Dead Malls Predicted the Erosion of Public Space in America

There’s a million memes, jokes, and videos about dead malls but the fervored discussion conceals what we won’t say out loud: cities and suburbs alike are losing places we can socialize and foster communities.

Rachel Presser

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Interior of a dilapidated abandoned mall with escalator and floor tiles prominently featured
Licensed via Adobe Stock

I was inspired to write this after I read this brilliant and heart-rending piece by Jacqueline Dooley.

I’ve been following the dead mall phenomenon for years myself. I’ve written about it for current and previous columns, like the mass repurposing of abandoned malls for housing and VR experiences.

As someone who spends a lot of time deciphering the epidemic levels of Millennial loneliness and feels like facepalming every time yet another thinkpiece comes out proclaiming that social media is making us miserable and we just need to go out and talk to people again — they’ve forgotten how it’s not just the ways that we use technology that cause us to be hyper-intimate yet complete strangers, but WHERE do we actually go when everything is either shuttered or become a Wal-Mart?

I don’t want to wax too nostalgically about the turn of the millennium, it was a shit time for me personally even if there’s various aspects of life, technology, and what my city was that I sorely miss.

But it dawned on me that malls were the canary in the coal mine for essentially losing our public spaces where we don’t have to be rushed out once we fork over our money — if we fork it out at all.

Sure, it’s easy to make fun of those empty stretches of derelict FYE stores that were once wafted with the cloying miasma of Perfumania as the spot where you once picked up an Orange Julius is a vacant food stand with tumbleweeds rolling by.

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Rachel Presser

Game dev, writer, small biz & tax consultant to indie devs. That loud socialist Frog Slut from The Bronx, now in Angel City. https://linktr.ee/sonictoad