All around America shopping malls are closing. Although it was not more than 40 years ago when shopping malls were the cool new American innovation, today many see them as a symbol of urban sprawl and their failures as an indicator of overall economic decline. Why are malls closing? The biggest reason is due to our current recession. However, many argue that "failing malls didn't get into trouble overnight, and most began their descent long before the tough climate" ("Recession Turns Malls Into Ghost Towns by Hudson & O'Connell, www.buildingplace.net). Economists and city planners who have studied the decline of malls in the US note that many fail because other malls open up near by, or because the large department stores that bring in a lot of the profit move out into larger space on their own (i.e. Walmart and Target are now found on their own instead of attached to shopping malls).
What are the consequences of our malls dying? "For towns and cities that are home to dying malls, the fallout can be devastating. Malls hire hundred of workers and are significant contributors to the local tax base. In suburbs and small towns, malls often are the only major public spaces and the safest venues for teenagers to shop, hang out and seek part-time work." (Hudson, O'Connell). The decline of malls may not necessarily be a negative issue for everyone. Many planners and developers see this as an opportunity, they say; "even before the recession began, the market for residential and commercial property in the US was changing away from a model of unmitigated suburban sprawl and toward one of more central locations, urbanity, and walkable neighborhoods" (Hudson, O'Connell).
Simply from looking at Michigan as a case study, it is apparent that there is a resident desire for more close-knit, revitalized "downtown" areas instead of large, over bearing shopping malls. However, not all closed down malls have transformed into these flourishing areas. For example, Livonia Mall in Livonia, Michigan has been shut down for several years but has not been changed into a new "downtown" area, instead it remains a large empty building that risks crime. However, there are areas like in Canton, Michigan where developers and residents alike had the chance to build a mall but did not. In Canton, a large space that was once occupied by a Kroger and K-Mart was converted into several smaller shops with individual parking lots instead of a large mall.
Due to the varying responses of city planners, residents and a lack of funding, the fate of the closing malls is unclear. They will either be transformed into vibrant business districts or remain large, vacant lots.