Malls More Threatened by Internet Shopping Than Main/High Streets?

Interesting insights from Suburban Urbanites


As I continue to read the academic book Suburban Urbanites (edited by  – ) interesting and some more expected insights on the suburbs have come up. I mentioned the first set of insights from the book here: Suburbs: What Are Their Relationships within a City?.


After a some distractions I managed to settle down last night and read the next couple of chapters that examined the relationship between the City and the suburb, and the High Street as a morphological event given their evolution in London. I enjoy reading Suburban Urbanites as while the examples are overseas based they are relevant to Auckland as we continue through the Unitary Plan processes.


Now the debate about mono-core (one main centre) and poly-centres (more of a dispersed mix although it can still include a main centre just not as dominate as it would be in a mono-core city) is one I have been engaged in since the Auckland Plan first came out in 2011 and still engaged in current as the Unitary Plan works its way through. Thus when I saw this following extract from Suburban Urbanites it got me rethinking on Auckland’s urban geography:

Urban Centres first a detriment? Source:
Urban Centres first a detriment?


Is Auckland Council’s policies backed by urbanites of putting the urban centre (the City Centre) first an unhelpful barrier to develop our suburban areas. This especially when we have the following:

  1. The ten Metropolitan Centres (and of them two being Super Metropolitan Centres)
  2. The big five heavy industrial complexes in Southern Auckland and southern Isthmus
  3. Three distinct and semi-independent sub regions of Auckland
    1. Isthmus and West Auckland
    2. North Auckland
    3. Southern Auckland

Now to be fair after five years of what can be perceived as a pro City Centre policy driven by Auckland Council is Panuku Development Auckland now engaged in an extensive and comprehensive urban renewal program our in the suburbs and the big Metropolitan Centres. But with the Auckland Plan which is still pro City Centre first (you can interpret that as you will) is what Panuku proposing going to be disjointed and isolated to the wider scheme of Auckland City building? I will find out one way or the other when I have the privilege of interviewing Panuku’s David Rankin (ex Auckland Council Property Limited) on both Manukau and Panuku’s Transform urban renewal program.


Now this next bit shows that something just do not refuse to die:

Cultural Elite against High Street and the Suburbs Source:
Cultural Elite against High Street and the Suburbs


On one side we have urbanites shrieking about the dystopia suburbia being the plague of the “urban” City while NIMBYs will go shrieking if their glass snow globe leafy suburbs are “threatened” by the expansion of the urban environment which they see as a dystopia (slums).

Either way when both sides go shrieking and have done so since the Victorian era does not help the planning debate as we are seeing thanks to Bernard Orsman (The Rezoning Exercise with the #UnitaryPlan. The Facts) and others when we do debate our future planning such as and again the Unitary Plan.


With the rise of internet shopping who is most under threat, the mall or the High/Main Street?

Suburban Urbanites believe it is the mall:

Internet the death of malls?
Internet the death of malls?


Now we can debate this until the cows come home AND go blue in the face.

It is true that in the USA and UK that the mall has been threatened by the rise of internet shopping while the High Street both in London and other metropolitan centres have enjoyed a revival. However, in New Zealand and especially Auckland this is where it gets head scratching. As I have blogged on before malls in Auckland continue strong growth while our High Streets have more mixed results depending on where they are. For example the actual High Street in the City Centre is struggling compared to the Britomart Quarter and even Queen Street which has undergone a large revival in part thanks to Urban Design Champion Ludo Campbell-Reid. While our High/Main Streets in the suburban centres have been in a state of extended decline it is hoped that Panuku’s urban renewal program might jolt them back into life.

As for malls they in Auckland continue to experience strong growth with their owners retrofitting them out to cater for that growth. Lynn Mall is retrofitting to include lane-ways as will the Precinct site in Downtown Auckland. Sylvia Park and its owner are looking at apartments and office spaces to compliment the retail there. However, Scentre which owns the Westfield malls here seem to be slow in retrofitting their malls into the wider suburban environment which is most disappointing. St Lukes which will under go massive expansion will still be inwards facing and lack connections back out to the wider area that does not include the car. How Scentre will approach Manukau which is at capacity and needs redevelopment as it is the only large-scale mall for South Auckland (including Papakura and Franklin but not Botany and Howick) and the northern Waikato will be interesting to see.


But going to the question if High Street reaching the end of its life? Even in Auckland where the mall is still king the high street still pulls in the punters and with Panuku beginning its renewal program I can safely say our high streets (main streets) are in safe hands for another 50-years.


Again and finally though for the full revival of our suburban high streets (Old Papatoetoe is a case of a high street to under go an extensive renewal program) to work our planning needs to have that regional focus for us to work through the suburban and local level if we do not want the whole thing to be disjointed.



The question being (that ties in the above paragraph): Is Auckland Council, its planning and those who associate with its planning see Auckland’s suburbs in a solely bi-lateral relationship with the main City Centre?


Is our suburbs situated in a network of relationships with other places?




Reference and credit: Suburban Urbanites from UCLPress