Malls, those ubiquitous shopping meccas that sprang up in the 1950s, are dwindling in number, with many struggling properties reduced to largely vacant shells.

On the low-income east side of Charlotte, N.C., the 1.1-million-square-foot Eastland Mall recently lost a slew of key tenants, including a Dillard’s and, next month, a Sears. Sales per square foot at the venue fell to $210 in 2008 from $288 in 2001.

As the recession alters American spending habits, traditional shopping malls like Eastland Mall are deteriorating at an accelerating pace.

The Metcalf South Shopping Center in Overland Park, Kan., is languishing after plans to redevelop it into an open-air shopping district fizzled. The stretch of shops that connects the two largest tenants — a Sears and a Macy’s — stands mostly vacant, patrolled by security guards.

With their maze of walkways and fast-food courts, malls have long been an iconic, if sometimes unsightly, presence in the American retail landscape. A few were made famous by their sheer size, others for the range of shopping and social diversions they provided.

(Read the full article by Kris Hudson and Vanessa O’connell “Recession Turns Malls Into ghost Towns” in the Wall Street Journal (May 22 2009).

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