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2014-12-29

[Reposted from June 2014] Brent Cross Shopping Centre: Tumbleweed by 2020?


Link to The Guardian

"It is hard to believe there has ever been any life in this place. Shattered glass crunches under Seph Lawless’s feet as he strides through its dreary corridors. Overhead lights attached to ripped-out electrical wires hang suspended in the stale air and fading wallpaper peels off the walls like dead skin.

"... Dying shopping malls are speckled across the United States, often in middle-class suburbs wrestling with socioeconomic shifts. Some, like Rolling Acres, have already succumbed. Estimates on the share that might close or be repurposed in coming decades range from 15 to 50%. Americans are returning downtown; online shopping is taking a 6% bite out of brick-and-mortar sales; and to many iPhone-clutching, city-dwelling and frequently jobless young people, the culture that spawned satire like Mallrats seems increasingly dated, even cartoonish.

According to long-time retail consultant Howard Davidowitz, numerous mid-market malls, many of them born during the country's suburban explosion after the second world war, could very well share Rolling Acres' fate:
"They're going, going, gone. They’re trying to change; they're trying to get different kinds of anchors, discount stores … [But] what’s going on is the customers don’t have the fucking money. That's it. This isn’t rocket science."

Link to The Guardian

"Ah, the Elysian fields of Brent Cross, I remember them well. I turned 18 a few months before Britain's first shopping mall opened, on a motorway interchange on the way to Hendon. I remember the first thrill of unfulfilled consumption as I approached.

"I spent a staggering amount of time there as a teenager, next to the brown marble fountains outside Fenwicks, desperately trying to persuade myself that it was more interesting than it actually was. I'm not sure I succeeded, and now it seems – on both sides of the Atlantic – most of us are also failing to persuade ourselves. We are beginning to awake from the great mall dream.

"That seems to be the message of a new book of photos of these empty leviathans by the American photographer Seph Lawless, dusty and crumbling, with dead ornamental trees at the foot of abandoned escalators. The first year since the 1950s with no new shopping malls in the US was 2007, and that was before the crash.

"We are behind the trend in the UK, but not far. Surprise figures last autumn showed that shopping centres and out-of-town malls are declining faster than high streets. Retail Gazette in the UK has warned that 'there is a danger that larger spaces will turn into empty buildings, with only tumbleweed passing through them'. It wasn't what we expected."


Future car-based expansion
for out-of-town
Brent Cross shopping centre!

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