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Remembering the 80s: Fortress-Like Malls Are Back in Vogue Again

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Mall scenes from Fast Times at Ridgemont High, downtown Macy Plaza
At some point in the last two decades, the traditional mall--defined as an enclosed cement fortress where pimple-faced teens sucked down Orange Juliuses and bought Jelly Bellys at candy stores--grew unpopular, replaced by "lifestyle centers," open air shopping centers like The Grove, or mixed-use housing and retail projects like Americana. The demise of the mall even prompted web sites like Deadmalls.com. But now that developers and shoppers alike are broke, good-old fashioned malls are back in vogue, reports Retail Traffic magazine. In the first quarter of 2010, malls posted an average vacancy rate of 6.0 percent, lower than the average for retail space overall, and now the industry is "looking at regional malls with renewed respect," according to a Cleveland-based architect quoted in the magazine. Developers now tout the benefits of creating enclosed air conditioned spaces (err, thanks, global warming?), or talk about how you can add components to traditional malls: "Moreover, developers learned that by employing a few modernizing techniques—the addition of offices and apartments; the incorporation of public spaces—it’s possible to bring regional malls into the 21st century. “A regional mall, if it has the right tenant mix and offers value to the consumer, will be successful,” says Greg Lyon, design principal with Nadel Inc., a Los Angeles–based architecture firm."
· Developers Rethink the Mall for the 21st Century [Retail Magazine]