Most Endangered Malls

A US News and World Report blog has named Southridge Mall one of America's Most Endangered Malls!

Southridge Mall, Des Moines, Iowa. (84 percent; $168). The 2007 arrival of Steve & Barry's was supposed to mark a revival for this 34-year-old complex on Des Moines's South Side, which has been losing shoppers to more gentrified suburban malls. Then the discounter went bankrupt and closed its stores. The mall's owners have been trying to sell the property, and city officials have been working on ways to revitalize the entire area. They better hurry: At $168 per square foot, Southridge's sales are among the lowest for big malls.

This is Southridge Mall:

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I have been to the Target and the movie theater outbuilding at Southridge Mall, but never inside the mall itself - I try to stay away from malls in general. Even so I'm not surprised that it is in trouble, for the Mall is Dead (long live the mall?)! According to the Wall Street Journal, only one traditional enclosed mall has opened in the United States since 2006.

Today's discriminating consumer shops at "Lifestyle Center", which is basically a mall turned inside out plus a PF Chang's and a walking path, er, Promenade around the retention pond.

The irony for an urbanist is palpable. A "lifestyle center" attempts to recreate the feel of particular elements that, prior to the invention of the enclosed mall, made neighborhood commercial districts successful:

  • Accessibility
  • Density
  • Mixed use
  • Pedestrian friendly
  • Streetscape plantings

In order to compete with the suburban "lifestyle center", a city should build on the infrastructure it already has! Stop building strip malls and start re-building pedestrian friendly neighborhood commercial districts.