What America’s shopping mall decline means for social space

The mall was America’s third place — for better or for worse.
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Our lives are lived in 1 of 3 places, the home, the workplace and the “third place,” which is anywhere outside of those two.
Toward the end of the 20th century, the regional shopping mall had become that third place, the hang-out spot in suburban America. This was largely by design — an immigrant architect created the first mall in the vision that it would be a community gathering place.
The plan didn’t work out as he intended. While malls did take off, they more often than not couldn’t quite catch on as ideal “third places.” But with an estimated 25% of shopping malls expected to close in the next five years, there’s an opportunity to re-examine where Americans spend their time and what could be the next iteration of the third place.
Further reading for those interested in this subject, I recommend the following books and articles:
Ray Oldenburg's The Great Good Place — he coined the term 'third place' and set the theory for the 8 qualities mentioned in this video: https://www.amazon.com/Great-Good-Place-Bookstores-Community/dp/1569246815
New Yorker's 2006 profile of the creator of regional shopping malls: https://www.newyorker.com/magazine/2004/03/15/the-terrazzo-jungle
On the role US tax policy played in the shopping-center boom of the 1950s and 1960s: https://www.jstor.org/stable/2169635?seq=1#page_scan_tab_contents
& Vox's Matt Ylgesias on the coming ‘retail apocalypse’ in the states: https://www.vox.com/new-money/2017/5/4/15124038/regional-mall-apocalypse
p.s. here is Toto's Africa (playing in an abandoned shopping centre) https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=D__6hwqjZAs
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Caption: Where are you going this outfit with . this hair hello bye bye i am so at the . mall between 1970 and 2017 the number of . american malls quadrupled population . didn't even double in the same timeframe . so yeah malls were opening really really . fast that growth slowed down about a . quarter of those malls that are left and . closed in the next five years some . people call this the death of the mall . and that's kind of true here's why that . matters our lives are lived in one of . three places the first is the home . second is your place of work and the . third place well that's any social space . outside of those first two there are . eight qualities that make for great . third places it sounds kind of academic . but trust me you know it when you see . them the best third places invite. conversation they're close to home and . lots of time can be spent without . spending a lot of money these are places . where people can exchange ideas have a . good time and build relationships in the . 1950s america had a problem their . brand-new suburbs. lacked quality third places this guy . wanted to solve that problem so he . designed the first enclosed shopping . mall. the format caught on like wildfire. fueled by tax incentives to build new . developments that included malls soon . shopping centers were built by the dozen . over the next 50 years there were over . 1,000 enclosed shopping malls scattered . across the states they became the . hangout for america's youth the thing . about that is even victor grew and . admitted his design was a monumental. failure because when you look at the . qualities of great third places malls . deliver on some but not all they're safe . and well-lit no one has to play host at . the mall and they're accessible no . matter the weather but on the flip side . you can't really walk to the mall you . need a car and once you're there. conversation should be the main activity . in a mall that's shopping the third . places should make everyone feel equal . the mall is more fun for the rich now . contrast that with a different take on . the third place the national mall in . washington dc it's open for long hours . the mood is playful it's free you can . visit with a short walk or by public . transportation with indoor and outdoor . public spaces and that adds up to an . environment that fosters community when . you look at these two side-by-side which . would you choose . [music]. while some malls are being repurposed . others are just getting torn down this . is in part because of the recession in . 2008 while more than 90% of purchases in . the united states are still made in . physical stores more and more people are . getting their goods online and we aren't . just shopping online our relationships . and connections are going digital as . well more than three and four people in . the united states has a smartphone when . social media is used to actively connect . with others it can be like a digital . third place but studies like this one . show that some digital communication can . affect your mental or even physical . health the mall occupies a unique space . in america's conscience and that's . largely because we have an innate need . for face-to-face contact and in some . areas the mall was that place but as . more malls shut down so too are other . third places and the replacements often . have little stake in the local community . but there is a better way consider the . public beaches and downtown detroit or . the redevelopment of bryant park in new. york city or you could just support a . locally owned coffee shop the decline of. the mall doesn't need to be the death of. the third place it's up to us to decide . where those spaces will be . you . .
 

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