Welcome, Wall Street Journal Readers

Image courtesy Wall Street Journal

Image courtesy Wall Street Journal

Pretty exciting: Labelscar is featured prominently in a story about declining malls on page A1 of today’s Wall Street Journal:

The gradual fade-out of marginal malls has prompted a thriving Web culture dedicated to sharing information about dead or dying properties. Sites such as Flickr.com, Deadmalls.com and Labelscar.com are drawing traffic from mall employees, shoppers and other mall mourners who swap stories, photos and predictions about the status of centers on their way out.

“So sad!” wrote Edith Schilla, 45 years old, of Independence, Ohio, in an April 3 posting on Labelscar.com following her visit to a Sears liquidation sale at the Randall Park Mall in North Randall, Ohio. “I was able to peek into the mall and was so overtaken by the vast emptiness,” she wrote, recalling it as previously “so busy.”

Journal readers, welcome aboard, and please do spend some time with the site and contribute to our community! If you’re looking specifically for posts about the “dead malls” mentioned in the article, we have a portion of our site devoted to just that.

24 Responses to “Welcome, Wall Street Journal Readers”

  1. Good job getting mentioned in the Journal. As a retail veteran I’m disturbed (not saddened, kind of alarmed) by the death of malls. For me, going to the mall was an event; the retail industry so well formed its image from the 50s to the 90s that who could feel otherwise? The individual in me is glad malls are dying, though, we need to focus not on consumption but on production in the U.S. to get people back to being proud of making something, not of buying something.

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    Russ Reply:

    Um….I have two little problems with what you’re saying: despite the fact that I believe malls are slowly going the way of the dodo as we progress digitally,

    1. We need to focus on production, and NOT consumption? Um..ya kinda need one with the other.

    What’s the point of producing if no one is there to buy?

    2. Yeah, products “Made in America”. I think it’s incredibly sad that the only free country in the whole world makes some of the worst crap known to man.

    When I trust your average oppressed Chinese slave laborers to make better products than free citizens of the greatest country in the world, that’s sayin’ a little something….

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    J-Man Reply:

    @Russ,
    “The only free country in the world”? Really?

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  2. I couldn’t be happier to see the malls failing. The sooner the better if you ask me.

    Maybe then attention will be turned to town and city centers and we can have a real public space instead of these cretinous asphalt islands.

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    Caldor Reply:

    @Winslow Theramin, A lot of our focus, actually, is on a quality that was sort of bestowed upon malls by the communities they served; how they became *like* downtowns and gathering spaces. I’d argue that most of them have lost that for a variety of reasons (too homogenized, too apparel-focused, etc etc).

    The modern shopping mall was invented by an architect, Victor Gruen, whose goal was to mimic European squares in American suburbs, which he felt were lacking in a sense of place. He was more of an urban planner than just a store-builder, though, but the problem was that the retail portions of his malls–there was supposed to be a bundle of uses, such as housing, offices, transit hubs, parks, etc. that were never built–proved so successful that they drowned out the larger concept.

    That said, our point is more that these spaces themselves are still beloved by many, in a similar way to how downtowns are beloved. But malls get knocked down completely, downtowns may wither for awhile but can be resuscitated (and this is happening in many places).

    Also, I should note that downtowns could be at risk of becoming as constipated and dull as the worst malls in the country if the pendulum swings too far in the opposite direction.

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  3. Yup, I came from the WSJ article, too. Nifty blog. You’re bookmarked! I’ve been interested in the rise and fall of malls since our own local mall (SouthPark, moline, IL) is dying inch by inch, and after seeing the most disastrous skeleton of any mall when in Hawthorne CA, when I was moving my kid out to LA.

    I’m ambivalent about malls. I’m a main street kind of guy, but I am a regular at the mall! My wife loves them, so I guess I’m stuck either way. Well, and we do spend a lot of time at big boxes too, mostly Target.

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    Jonah Norason Reply:

    @Mister Brickhouse, a lot of the malls on this site and not have Target at them, often replacing an old Macy’s/May Co store or Wards.

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  4. Malls tend to be at prime real estate locations easily accessed. Some mall owners seem to be very good at reinventing themselves. What an ideal location for a mall owner/developer, city developer, and real estate investor to pool resources and create a mini-town of assisted living, senior center, shops for immediate needs (drug store and grocery store), stores for gifts, offices for insurance, dds, dr, social services etc. Think about the employment opportunities outside of retail sales that could be created. A lot of people prefer living in familiar areas with good transporation. Humanity requires more than single family habitats.

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  5. Kudos! I’ve said it before but it bears repeating, your site is wonderful, and I can tell it is a labor of love.

    Always curious, when I get back to work on Tuesday I will be checking to see if we had a location in this mall and if so, when our store exited. We tend to be a medium holdout, leaving well after the first wave but before GNC and Radio Shack.

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  6. There are examples of downtowns that are on a downward spiral as some of these rapidly dying malls. Examples include former steel mill towns in the Pittsburgh, Cleveland and Detroit areas. If the car manufacturing industry goes belly up in the Midwest, we’ll be seeing malls and downtowns going under quicker than they’ll be able to fill them up.

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  7. One of the things that saddens me is that not only many “dead malls” have gotten worse or closed outright (Summit Place, NW Plaza, PBM, Rolling Acres) but nothing has happened positively. Even in 2007, we had high hopes about many things. Latham Circle and NW Plaza were announcing big remodeling plans, many new concepts were being created (including The Epicenter Collection) but most of those never materialized. And we aren’t getting new concept ideas.

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  8. I see a lot of negative view on malls, mostly because people seem to ignore the fact that malls- unlike “Lifestyle centers,” contained a unique social fabric that is so quickly overlooked. That unique social fabric is erasing as the smaller malls give way to the megalith super regional centers. Malls really should do a better job integrating in with residential surroundings, but the result is either awkward (Look, a condo attached to a mall!) or ends up bringing crime.

    The problem isn’t that the mall is out of date socially, it’s that there simply aren’t enough retailers left, and there’s too much of a focus on $ per square feet. Nobody can really find a solution to make it work.

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    SEAN Reply:

    @Alpha,
    I have said this before, single use zoning in most places prevents malls from becoming more intricle to a cities favric & creates SPRAWL. If you look at most cities today outside of the northeast, Chicago, San Francisco, Portland & Seattle are not walkable for the most part & the malls are not transit accessable. For 90% of Americas suburbs forgetaboutit! No car? your stuck. Even transit rich New York has many places you cant walk across to go basic shopping. Do you here me Paramus New Jersey, I’m talking to you!

    It is time to rethink the roll of the suburb & the malls that contain them, otherwise you will see a lot of abandand communities.

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  9. Why don’t we start developing malls like what they were originally intended to be, and I’m talking from Gruen’s original point of view? Gruen himself once said that the malls that he originally intended on creating has become soulless bastards of development. There may be a dwindling amount of retailers but when you look at most malls, they are pretty much all the same stores. When the first malls were developed, they contained tenants that would be overlooked upon in today’s world. Supermarkets, post offices, ice rinks… we’ve eliminated all of those to make these cathedrals of commerce identical to each other. It’s like stripping a brand new car of its exclusive interior features and making them the same as every other car make and model.

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    SEAN Reply:

    @Gary, My dad has been saying that to me fore years.

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  10. Caldor: I do agree that the “sameness” that is in many of the malls has led to their downfall. But I would also add to that and say that it has to do with the mall manager’s inability to update the mall with the times (e.g. Woodbridge Center, Monmouth Mall). Here in NJ, we have a glut of malls (hey many say we perfected them here in the Northeast) and the reason they have stayed successful is because they have been constantly updated, expanded and kept current. In the past 5 years, at least 14 malls in NJ have been either expanded, renovated or remerchandised. Those 14 will be successful as a result, are better off after the changes and will better be able to weather new competition down the road (e.g. Meadowlands Xanadu)

    Sean: Inaccessibility was talked about in the 1950s/60s when malls were starting to be built and killed downtowns. New highways and Interstates were built and the malls would be located along these roads. Towns like in NJ like Paramus, East Brunswick, Montville, Parsippany, Edison and Cherry Hill did (and do) not have downtowns so the local mall acted as the downtown. The place where they were located brought about the lack of access issues. In her book A Consumers’ Republic author Lizabeth Cohen attempts to tie this in with defacto segregation that occurred in the Northeast at this time, as well as the racist tendencies of many of that time. While I don’t necessarily buy into that theory, Cohen attempts to make the argument. Those without a car were shut out until buses ran to these malls.

    Today, we’re seeing the return of downtowns (at least here in NJ) as an answer to malls, as well as to keep buisness and money in their towns. Malls need to follow the steps of Garden State Plaza, Menlo Park, Tysons Corner, King of Prussia and Burlington Mall, then they will survive.

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    SEAN Reply:

    @mallguy,
    I don’t buy the race arguement either. It came down to create a false way of thinking. Cars= freadom-therefor sprawl was allowed to thrive & we are seeing some of the effects of it now. Poor health in the younger generations who cant even walk to the grocery store because of to many 6-lane roadways that cant be crossed safely. Where are you going to put all of these cars that need to travel to do the most basic things in life.

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    SEAN Reply:

    @SEAN, As a footnote; took two trips to Forest Hills Queens this month & discovered an area called Forest Hills Gardens. A 142-acher onclave just south of Queens Boulevard & Contenental Avenue. Although QB is a 12-lane roadway that is extremely difficult to cross, you can go under it via the subway.

    A block away is austin street where along with QB & 71st Avenue have most of the local shopping.

    The Gardens begin at Station Square just beyond the LIRR stop. Here you will find a mix of townhouses, single family homes & several apartment buildings all but one of wich are Co-Opertives.

    Hint on how to mix retail & residential correctly.

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    Jonah Norason Reply:

    @mallguy, Could you list those 14? OK, there’s Bergen Town Center (formerly Bergen Mall), Freehold Raceway Mall, Cherry Hill Mall, and…?

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    SEAN Reply:

    @Jonah Norason,

    1. GSP
    2. Willowbrook
    3. Menlo Park
    4. Paramus Park
    5. Bridgewater Commons
    6. Rockaway Town Square
    7. Livingston
    Sorry I cant remember the others, it’s driving me crazy.

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    mallguy Reply:

    @SEAN, (and Jonah)

    I’ll just do the whole list even though you guys got a few

    1. Paramus Park
    2. Garden State Plaza
    3. Bergen Town Center
    4. Shops @ Riverside
    (all the Bergen Co malls are preparing for the opening of Xanadu…when/if it does…it was just delayed again)
    5. Rockaway Townsquare
    6. Livingston Mall
    7. Menlo Park
    8. Freehold Raceway Mall
    9. Monmouth Mall (new B&N is coming up quickly. Now it needs to be renovated)
    10.Ocean County Mall
    11. Cherry Hill Mall
    12. Voorhees Town Center
    13. Hamilton Mall
    14. Woodbridge Center (Dick’s (then Galyan’s) came up 5 years ago and was a new building)
    15. The Walk

    Willowbrook got Bloomies as a result of Sterns closing (and better stores as a result of Bloomingdales), removed the fountain under the escalators and got rid of the floor lamps.

    Malls soon to renovate/expand:
    1. Marketfair
    2. Quaker Bridge Mall
    3. Deptford (maybe???)
    4. Moorestown (maybe???)

    Plus Pier Shops @ Caesar’s is new, as is the Jersey Shore Premium Outlets off GSP Exit 100, which despite a lack of dining options, is proving to be successful (and could take away from Monmouth Mall). Overall, properties in NJ are doing a good job.

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  11. Why don’t we start developing malls like what they were originally intended to be, and I’m talking from Gruen’s original point of view? Gruen himself once said that the malls that he originally intended on creating has become soulless bastards of development. There may be a dwindling amount of retailers but when you look at most malls, they are pretty much all the same stores. When the first malls were developed, they contained tenants that would be overlooked upon in today’s world. Supermarkets, post offices, ice rinks… we’ve eliminated all of those to make these cathedrals of commerce identical to each other. It’s like stripping a brand new car of its exclusive interior features and making them the same as every other car make and model.

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  12. WSJ! Way to go!

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  13. Does anyone have any old pictures or info about Trumball Shopping Plaza from the 1970s, it was the favorite mall of my childhood, in Trumball, CT … it had themed areas, like a Disney World of shopping. Also I was just in Pittsburgh and visited the Century III mall and it was so fascinating and massive, it must have been something in the 1980s but really looks like it is sliding fast. It was so massive that I wonder if it was built on some reclaimed industrial site or something. I live in Philadelphia near The Gallery and was researching info on that site and didn’t see mentioned anywhere one reason that it has become such a mess slowly over the last two decades that retailers dont want to locate there since it is the shoplifiting capital of the world!

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