The End of the Mall? Navigating the Shifting Retail Landscape

More online shopping means fewer consumers are spending money at brick-and-mortar stores, with suburban malls hit especially hard. But municipalities are looking for creative strategies to navigate a post-mall world.

1 minute read

December 27, 2019, 7:00 AM PST

By Camille Fink

End of the Mall

Nicholas Eckhart / Flickr

Gregory Scruggs writes about changing consumer trends and the impact on municipalities. "Over the past two decades, consumers nationwide have made significant shifts in their shopping habits, migrating to online retail and returning to traditional commercial corridors and shopping districts in economically strong metro areas."

The result has been more struggling suburban malls with high vacancy rates or properties that have shut down altogether. This in turn means lower property assessments and decreases in property tax funding for local communities. For municipalities that depend largely on commercial property taxes, the effects of flagging malls can be substantial.

But, says Scruggs, communities are planning ahead in anticipation of a long-term shift away from traditional malls. Municipalities are investing in housing and retail in downtowns to make up for the tax revenue that used to come from suburban malls. Others are looking to the redevelopment of mall properties as a way to diversify and transform these spaces.

Scruggs reviews examples of various municipalities around the country that are working to adjust and adapt to changing retail landscapes. "Such a radical change from the mall as an exclusively retail environment may conflict with land use policy. Instead of serving as an obstacle to this transition, local government can seize the reins to help secure an economically vibrant future."

Monday, December 16, 2019 in Land Lines

Chicago Intercity Rail

Amtrak Ramping Up Infrastructure Projects

Thanks to federal funding from the 2021 infrastructure act, the agency plans to triple its investment in infrastructure improvements and new routes in the next two years.

September 25, 2023 - Smart Cities Dive

View of Interstate 205 bridge over Columbia River with Mt. Hood in background.

The Unceremonious Death of a Freeway Expansion Project

The end of an Oregon freeway project didn't get much fanfare, but the victory is worth celebrating.

September 19, 2023 - Streetsblog USA

Google maps street view of San Francisco alleyway.

Ending Downtown San Francisco’s ‘Doom Loop’

A new public space project offers an ambitious vision—so why is the city implementing it at such a small scale?

September 26, 2023 - Fast Company

Aerial view of coastal development and bright blue ocean in Kaua'i, Hawai'i.

Kaua’i County Uses Long-Range Models to Mandate Resiliency Standards

The county requires builders to assess potential flood risks using models that account for sea level rise projected as far out as 2100.

2 hours ago - Smart Cities Dive

Semi truck driving down freeway with twilight sky in background.

California Governor Vetoes Autonomous Truck Ban

Gov. Newsom called the new law unnecessary, citing existing efforts by state regulators to develop new rules around autonomous trucking.

3 hours ago - Wired

Roadside motel with turquoise room doors in Tucumcari, New Mexico.

Low-Barrier Motel Shelter Is a Success—But Not an Easy One

Many guests at Motels4Now are on their second or third stays—but staff say that's doesn't equal failure, and the numbers bear that out.

4 hours ago - Shelterforce Magazine

Urban Design for Planners 1: Software Tools

This six-course series explores essential urban design concepts using open source software and equips planners with the tools they need to participate fully in the urban design process.

Planning for Universal Design

Learn the tools for implementing Universal Design in planning regulations.