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The Birth And Death Of An Idea: The Enclosed Shopping Mall

A modification in tax law fifty years ago completely altered a well planned concept to create vibrant urban centers.
March 9, 2004, 9am PST | Zvi Leve
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There is a tendency in America to "wax nostalgic for the traditional downtown," but traffic and single-use zoning have long since precluded the creation of vibrant mixed-use urban centers. Fifty years ago, Victor Gruen designed a "fully enclosed, introverted, multitiered, double-anchor-tenant shopping complex with a garden court under a skylight" as a response to the chaos of American suburbia. Malls teach us, he once said, that “it’s the merchants who will save our urban civilization. ‘Planning’ isn’t a dirty word to them; good planning means good business.” Gruen thought of the mall as "the centerpiece of a carefully planned new downtown." But then the economics of land development changed the picture.

Thanks to Zvi Leve

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Published on Monday, March 8, 2004 in The New Yorker
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