Columbus and Its Mall: This Marriage Can’t Be Saved

The New York Times published an article a few days ago on the waning of the American mall, presenting the nation’s relationship to its shopping centers — and the rampant consumerism that relationship represents — as a troubled marriage:

So the mall we married has become the toxic spouse we can’t quit, though we really must quit, but just not any time soon. The mall, for its part, is wounded by our ambivalence and feels financially adrift.

Like any other troubled marriage, this one needs counseling. And pronto, because even a trial separation at a moment as precarious as this could get really ugly.

3257024092_125ae45c7d_m.jpgTo extend the metaphor, the city of Columbus, Ohio, is filing for divorce from its failed downtown mall, and has announced plans to replace it with a park. Streetsblog Network member blog The Urbanophile has the news, and a skeptical assessment of the city’s plan to revitalize the area:

These [renderings] look very nice. The problem is that the vision is unlikely to be realized. Why? Look at these pictures and what do you see? People — lots of them. But where are those people going to come from? 400,000 sq. ft. of office space will only put a few people there for lunch on a nice day. 70,000 sq. ft. of storefront retail won’t draw significant numbers either. This is a park that is likely to be deserted most of
the time.… The intensity of development here is just not going to make it. In effect, this is another build it and they will come plan.

The repurposing of American malls and big-box shopping centers is going to be an increasingly pressing issue in years to come. Do you think the plan in Columbus stands a chance? If not, what could make it better?

Also on the network today: Cap’n Transit continues the conversation about profits and subsidies for transit, 1000 Friends of Connecticut laments municipalities’ wasteful focus on parking, and Matthew Yglesias scratches his head over the folly of willful stimulus-cutters.

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