Dead Malls, Explained
Imagine your local mall today. How empty has it become? How many bored people are working in discounted stores with only a few mall walkers left to visit them? How did it get this way?
A vibrant community comes from the desires and choices of the community. When planners decide to force those choices into zones, game the system for certain players, and fight change, it’s not only unjust, but it often ends in ruin for all of us.
NOLAN GRAY: We’re coming out of the war, which is this massive Government led effort, right? But also what you have going on after the war is the Federal government’s heavily subsidizing the suburbanization of America.
So they’re insuring mortgages for GIs and the general population // So people are going out and buying these suburban, Levittown homes, starting families. At the same time, there’s a huge highway construction boom, so we’re building highways // to make it really easy to live way far out of cities.
Regulation came in which essentially enforced this auto-oriented lifestyle // we’re going to segregate uses // you’re not going to have a corner grocery anymore // you’re going to have a supermarket which could be five-to-ten miles across town and there’s going to be all the other shops you want to go over there.
Politicians love things like malls or even in a smaller town, things like Walmart opening because that’s a big ribbon-cutting, and I can go to my constituents and say, ‘hey this big new store opened, you’ve been there, it smells good, it’s shiny, it’s clean, you can buy things that you couldn’t buy before. There’s no equivalent for, ‘hey, the Main Street that’s been around for decades: it didn’t close this year, so you’re welcome.’ There’s no equivalent! // Malls are this big, obvious sign that ‘I did something for you.’
At the same time that governments are propping up malls, they’re also propping up the malls’ main competitors: online retail.
We see this brand-new, shiny mall, but what we don’t see is that the Main Street, maybe the city could have redone the city sidewalks, or planted trees. Maybe they could have given those small business owners tax breaks that would have helped them survive.
You don’t get sustainable economic development in this kind of government managed cronyism. Sustainable economic development has to build up over time, it has to be real growth, it has to be real people doing things more productively with new ideas coming to the table. You can’t subsidize your way into this sort of long-term economic prosperity.