Malls are dying everywhere. But as Provo looks to revitalize downtown, there are a few things that the mall concept has to offer on its way out.
Specifically, this post from PlaceShakers and NewsMakers includes a list of strengths that malls typically exhibit. For example, it points out that a shopping district — mall or otherwise — needs anchors, a clear shopping stroll, a central area, etc.
Some of these ideas — such as streets that end at something visually interesting — come straight from Jane Jacobs. Others argue that malls offer conceptual solutions to downtown problems like parking:
Similar to the concerns of having multiple entries is the fear that customers are not willing to park behind the store, and then walk around to the front door. Again, from a strip mall perspective this is a challenge (though not unsolvable). From a mall perspective, for decades shoppers have been parking in vast lots facing blank walls and are happy to locate the interior of the mall. With a compelling shopping street, shoppers will not only find the front of the store, but you have the added advantage of limited on-street parking right in front.
Many of the points in this article make sense for a city like Provo because, after all, the mall was originally patterned on the classic American downtown.
Provo’s downtown currently is experiencing significant revitalization and everyone in the city should be grateful it never became a mall. But as the area progresses, the structural and economic strengths of malls — if not the tone, character, and specific retailers — are things the city should take seriously.