Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Malls, malls, malls.."galore"

I was doing a post on Crossroads Mall, which most people know I hate, and I was thinking of a lot of different things. I was thinking of how evil indoor shopping malls are. The advent of Crossroads Mall in the 1970s as the 8th largest shopping mall in the U.S. at the time was the death of the inner south side. Another thought was, God it will be great when Crossroads bites the dust, as it'll free up some retail demand for the inner south side. You see growth all over the metro, everywhere, except the inner south side. You especially see it in NW OKC and the Cleveland County area, however in order for the "urban revival" fad to spread to the inner south side, it will require some kind of impetus to get the ball rolling in a positive way.

I think the good thing about new urbanism is that it takes into account the full lifespan of a mall, including its decline. With these indoor mega shopping malls, once they go into decline, it's difficult to find any useful purpose for them to serve. Shepherd Mall got converted into an office building, but that only works if you have a large office tenant lined up and ready to go, such as AOL in the case of Shepherd Mall. Northpark Mall just shifted its focus to older, upscale demographics and filled its stores with high-end local boutiques, which is kind of cool for a mall, but they would have a better location lining a pedestrian-friendly avenue. Penn Square has managed to stay on top of the game by being close to OKC's wealthiest areas. Sooner Fashion Mall has stayed pretty nice by being the only place to shop in the midst of rapidly-growing Cleveland County.

Crossroads Mall has gone the way of the dodo by being close to OKC's worst areas, not keeping its best long-time tenants, and the sheer inability and unfeasability of converting it to any other meaningful use. There is no way to make good use of Crossroads Mall. The mall is too horribly designed, the site plan kills the idea of any other use, and it's literally located between a ghetto and a towering landfill. AND the site connects to nothing except freeway onramps at I-240 and I-35, so the name Crossroads Mall itself is even somewhat deceiving. Whoever's idea it was to build this mall needs to be shipped and Mexico where hopefully they won't ever again have any say in American city planning.

This brings me to Quail Springs Mall, which is obviously a vibrant mall today, but in the will be the next Crossroads Mall. Things it has going for it.. one: it, like Sooner Fashion Mall, is surrounded by an extremely high-growth area of the metro that will economically buoy it for a long time; two: the site does actually connect to much more than just freeway onramps, and Memorial Road itself is lined with so many office complexes, developments, and so forth, that it's hard to imagine this corridor will give way to suburban blight. Things is has going against it.. one: the Quail Springs area will likely always be a pretty nice area, but that doesn't mean that the main focus area for retail may not shift to OK 74 or some other road if Memorial Road isn't any longer a short 15 minute drive for these people; two: Quail Springs Mall will soon be facing competition from more exciting new urbanist developments, one of which will be directly adjacent to the mall's north side, where Dillard's is. The Quail Springs area will also be facing increasing competition from Edmond, which will probably become the new urbanist mecca for Central Oklahoma. It's hard to say that Quail Springs Mall will stand up to more exciting developments along the far north edge of the metro for very long.

The moral of this story: When you plan a development, consider its full lifespan (its vitality, its middle-aged period, its decline, and its reuse). Indoor shopping malls are always a bad idea.

No comments: