What America's shopping mall decline means for social space

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  • Published on:  Friday, April 6, 2018
  • The mall was America’s third place — for better or for worse.

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    Our lives are lived in 1 of 3 places, the home, the workplace and the “third place,” which is anywhere outside of those two.

    Toward the end of the 20th century, the regional shopping mall had become that third place, the hang-out spot in suburban America. This was largely by design — an immigrant architect created the first mall in the vision that it would be a community gathering place.

    The plan didn’t work out as he intended. While malls did take off, they more often than not couldn’t quite catch on as ideal “third places.” But with an estimated 25% of shopping malls expected to close in the next five years, there’s an opportunity to re-examine where Americans spend their time and what could be the next iteration of the third place.

    Further reading for those interested in this subject, I recommend the following books and articles:

    Ray Oldenburg's The Great Good Place — he coined the term 'third place' and set the theory for the 8 qualities mentioned in this video: https://www.amazon.com/Great-Good-Place-Bookstores-Community/dp/1569246815

    New Yorker's 2006 profile of the creator of regional shopping malls: https://www.newyorker.com/magazine/2004/03/15/the-terrazzo-jungle

    On the role US tax policy played in the shopping-center boom of the 1950s and 1960s: https://www.jstor.org/stable/2169635?seq=1#page_scan_tab_contents

    & Vox's Matt Ylgesias on the coming ‘retail apocalypse’ in the states: https://www.vox.com/new-money/2017/5/4/15124038/regional-mall-apocalypse

    p.s. here is Toto's Africa (playing in an abandoned shopping centre) https://www.okclips.net/video/D__6hwqjZAs/video.html

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  • Source: https://youtu.be/oooVC3zfDc8


  • Vox


     a years ago +812

    For those wondering about title graphic at :33, it's Cecil Robert's — Toto- Africa (playing in an empty shopping centre)! https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=D__6hwqjZAs

  • 1234qwer


     2 days ago

    Ive never liked malls they feel so artificial and cold, i feel pressured to buy something

  • Jacob_TN


     3 days ago

    Thanks Obama

  • To the Horror

    To the Horror

     4 days ago +1

    *Introverts laughing*
    *Loners laughing in irony*

    I don't even talk to patroning visitors in the mall. Even if there is a mall or other 3rd places, walking alone without a friend to talk to, makes the place lose its purpose as a social gathering ground.

  • SandboxArrow


     7 days ago

    Malls should follow the same thing what Mall Of America did, make it more fun to shop there

  • Leanne Deetz

    Leanne Deetz

     7 days ago

    This was so boring

  • Bendy And His Friendzzz

    Bendy And His Friendzzz

     28 days ago

    When wage can't keep up with inflation, all the income goes to rent and food.

  • rebeka talebi

    rebeka talebi

     a months ago

    What a Debbie Downer

  • rebeka talebi

    rebeka talebi

     a months ago

    You can take the bus to the mall. You’re not required to buy anything. It’s free. DC is a nightmare to get to.

  • rebeka talebi

    rebeka talebi

     a months ago

    The third place I live is at the mall.

  • Shedriek Battle

    Shedriek Battle

     a months ago

    The library is a great "third place"!

  • Bob Guerrero

    Bob Guerrero

     a months ago

    Church is a third space

  • BlackSilhouette


     a months ago

    I don’t mind hand-me-downs...

  • Min seong Joo

    Min seong Joo

     a months ago

    So there are many other 'third place' nowdays. Like festivals,exhibitions,concept stores..

  • S D

    S D

     a months ago

    You would have to live in Washington DC. So that’s going to be a no...

  • danish


     a months ago

    I want to spend less time possible in mall but I can’t. My office is connected to a mall and will pass H&M everything I go to the parking spot.

  • Xfurrywolfx


     2 months ago

    I remember going to the mall getting a Nintendo 64 and gameboy

  • Victor Hugo

    Victor Hugo

     2 months ago

    I don´t remember the last time a drone didn´t deliver either clothes, drugstore stuff, bedding, even shoes, cleaning, washing, even health servants, personal trainers, dog walkers, car washing, etc. we don´t physically actually buy anything anymore, I just sit on a computer all day, for sports or shows, I just watch the daily 6 minute highlights, we never go to a stadium or mall, and malls are full of gold digger people running around or scammers, psychos, weirdos, dangerous women, etc.
    well, now my woman just pushes some buttons on a phone, and a drone vehicle unloads the weekly groceries at the front door :) malls and markets are now like museums, we just go there to see concept products for fun

  • HOBBIT cadillac

    HOBBIT cadillac

     2 months ago +1

    weed is the greatest third place maker it can make anything a third place

  • Brady Ryan

    Brady Ryan

     2 months ago

    As a youth in today’s America this is sooo true there is the home the school and then the third place, I the winter I think that 3rd place is the mall. But in the summer pools and sports fields are the 3rd place. I am thankful to live in a fairly wealthy neighborhood so it isn’t very hard to find the 3rd place