Friday, May 30, 2014

Growth of US Shopping Malls Animation

Growth of Shopping Malls in the US

Shopping mall growth

This is an interesting animation from Sravani Vadlamani of Arizona State University, a doctoral student in transportation engineering. It shows the spread of shopping malls across the American landscape throughout the 20th Century up until the present day. This includes the numbers of strip, outlet, indoor and outdoor malls. Growth really starts to pick up in the 1950s.

As you can see, the malls began far further back than you might have realized, back in the earliest days of the 20th Century. (In fact, some would say they go all the way back to ancient Rome and then the early Industrial Revolution with covered shopping arcades, but we are talking here about the modern, suburban shopping mall.) Malls took off in the 1950s, and then exploded in popularity a few decades later with the 1960 creation of REITs (Real Estate Investment Trusts) which favored large shopping projects. Originating in the Northeast, the malls spread to the West Coast and Florida. The Rocky Mountain region was and remains the most resistant area to malls.

Those of us with long-enough memories know that the heyday of the shopping mall was the late '70s through the 1980s. Malls became such a huge part of life that motion pictures were made about people interacting in them, fleeing to them from zombies, driving cars through them, and tripping over them after a weather apocalypse.

However, nothing stays the same forever. After the malls destroyed many a downtown shopping area and became their own practically virtual downtowns, the big box stores - the really big aloof ones, not the department stores that anchored most malls - really started moving in. The big box chains created their own space, oftentimes far from everything else, not needing (or wanting, for that matter) any other small retailers around. With 100,000 items of their own for sale, why would they need any other retailers around to grab some of their business? More recently, the Internet has been carving its own slice out of both the big box stores' domain and also what is left to the shopping malls. Sic transit gloria mundo and all that.

Mall themselves have changed over the years. They used to be rather dark and dreary places with low ceilings and Muzak. More recently, they have added soaring atriums and the sound of trickling water. Malls remain very much in business, though it is fashionable to look at them as ageing dinosaurs on their last legs. They're not, but they have lost some ground recently during the recession and the rapid growth of alternatives.

The animation is a bit clunky to use, but once you get the hang of it, you will find that it gives you a lot of control over what you are seeing. Zoom in any particular state or region, if you leave it so that you can see the entire country, the map fills up the by '70s and you won't see the nuances of mall development.

Roosevelt Field Shopping Mall
Roosevelt Field Shopping Mall on Long Island

From Vladimani's page:
This map depicts the growth of shopping malls in the United States over time. The data covers all kinds of malls including strip malls, outlet malls etc. both indoor and outdoors. The information is obtained from ASU GIS Spatial data repository

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