Malls need to adapt
Big suburban malls are a product from the USA circa 1960’s through to the 1990’s. They were all the rage of social interaction and consumerism but today in the 21st Century struggle to survive in their current form. While online retail has a part to play today people are looking for places still interact but it is over cafe and bar scenes rather than the shopping scene. Big enclosed spaces cut off from the rest of the urban area while only being able to be accessed by the car will simply put off the mobile and spend-thrift millennial generation.
Malls (and Auckland is not immune) need to adapt in order to attract the more mobile dollar. Malls need to reinvigorate themselves as urban centres rather than suburban centres of last century. This extract from Providence Journal highlights the latest trend in the USA:
Across the U.S., malls are moving outdoors as pedestrian-friendly ‘city centers’
Posted Nov 17, 2016 at 12:32 PM
The concept is “city centers” — a blend of commercial and public spaces not unlike the spectrum of land uses in downtown Providence.
SAN JOSE, Calif. — Karie Bennett remembers selling a lot of lipstick in 2008.
Like everywhere during the recession, business was down at her Atelier Studio salon at Santana Row, an outdoor shopping mall here. But even when they weren’t spending much, people continued to come to the center to soak up the European atmosphere, stroll among the high-end shops and linger at the open-air cafes. And indulge in a small cosmetic luxury.
Santana Row offered a gathering place and sense of community, not just a place to shop, Bennett said.
Indeed, communities across the country are embracing what’s been called the Santana Row effect, a nationwide planning trend that seeks to deconstruct the great American enclosed mall and reduce the profile of the cars that come with it.
The concept is “city center” developments. At the heart of each one generally is an Italian-style “piazza” or plaza, surrounded by open-air retail shops and restaurants, with mixed uses of residential units above ground-floor retail, office spaces nearby, hotels, or even theaters.
In the Silicon Valley area, Mountain View’s city center will be completed next year, and Santa Clara’s, approved in June, is going to be so big it will take a decade to build it.
But San Jose’s is the model that everyone can’t help but mention.
On any given sunny day, the light reflects the warm colors of the building facades that sport balconies and stone arches on Santana Row. People stroll, sit and chat on benches, as classical music streams faintly from unseen speakers.
Bennett, who now owns two Atelier Studio salons at Santana Row, says the concept works because it provides a magical snippet of culture that can’t be re-created elsewhere.
“It takes a lot of money to enter the door at Disneyland, but it’s free to walk around here, enjoy the fountains and enjoy all the architecture,” said Bennett.
The concept of a city center is not exclusive to the Bay Area. City centers or “lifestyles centers” have been around for at least a decade and are popping up throughout the nation, said Chris Calott, a University of California at Berkeley professor of architecture who specializes in urbanism. But true to Silicon Valley form, Santana Row, which opened in phases starting in 2002, was an early adopter of the model.
For years, city councils throughout the Bay Area have referred to Santana Row as the ideal when discussing plans or concepts for their own city centers. Part of the history of U.S. cities is for them to copy one another, especially their successful traits, Calott said.
This urbanist movement was a strong reaction against the suburban model that America built some 50 years ago, a very car-dominated culture, Calott said. The city center has now become a mainstream real estate development.
In typical city centers, gone are the seas of parked cars in a large lot common at shopping malls or strip malls. Parking structures are hidden behind the centers, or absorbed into the structures themselves. People park their cars once, and then go on foot for the rest of their experience.
The centers, although they still hinge on consumerism, are more social. With a town square, they sometimes incorporate community events such as a farmers market, small concerts or festivals.
Manukau Mall is the anchor point to Manukau City Centre and is ripe to be converted from Auckland’s second largest mall (199 retailers) in Auckland’s largest “City Centre” (well a centre within a Metropolitan Centre) or outdoor mall borrowing some American terminology here. Manukau Mall’s design means the western wing and the two parallel corridors that connect to the centre court and northern corridor (the link to Farmers) could easily have their rooves removed, the store fronts adapted for all-weather and that horrible flooring replaced by some brick and tile paving suited to urban setting.
Opening up the western wing means open connections to Manukau Plaza, a possible Town Centre built over the car park to the right of the above photo, and an open connection to a possible hospitality lane down Amersham Way where the movies and existing bars already are.
The town centre I mention of I drew up and can be seen below:
The southern car park is built over with a town centre type design the western wing of the already existing mall would be adapted to. So an outdoor mall with outdoor flows and even an apartment tower to make best use of Metropolitan Centre zoned land.
So let’s try to both urbanise and humanise our malls that dominate most of our Metropolitan Centres.