Embracing the Mall: Finding Joy in Shopping

13:32 11.09.2023

In the scorching summer heat that engulfed the South, one journalist discovered a surprising refuge - the mall. Margaret Renkl, a believer in the connection between walking and creativity, found herself seeking solace from the oppressive humidity by taking long walks in a local mall. The heat index in Nashville surpassed that of Las Vegas, making outdoor activities potentially dangerous. Renkl, aware of the health risks, turned to the mall as a cool and safe alternative.

Malls, once bustling centers of consumerism, have faced a steady decline in recent years. According to a report by The New York Times, malls in the United States have lost 50 percent of their value since 2016. Approximately 2,500 malls existed in the 1980s, but now only around 700 remain. The rise of online shopping has contributed to this decline, leaving massive retail spaces empty or in ruins.

However, some malls have found new life through repurposing. In Austin, Texas, a former mall has been transformed into a community college, providing classrooms and offices. In California, a new law allows commercial properties to be repurposed for housing. In Nashville, one mall has been converted into a medical clinic, while another is set to become a community center. These adaptive reuses offer a glimmer of hope for malls struggling to survive.

For Renkl, the mall became a sanctuary in the sweltering heat. What was once a symbol of consumerism and excessive spending now offered a respite from the weather and a chance to connect with fellow walkers. Walking in proximity to others, she found herself falling in love with the human race all over again. The mall became a place where people of all ages and backgrounds converged, creating a sense of community and shared experience.

Renkl acknowledges the capitalist nature of malls, with their sole purpose being to encourage spending. However, she also believes that malls have taken on powers beyond capitalism, providing spaces for people to gather and interact. In a society plagued by loneliness and division, these communal spaces hold increasing importance. As Renkl states, "we will always need places where people come together."

In an era dominated by e-commerce and the decline of traditional retail, the mall's importance may be evolving. While the need for countless retail shops may be diminishing, the need for gathering spaces remains. As Renkl's experience demonstrates, malls have the potential to fulfill this need, fostering connections and providing refuge from extreme weather conditions. With another divisive election year on the horizon, the importance of these shared spaces may be more crucial than ever.

/ Monday, September 11, 2023, 1:32 PM /

themes:  California  Texas  New York (state)  Tennessee  Las Vegas

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