it would just go on forever,” he said.

“The shopping centre was kind of the attack vehicle that went out into the landscape and put down a solid footing and then things grew up around it.

“But that course is changing now; the people are now looking at other ways of living.

“Certainly living in cities is much more popular than it has been in a long time. Millennials are fuelling the economy like never before and they’re not interested in driving.”

At the peak of the shopping centre boom, 140 malls were being built every year in America.

If their fate had not already been sealed, the recent recession marked the beginning of the end.

People stopped spending as much, or started spending online, and then discovered they didn’t need as much.

Executive director of the Shopping Centre Council of Australia Angus Nardi said Australia was a long way off the situation in the US.

But he predicted hurdles ahead for Australia’s shopping centres.

“You can never say never in terms of dead malls and there’s always business risks … a critical and current risk is the Abbott Government’s review of competition policy, which could lead to a less regulated or free-for-all cowboy approach to retail land use planning,” Mr Nardi said.

He said America had more retail floor space per capita than any other country in the world, and oversupply had been the biggest problem.

In America there are dozens of simply abandoned malls, only good to be used as sets for horror movies.

Others are trying to change tack before it’s too late, incorporating libraries and housing, even city halls, to encourage their survival.


4 Responses to “Adios, the Shopping Mall?”
  1. Rico says:

    Just curious, which Vancouver rapid transit line is proposed that has a mall as an anchor? Or exisiting? Remember Metrotown was a dirt field when the Expo line was built.

    Zwei replies: Actually no, Sears had a massive store there and the area was filled with a mass of 3 story walk-ups. A dirt field, it wasn’t

  2. Haveacow says:

    Keep in mind this whole article is mainly for the suburban indoor shopping centers with little or no transit connection to them, not the modern power centers that are just filled with big box stores. They are doing just fine, for now anyway. According to a recent survey of developers, the downtown anchor malls built in North American Cities during the 80′s & early 90′s to replicate malls like Toronto’s Eaton Centre or the Galleria in New York City, both built in the 70′s as a big an expensive experiment in retail, are resurging and have the lion share of all the new retail in downtowns, as long as effective and supportive transit is attached to it. Does anyone know of a study regarding the “Big Box Power Centers” that are connected to rapid transit vs. ones that are not connected (most of them)?

    We have an interesting Big Box Power Center case study here in Ottawa, the South Keys Shopping Center (opened 1996). The mall is a basic Power Center filled with big box stores and a very large movie theatre complex at the extreme south end. The Mall owners have stated many times that they place a large percentage of the mall’s success due to its many transit connections and free flow of large number of transit passengers. Having twice lived in the community just to the west of the mall it really is the one of the few bright spots in what would be a horrendous amount of low density urban sprawl.

    The property is about 1.3 km long (North-South) with a fairly deep parking lot varying between 150-440 meters (East-West). Its front side (east side) faces suburban Bank St. (Ottawa’s main North-South Arterial road) and at the rear of the mall (west side) is Ottawa’s Transitway and O-Train line. Two transit stations, South Keys Station at the South End of the Mall property and Greenboro Station at the North End. Greenboro not only is a Transitway station but the current end of the O-Train Line. Though both stations have the same general duties, both provide different specialized functions.

    Greenboro Station has a large commuter parking lot that is physically attached to the mall parking lot by a common driveway. Rapid Transit Buses as well as local buses use the same small platforms mostly to move commuters downtown or transfer them to local buses in the afternoon. The main feature you can tell though is to get people to that commuter parking lot as well as the mall. The O-train is connected near the nexus of the station building and its passengers are easily integrated into the small complex.

    The other station South Keys, has a much larger platform (about 130 meters in length) to transfer Transitway Bus passengers to locals buses as well as a connection to the mall. Recently the much maligned Airport Parkway Pedestrian Bridge was finished and connects the South Keys Station and the surrounding parks to the existing Jacques Plante-Paul Anka community, over the Airport Parkway. The station is very much geared to the local community as well as being the most Southerly of the main line Transitway Stations. South Keys also is the last and most important link the Transitway system has before it goes to MacDonald-Cartier International Airport (official name of Ottawa’s airport). This complex to me would make a fascinating case study, if anyone would like to take it on, go ahead.

  3. Justin says:

    yeah.. Malls that are connected to transit tend to do very well. Many of the malls that have closed in North America are because of their poor car dependent location and the emergence of big box malls.
    in Toronto 4 of the biggest malls are well served by transit and are doing well.
    The only mall near a subway line that closed was Warden mall and that land was redeveloped into residences.

  4. Haveacow says:

    Oh yes, as an ex Scarborough resident I remember Warden Woods Mall well! Even when it first opened it was in trouble. One of its two anchor stores was Simpson’s. When that chain went down, merely a few years after the mall had just opened, the number of mall shoppers really dropped down to nothing and it never recovered.