Pis la rue principale a s'appelait St-Cyrille
La Coop le gaz bar la caisse pop le croque-mort
Et le magasin général quand j'y retourne
Ça me fait assez mal!
Y'est tombé une bombe sur la rue principale
Depuis qu'y ont construit: le centre d'achat!
|Promenades Saint-Bruno, the biggest mall near me when I grew up|
The inherent weakness of malls
|A mall at an highway interchange and the areas within 10 minutes of car travel of it, in blue the area if the highways are uncongested (100 km/h), in red the area if the highways are congested so that average speed is down to 60 km/h.|
Are malls inherently anti-urban?
|10-story mall in the center of Kooriyama in Japan, a city of around 350 000 people|
Malls can be a way to add big popular stores in urban areas devoid of them. Not everyone will like it as it may make things harder for local stores due to the competition, but is it better to have an urban mall next to transit nodes or to have malls in car-dependent areas with people inside cities buying cars and using them to go to these malls?
That is not to say that malls are the best way to build commercial areas into cities. Malls tend to complement streets poorly, they suck life out of them by bringing people inside rather than allowing them to mingle outside (a privatization of the public realm), which, to be fair, might be a blessing in extremely hot or cold cities. Traditional commercial streets are more organic and can change piecemeal, whereas malls tend to be hard to change as they're one big building and they feel "artificial". So aesthetically, malls are far from great, yet they can still function as boosts to walkability if used in the right spot because they are walkable commercial areas.
They are also a much lesser evil than the recent alternative that has sprouted up: the so-called "power center", which is completely car-oriented. Say what you want about malls, their location may be car-oriented, but once there, you walk from store to store, it's human-scaled inside. Power centers are not only in car-oriented areas, but their stores are spread apart around huge parking lots. So not only do you need a car to get there, but you also need a car to go from one store to the next, a completely car-oriented shopping environment.
|A power center in all its ugliness|
|A personal loose typology of shopping areas (all examples from the region of Montréal)|
Theoretically, a mall could become the "seed" for the downtown of a new city. However, I am not aware of any area that has successfully achieved such a transition. I know that Mississauga in Ontario is attempting it, building high-rise condo towers around its existing malls.
|High-rise condo towers being built in relative proximity to a mall in Mississauga|
|Square One mall in Mississauga City Center, with nearby towers|