The Sledgehammer – Version 2.0

August 8, 2008

In Defense of the Traditional Shopping Mall – Part 1: The Reports of the Mall’s Death are Greaty Exaggerated

Filed under: Culture, Malls, shopping — Tags: , , , — Brian Lutz @ 2:57 pm

Over the past couple of days, I have noted that a significant number of visitors have arrived at this site from an article posted over at WorldChanging Seattle that was linked by BoingBoing.  As seems to be the case withmost of the incoming links to this site, the article deals with the decline of the traditional enclosed shopping mall, and the open-air “Town Center” type developments that are taking their place.  The article specifically touches on a few subjects (from something of an Urbanist, and to a lesser extent environmentalist perspective) that I have had sitting on my “to do” list for a while now, and there are some topics in the article that I would like to comment on.

The article over at WorldChanging (an activity that generally falls well outside of the scope of this particular website) cites a number of local malls as examples, but focuses primarily on Factoria and its upcoming redevelopment.  The overall tone of the article seems to suggest that the area’s shopping malls are on a rapid descent toward oblivion, which just isn’t the case.   The article’s claims that the malls in the area are headed down the proverbial tubes is greatly exaggerated, and even though the mixed use “town center” paradigm that the article discusses is becoming increasingly popular in the area’s shopping centers, the Seattle area’s traditional malls aren’t going anywhere anytime soon.  In the article below, I’ll explain why this is the case.  Since this seems to be turning out to be far longer than I originally anticipated, I will split this into several parts.  The next part will discuss some of what makes malls go into decline, and a third part will discuss some of the goals of the Urbanists with regards to “Town Center” type developments, and explain why things may not work out there quite the way that they would like them to. 

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July 27, 2008

What $240 Million Gets You These Days: A Look at the Westfield Southcenter Expansion

Filed under: Malls, shopping — Tags: , , , — Brian Lutz @ 12:07 am

Yesterday morning, after two years of construction, Westfield Southcenter’s new $240 million expansion officially opened its doors to the public with much fanfare.  A crowd estimated to be 6,000 people showed up (some of them arriving as early as 1AM) to be among the first to shop in the mall’s new stores, and although I wasn’t able to attend myself due to work, I was able to get down there this morning to check out the place.  As I had mentioned previously, last weekend the movie theater was already open on the third level of the new atrium.  This provided a chance to take a sneak peek at the new expansion, but at the time I didn’t take any photos since there was still a fair bit of stuff that was unfinished, and most of it was roped off anyway.   

With the new expansion, Southcenter now solidifies its position as the largest shopping mall in the Pacific Northwest, and although it doesn’t add any new anchor stores (currently, the mall’s former Mervyn’s store remains vacant,) it still brings in several new major retailers, five new sit-down restaurants, a brand new food court (or “dining terrace” as they prefer to call it) and a 16-screen cinema.  After the jump, a look at some of the new features that the Southcenter expansion has to offer.

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July 22, 2008

The New Southcenter is Almost Here…

Filed under: Malls — Tags: , , — Brian Lutz @ 2:05 am

Among the malls found in the Seattle area, Westfield Southcenter (more commonly known by its previous name of Southcenter Mall) in Tukwila is one of the largest and busiest in the area.  Originally opened in 1968, much of the mall’s original 1960s architecture remains surprisingly intact, particularly on the distinctive ceilings in the mall’s corridors, and on the exterior architecture of the JCPenney and Macy’s (formerly Bon Marche) stores.  The Malls of America Blog (which, unfortunately, seems to have stopped being updated about a year ago) has several vintage photos of the mallin earlier days, and aside from a much smaller Nordstrom Best store than the current 2-story Nordstrom that is there now, the Fredrick and Nelson store being replaced by a Sears, and some changes to the signs, much of the mall looks the same today as it did back in the Sixties. 

In an effort to solidify their position as the largest shopping mall in Washington, an ambitious new expansion to the mall has been under construction for the past couple of years now, adding 75 new stores, a completely new food court, and a 16-screen cinema, as well as a pair of new parking garages which opened some time ago.  Thankfully, the expansion to Southcenter has left the classic details of the old mall almost entirely intact, with only the old food court being demolished to make room.  By choosing to expand the indoor mall, Westfield has decided to buck the trend toward moving outdoors, as seen at Northgate and Alderwood malls, and soon to be seen at Totem Lake and Factoria. 

I was here on Saturday, and found that the new AMC theater at Southcenter is already open, which allowed an opportunity to take a sneak peek of the new Southcenter.  There was a roped-off corridor between the old mall entrance across from the Macy’s and the theater, and the atrium entrance was also open at the time.  I took the photos of the exterior you see above, but didn’t take any photos of the interior since there was a lot that was still unfinished when I was there, and I don’t think there was much to see but a bunch of undressed mannequins at the time.  I also noticed that there were a number of stores from the old mall which were in the process of packing up and moving into new spaces, although it appeared that the new areas were being occupied mostly by new tenants. 

The Ribbon-cutting on the Southcenter expansion is set to take place on Friday morning, and once it does, I’ll be sure to head over and check it out.  If all goes well, I am also looking at putting together the profile for Southcenter sometime in the near future.

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