The Ghost of Shopping Past

Here’s an interesting collection of photos of empty American shops and shopping malls, including the abandoned mall near Chicago where one of the chases in The Blues Brothers was filmed. Interestingly, it had been recently abandoned when the filming took place, and remains unused and undemolished today. (original link via Anton Vowl on Twitter)

For more on the subject, see the Dead Malls website – another of those collections of urban arcana that would probably never have existed without the web – and I’m sure that a couple of the malls they list around Toledo, Ohio are ones I would have visited when I was living there back in the early 90s.

However, seeing the scale and sheer number of dead or dying malls in the US does prompt a theory – that I’m sure will be shot down in comments – about the differences between the US and Britain (and probably much of Europe too). While there are some common features in both retail economies around the abandonment of town and city centres in favour of ‘big box’ retailing on the outskirts – though the US is much further down that path, with downtown shopping districts becoming increasingly rare – the availability of space within the US has enabled a second wave of abandonment to occur, which has led to the dead malls. Because there was the space to build a number of malls, strip malls and all the other types of extra-urban development you see in the US, competition ensured that some of these developments failed to attract sufficient businesses and/or customers to be viable. In Britain there’d be pressure to regenerate a failed area like that because there would be fewer, if any, alternative locations, but in the US, there’s almost always another patch of land in a seemingly better economic position that you can go and develop instead, leaving the old one to rot.

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1 Comment to "The Ghost of Shopping Past"

  1. December 13, 2009 - 6:47 am | Permalink

    Malls seem to go through a life of their own with many ups and downs. The biggest challenge that I see with the malls is they are all the same, with no real variety. Mall developers prefer to deal with the massive conglomerates instead of the more unsophisticated local shops. While it may be great for their bottom line, it does little to create a user experience worth spending time on. Hence, where the shopping mall used to be a place to gather and socialize, now it’s become just another place to shop.

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