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    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).

     

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    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.

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    The Michigan Policy Network is a student-led public education and research program to report and organize news and information about the political process surrounding Michigan state policy issues. It is run out of the Department of Political Science at Michigan State University, with participation by students from the College of Social Science, the College of Communication, and James Madison College. 

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    Policy Fellow: Marie Hallberg

    Marie Hallberg is the commerce & regulation correspondent for the Michigan Policy Network and a first-year student at Michigan State University. Currently, she is a no preference major, but is interested in either a teaching or communications degree. Marie is very excited to be attending MSU and anxious to explore the opportunities that are available to her. Marie is originally from Illinois and enjoys hanging out with her family and friends, reading, and being in band. Her career aspirations include a job focused on serving and working with people, possibly in the guest service area. She is very interested in using her experience on the Michigan Policy Network to help better her understanding of the Michigan government and how its policies ultimately affect the citizens of Michigan.