Marc Lefkowitz | 03/23/09 @ 10:16am
The big-box shopping center has been called the SUV of the built environment. Like that behemoth of the road, it may be heading for extinction. Among Time Magazine's "Ten ideas changing the world right now" feature is Recycling the suburbs-which looks at turning the mass die-off of shopping centers happening across America into an opportunity to rebuild suburbs with walkable, mixed-use town centers.
"The American suburbs as we know it are dying. The implosion began with the housing bust, which started in and has hit hardest the once vibrant neighborhoods outside the urban core. Shopping malls and big-box retail stores, the commercial anchors of the suburbs, are going dark ? an estimate 148,000 stores closed last year, the most since 2001."
The cause goes beyond the economic downturn to include changing demographics-families are having fewer kids-but, also younger and older adults are looking for urban amenities where they live (somewhere to walk and bike, less time commuting by car, more access to transit).
Time offers some examples of suburbs that have successfully converted big-box centers into town centers and a photo essay of "Stores that are no more" (including Randall Park Mall and a Toys-R-Us store -pictured- in Warrensville Heights) here.
Suburbs that will ride out the recession will innovate with an eye toward the post-carbon prosperity. Which suburbs of Northeast Ohio do you know that have half-empty shopping centers which, with a little creativity, could be converted into live-work communities built around walking and biking?