: Is suburban retail in your town boarded up?

01-28-11, 04:57 PM
I was thinking about this today because I'm looking for locations to open up mall kiosks.

This place closed last year and is being torn down. One would have thought that being situated next to two interstates, a populated area, and a major airport would have kept it going. One by one, the major anchor stores like Macy's and Office Depot packed up and left. We almost got an Ikea there but they wisely changed their minds.

I live within a couple miles of the longest outdoor strip mall in the country, but a quarter of the spaces are now empty. Worse, its built on a huge flood plain that was eight feet under water in 1993 so insurance is expensive.

Being situated in a "Transportation Development District" means I pay higher sales tax to shop there too. On top of that, the strip mall is located 5 minutes from the Chesterfield Mall, so these two major retail areas are competing directly with each other. The mall gets pretty packed on weekends with movie and restaurant traffic but the shop activity seems pretty dead.

So is this the end of suburban sprawl or just a result of the recession? Is it just a regional problem?
I know its trendy now for people my age to shun the burbs and run to the city where you have to ride the bus, smell the homeless, deal with pollution, and pay high rent for the so-called "atmosphere", but I wasn't a privileged kid who grew up in a mcmansion with Alan Thicke and Joanna Kerns as my parents. I can still appreciate low crime, friendly neighbors, and green lawns.

In contrast...
When I went down to Texas, it was like stepping back into 2000. Mall parking lots were packed. SUVs and trucks made up the majority of vehicles on the road. Residential and commercial areas continued to grow with new developments built even further from the city center.

01-28-11, 05:21 PM
Jesda, Kent Island is a sort of "gateway" to the DelMarVa eastern shore, so it has suffered its share of highway strip malls and a couple of big box stores. High cross-island traffic notwithstanding, there are a LOT of closed chain shops and 2 closed big boxes. Curiously, most of the older "been here" Mom & Pop shops are open and doing well. The chains depend on whorehouse volume for sales, and if they don't get it, they go somewhere else. Even Starbucks pulled out; of course, MickeyD's does a bangup gutslammer business...............

BUT, draw a 20 mile radius circle around the White House and people and stores are packed together like cordwood. That area cannot build enough trendy stores big enough or fast enough - it's a true zoo.

01-28-11, 05:45 PM
Everything here is as busy as it has always been.

01-28-11, 06:07 PM
We've actually grown to epic proportions here in the last 10 years or so, and it's shown no signs of slowing down. I actually live in a suburb of Milwaukee, Oak Creek. 15 years ago, this city was mostly farm fields and residential neighborhoods with little commercial or industrial business. When this place was finally "discovered", businesses began flocking in with a vengeance. Most buildings on HWY 38, the main artery through the city, have been built within the last 10 years. It's actually pretty nice for how busy it is because everything is so recent. That means that everything has been zoned properly and most of the infrastructure has had modern influences, unlike most of the surrounding suburbs (or the big daddy, Milwaukee). While I miss the farm fields and low people volume, they've done a good job with what they had and it's actually turned out to be a beautiful city that still has a great home-like feeling.

Actually, now that the areas surrounding it have been built up, the big Delphi/Delco plant that was shut down a while ago was finally torn down to make space for some big fancy new building. Not sure what it will be yet.

01-28-11, 06:21 PM
Drew, at least someone took down the old DELPHI plant and used the land for something modern. Over here on the Shore, a company walks out of a chicken processing plant, cannery operation or meat processing plant and the empty building sits and rots. There are some real eyesores on decent property and no one seems to be able to get rid of the wreckage. Decent zoning - and enforcement - can be a plus.

01-28-11, 06:30 PM
In Independence, our one strip center, anchored by a local grocery chain and a regional drugstore chain, is full. Corvallis is notoriously anti-strip mall and anti-big-box stores, but a small strip mall was built a couple of years ago, and it's thriving. Getting a much-wanted Trader Joe's was a big deal for Corvallis. A large power center built around 2006 at the northern edge of Salem has had some vacancies with the closing of Circuit City and Wickes Furniture, and a few standalone retail pads are only partially full, but the rest of the center, including a Target, Lowes, Staples, and Men's Wearhouse, is always busy.

On the other hand, when I was in Phoenix a couple of weeks ago, it appears to be a poster child for retail over-development. Since I left in 2003, all kinds of huge retail developments and auto dealer megaplexes have sprung up, most of them on the outer edges of the suburbs or adjacent to area freeways. Along a 20-mile stretch of Loop 202 around the southeast Valley that opened in 2007, there are no less than four Walmarts, two Targets, a Home Depot and two giant auto malls within a couple of miles from each other.

Conversely, strip malls inside the suburbs, especially ones without easy freeway access, are half empty or worse. When I went by my old house, which was built in 1993, the neighboring strip mall, which was built around the same time, was mostly empty and the older one across the street looked rather run down. The Albertson's grocery store where I shopped has been vacant for at least a couple of years, as has the former Hollywood Video store. And this is in a relatively affluent part of the city. But a mile away at another main intersection, the strip malls on two of the corners appear to be thriving.

01-28-11, 06:30 PM
I agree Sub, I'm not complaining at all, that's for sure. It was an eyesore as it was anyway.

01-28-11, 07:00 PM
Growth here is steady. Some of the older strip malls have been dozered and rebuilt. About the only vacant big building is a closed up K-Mart that shuttered when they had the big roll back. It's going to be hard to dispose of because no box store competitor would want their building design and nobody small could utilize all the space. For now it's used for inside storage of RVs and vehicles that belong to troops deployed to Iraq and Afghanistan. Property taxes have to be eating the building owners alive.

01-28-11, 08:01 PM
Here in the Richmond/Midlothian area it is unusual to see a strip mall without at least one or two vacant shops. One of the former big Malls has been vacant (or semi vacant) for over seven years. It is in the process of being redeveloped. Another formerly thriving mall apparently has suffered from competition from the several new malls that have been built during the last ten years.

Richmond has been trying to revitalize the city, and with huge expansion on the part of Virginia Commonwealth University a lot of the seedier sections are seeing some improvement. But Richmond suffers from inadequate and worn out infrastructure that is expensive to renovate plus a crime rate and schools that drive young families away. Many of Richmond's, formerly middle class neighborhoods were built right after the W W II and the houses are too small for what upper middle class buyers want today, so have been bought by buyers who could only marginally afford them a few years ago so Richmond has seen a lot of foreclosure activity. The Mac Mansion neighborhoods have also suffered, and today many very nice homes can be purchased for their "pre-bubble" prices. Problem is that once you move off of basic level housing financing is hard to get.

I think Malls will have a last breath before there is a wholesale readjustment with a closing of a lot of the older malls.

01-28-11, 11:27 PM
Jesda --

I don't think you'd remember it, as you'd have been 8 or 9 at the time, but NW Plaza used to be an entirely open air mall. It never should have changed from that, and if it hadn't, it "might" still be open. It's amazing how for almost 30 years, people made their way from store to store, going outside to do so -- even if it was hot or cold or snowing or raining. However, as pussified as everyone is expected to be now, they had to go and change it. It was spectacular at Christmas, as all of the landscaping and fountains and buildings were decorated with about 100 million lights. Kind of like a lower rent Country Club Plaza in KC... And as a kid, when the helicopter would lower the 30 foot high Santa on top of the office tower, that was always fun to see.

I'm sure there were some legitimate reasons for doing so, but when it was enclosed and completely renovated in 1988, it was doomed to failure from the start. First it was TOTALLY dated looking inside, with the mauves and the greys, which were already on their way out the door stylewise. More importantly, however, it opened the door for comfortable thuggery conditions inside the mall. Previously, the thugs in the declining area around the mall -- and who came in from the City, or wherever -- were much less likely to hang around outside in the middle of winter or summer, for that matter. However, the HVAC let them run the place down in comfort. That Tilt arcade and the movie theater were also a magnet for hoodlums wanting to start trouble. Add in a couple of fatal shootings, and you're pretty much done.

Then not too long after, Galleria expanded, and any hope of getting decent shoppers was over. It started getting bad in the mid/late 90s and never turned back.

Both that area and NW Plaza declined together. St. Ann is a crock of shit and is guilty of total mismanagement. They're also losing the Cypress Village Walmart, which is moving to Bridgeton -- that will be another eyesore soon. Bridgeton, of course, got chewed up by Lambert, and is now barely a town. When the Mills opened, it really nailed the coffin shut on NW Plaza.

I hope they tear it down soon.

01-29-11, 12:49 AM
That's a shame. The Wal-Mart in St Ann is a heap. Several winters ago I accidentally bumped into a scruffy looking guy in a long coat with my shopping cart (VERY lightly bumped) and he started cursing and grunting at me. I abandoned my cart and everything in it and left. That whole neighborhood is trashy and getting worse every year. I almost moved there back in 2001 when the area seemed tolerable, and I'm glad I didn't.

Crestwood's mall is circling the drain too, but the town is making a comeback thanks to new developments. I hope they don't turn the Fenton Chrysler plant nearby into another indoor mall.

I too prefer open air shopping, even with midwest weather being what it is. A new shopping center opened in Lake St Louis with a Max and Ermas, Maryville University satellite campus, Banana Republic, and several higher-end retailers. The layout mimics a small town main street.

A few years ago I expected the Chesterfield Mall to be the next to fall because it suffers from a dated interior, bad paint, broken doors, old architecture, broken escalators, and dangling pieces of ceiling and cracked drywall. The anchors seem busy enough, especially Macy's and AMC, but everything else is slowly closing one by one. They have a problem with rowdy teenagers, mostly due to petty shoplifting and 14 year olds getting into fights, so the Chesterfield PD now patrols the mall with Segways on busy weekends. My tax dollars are being spent on fancy scooters so middle schoolers can use the mall as a hormonal playground.

I went to the Barnes and Noble in Des Peres at West County Center and paid TEN PERCENT sales tax. I bought $250 of merchandise and was taxed an additional $25. I won't be going back.

01-29-11, 02:58 AM
Depends on where you go in Nashville. Cool Springs in Franklin/Brentwood is booming, huge mall with 100% occupancy, every single strip mall is rented out, and they're still building crap around there. Of course that area is in the 10th richest county in the entire U.S., so of course its doing well.

If you go over to Antioch, the Hickory Hollow Mall is a definite "dead mall". I'd say that mall was done in by a declining neighborhood and the competition. Its over half empty, two empty anchors, and every strip mall around the place is boarded up. There used to be a lot of big box around the store including Linens and Things, two movie theaters, Circuit City, Toys R Us, Service Merchandise(remember them?), etc.

The neighborhood has a TON of apartment complexes, which were overbuilt and have turned rather ghetto over the past 10 years. All the blacks from east Nashville moved out here while that neighborhood is on a major upswing. Antioch is a huge area and has gotten a bad rap. There are certainly ghetto areas, lots of immigrants(although almost all of them are really decent people IMO), but there are still decent and nice areas where there are still new, sub 200k housing developments being built.

Perhaps the biggest reason for the decline of the Hickory Hollow area has been the Opry Mills Mall which opened about 10 years ago(its now closed because of the flood last year, long story). That mall is about 10-15 miles up the road and was huge, stealing away a lot of the people who lived in the eastern suburbs of Donelson, Hermitage, Mt. Juliet. Then they built a new open air mall in Murfreesboro about 25 miles southeast. Then they built all the big box stores in Smyrna about 15 miles southeast, so all the big box guys abandoned Hickory Hollow. Basically everybody from Wilson, Rutherford, and eastern Davidson counties used to shop at Hickory Hollow, but they built more malls and stuff in these rapidly growing communities so nobody drives 20+ miles to shop at Hickory Hollow anymore.

01-29-11, 03:16 AM
Chesterfield mall is weird. The whole piece of the mall that faces the freeway is modern, clean and full of activity (food court, Dillard's, AMC, Cheesecake Factory), but the rest of it is a dilapidated shit-heap.

I don't think vacated Circuit Citys in most markets will be occupied again for probably another 2 to 3 years. The one at Boone's Crossing still has all the department signs hanging from the roof. They leave the lights on so at night you can see "iPods and MP3 players" from the street.

01-29-11, 08:36 AM
Jesda, the Northwest Plaza reminds me a lot of one of the malls in the Twin Cities: Brookdale Center:

Much like Northwest Plaza, Brookdale was built in the early '60s in an "up and coming" suburb of Minneapolis (Brooklyn Center). Brooklyn Center is a tier-one suburb of Minneapolis, so it's right on the NW border. When Brookdale was built, Brooklyn Center was a nice place to live, filled with houses built in the 1950's boom and populated almost entirely by former GI's. There was a fair amount of money in the city for the day, so they needed a nice mall to show for it. Brookdale is one of four malls built by the Dayton family (the same one our new governor hails from), the other three being Southdale (first indoor mall in America), Rosedale and Ridgedale. The other three "dales" are still busy and prosperous, but Brookdale has fallen behind, because over time, Brooklyn Center went from a nice suburb, to a impoverished, decaying suburb with lots of crime and unemployment. Being so close to what became the bad side of Minneapolis, the well to do residents of Brooklyn Center kept moving farther west, and the poorer families from Minneapolis moved into Brooklyn Center. If I remember correctly, there were a few murders and a couple of rapes that happened at Brookdale Mall in about 2002 or 2003, after the mall was just done being renovated. After that and the '00's recession, many of the tenants had moved out, including ones that had just moved in after the renovation. I went and walked thru the mall last May, and there were three stores open, one of them being the Sears anchor store. About a week after we went into there, the mall was shut down entirely and the entrance into the mall from Sears was shut for good.


I posted these here last year, but I'll post 'em again because it's so interesting to see the decay.
http://sphotos.ak.fbcdn.net/hphotos-ak-ash1/hs501.ash1/29684_630717162582_199104188_35798199_8077140_n.jp g
http://a4.sphotos.ak.fbcdn.net/hphotos-ak-ash1/hs501.ash1/29684_630717222462_199104188_35798209_8105955_n.jp g
http://sphotos.ak.fbcdn.net/hphotos-ak-ash1/hs501.ash1/29684_630717302302_199104188_35798222_2600322_n.jp g

Nobody's sure what's gonna happen with it now. Much of the speculation is turning towards demolition though.

01-29-11, 10:22 AM
That's all you can do at this point.

01-29-11, 10:45 AM
This was the only decent photo I could find of the interior walkways of the outdoor NW Plaza. This was pretty representative of how it looked all through the plaza.


This was an interesting pic I found while they were still building the office tower. Some kind of 60s dinosaur show...weird...


01-29-11, 01:47 PM
St Clair Square in Fairview Heights has a dome thing like this. I wonder if it was the same developer? I think the mall in St Clair County continues to prosper because they didn't inundate the area with mall after mall after mall. It seems like the whole the east side is booming. Its as if the physical separation created by the urban prairie known as East St Louis has protected St Clair County from retail competition in the rest of the St Louis area.

Whats sad is that other than the ceiling tiles, Brookdale Center has a beautiful interior.

I managed to forget about Union Station.

When I was a kid we went there after it was renovated and enjoyed an unlimited ice cream pass. I remember it being quite nice. Now, other than Hard Rock Cafe and Landry's, the place is a dump. Ghetto people hang around and Ian says he saw a cockroach as Subway. The only people who ever go there are office dwellers downtown who used the food court for lunch, which I cut back on after the roach sighting (and after quitting that job downtown). They charge customers to park there, which is absurd considering the lack of people, and the parking booth didnt take credit cards so after fumbling with their paperwork they just gave up and let me go for free. There were some odd businesses running there too, like a store selling Beatles and Elvis memorabilia that looked like it belonged in some dark corner of a small town's main street.

01-29-11, 05:16 PM
Those domes were a design theme of Famous Barrs. They all had a little different style. The one on the old West County's was inverted, kind of like a standing rib roast -- similar to St. Clair Square's.

Don't even get me started on Union Station...

01-29-11, 06:46 PM
Drove around aimlessly in the Saab this afternoon and happened to be going north on Lindbergh. The only thing left is 24 Hour Fitness and the office building. Its spooky to see a mall parking lot almost empty on a Saturday afternoon. There's a seedy looking hotel next door with shattered windows (somehow still in operation) and a completely abandoned strip mall with nothing left but a church.

01-29-11, 07:47 PM
That church used to be an AMC theater. That seedy hotel has always been seedy, and it's one of many in the area that have always also been seedy. (Seedy, in the biblical sense, mind you...)

You couldn't pay me to go up in that office tower...it would be like "Escape from New York"...

01-29-11, 08:13 PM
Jesda... where the hell is this? I don't remotely remember it at ALL.

01-29-11, 08:16 PM
You've never seen it because no one without a criminal record goes there anymore.

From my mom's house you take take 270 north from Ladue, then 70 east, then exit at Lindbergh and its right at the corner. Basically, its on the way to the airport on 70.

01-29-11, 08:24 PM
I would say that it was pretty much over with by 2002. The only places left were weave shops, gold chain kiosks, urban clothing stores, etc. After that point, the Famous (Macys) and Dillards were basically discount outlets, until they closed.

And it's hard to get a picture of the immense size of the place. The property is 122 acres...significantly bigger than the Arch grounds...

01-29-11, 10:34 PM
Unemployment is still bad (my wife is still looking) and a lot of factories have closed. Independent resturants are struggling or closing & homes aren't selling.

The nearest mall closed well before the recession due to the idiots that planned so much low income housing surrounding it. Business was OK until shoppers got skittish due to the groups loitering rather than shopping. Even after the mall increased security and tightened rules like many malls, shoppers never came back.

Southeast Wisconsin is still struggling. Strangely, prices are up, too.

01-30-11, 12:12 AM

I love that "new frontier" era early '60s architecture.

Whats sad is that other than the ceiling tiles, Brookdale Center has a beautiful interior.

It was even better before the 2002 remodel, as it was still in it's untouched Kennedy-era goodness.

Check out that ornate tiled & brick floors, recessed lighting and darkly stained wood trim on the horizontal roof supports.

The '02 remodel really washed down most of the interior of the mall. Sure, it was a lot more modern, but it was a lot more boring too.

01-30-11, 05:40 PM
It seems that in many places malls have reverted to open, as opposed to closed, design formats. Depending on climate this could be a big mistake. Here in Richmond both of the "upscale" malls built in the last ten years have feature the open format. Richmond's climate includes weltering hot, humid, Summer weather along with damp, rainy and snow Winter weather for three months of the year.

While I am not a big "Mall Goer" I will say that I am not inclined to put up with long walks in an inhospitable environment to purchase anything that can be had easily on the internet. I do, on occasion enjoy shopping for things that are different and perhaps unusual, but again most mall stores necessarily focus on high volume fast turnover type items that can be purchased more cheaply online.

I did enjoy the open format malls such as Century City in West Los Angeles as the Southern California climate was especially kind to this format mall. The closed malls in Southern California suffered in comparison.

I also wonder, as the population ages whether the, often, long walks from distant parking and parking lot insecurity are contributing factor to the many mall failures we are experiencing across the country.

01-30-11, 06:34 PM
I enjoy a good day at the mall with friends (because I'm a 15 year old girl), but the thing that I hate most about malls is the pushy salespeople that crowd the hallways with their kiosks filled with cheap crap.

01-30-11, 06:36 PM
Like Jesda...?

01-30-11, 06:43 PM
I love mid-century, modern design. That mall in the black and white photos is a great example of how you do brown right. Really great design there IMO, especially the font type on that Dayton's sign.

I agree with Orconn in hating the the outdoor mall concept. They've done a couple of these in my area, to accommodate the "big box" stores and smaller stores. The way they are designed is just a glorified strip mall, parking is still in the front and you walk up to a long strip of stores. They just tweaked it a little in that there are buildings with smaller stores on the opposite end of the parking lot, and the main drive is down the middle of the parking lot.

My real beef is that these designs are not walkable, you're always worried about getting run over. And you usually end up getting in your car and driving to the other end of the strip mall since you really don't want to walk 1/4 of a mile while its raining.

01-30-11, 07:36 PM
I enjoy a good day at the mall with friends (because I'm a 15 year old girl), but the thing that I hate most about malls is the pushy salespeople that crowd the hallways with their kiosks filled with cheap crap.

Now that explains a lot! A fifteen year old girl, huh?

01-30-11, 08:17 PM
La Cantera in San Antonio is an interesting on the "outdoor" concept. It's much like a lot of outlet malls in that it IS outdoors, but designed in such a way that it is still relatively round and walkable without too much effort. The weather here cooperates, especially in the Winter, but I still can't say I entirely see the point of this arrangement.

02-01-11, 08:22 PM
Most of the retail space in my town is quite active. The town is fairly upscale and wealthy, and most of the stores are relatively new and popular. It's been a good thing. When I was growing up here, there wasn't any decent pizza in town. There was one place that SUCKED. Now there are three pizza places, all excellent and all busy. The hardware store has everything I need and great hours. The supermarket is new, clean, and competitively priced. Retail is alive and well in Franklin Lakes!