So yesterday I was typing this entry on my iPad, and then a drifting pinky tapped the screen in a wrong spot and I lost the post. The postr was about two shopping malls in the Milwaukee area. Mayfair Mall, which is actually in a suburb of Milwaukee within a half mile of the border, and Grand Avenue Mall, which is downtown.
The Grand Avenue Mall is in decline. Back when it was in its prime, it was a wonderful mall, and was busy. Then over time, the mall started to decline. A friend of mine walked through the mall on a break form work, and the mall is about half empty, and the nationally recognized stores have left, and all that is left is local vendors with temporary occupancy permits selling hip-hop wear. She said she was almost embarassed to see store after store hawking sweats with "baby phat" plastered across the @ss.
Mayfair is at the height of its popularity. I have never been in that mall and not seen people walking from store to store. The stores are an eccectic mix of natinally recgonized names (Aeropostale, Hot Topic, Banana republic, Payless, three Starbucks locations - one in Macy's at one end of the mall, one in Barnes and Noble at the other end, and a standalone Starbucks halfway inbetween), and a few local stores selling everything from cheesy faux Egyptian home decor to Wisconsin-themed sweatshirts and cow-print aprons.
Milwaukee has been home to three malls that have died a slow, painful death. All of them shared certain characteristics that led to their decline. Each of them was in an upper middle class area that slowly declined as more and more rental and low-income properties moved into the area. The clientele of the mall shifted to a less affluent demoographic and the higher-end stores started to lose business. The middle class and upper-middle class shoppers changed their shopping routines and bypassed those malls so as not to have their peaceful shopping experience disturbed by people who do not share their values, sensibilities, morals or expectations of public behavior. Some would add skin color to that list, but I believe that bad behavior is bad behavior no matter what color your skin is.
Everyone would profit from understandign something that was understood by Benjamin Franklin: "I never doubted, for instance, in the existence of the Deity; that he made the world and govern'd it by his Providence; that the most acceptable service of God was the doing good to man; that our souls are immortal; and that all crime will be punished, and virtues rewarded, either here or hereafter."
An event at Mayfair Mall a few weeks ago illustrates what kills malls. On Sunday, January 2, 2011, several large groups of teens engaged in acts of vandalism and disorderly conduct at the mall. During the event, which included thousands of dollars woth of damage to store's property and merchandise, an attempted armed robbery in the parking lot and a gunshot in the parking lot. Police were called, arrests were made and ticket were issued for disorderly onduct and retail theft. Apparently, the "flash-mob" was planned in advance and posted on facebook as an event.
Now an event like this doesn't automatically mean that a mall will die. What is important to the public perception of the mall, which then leads to the possible death of the mall, is the response of the mall to an incident. Mayfair Mall responded in a manner that I feel is appropriate, but perhaps a little minimalist. The mall had already had a Parental Guidance Required policy which required all minors to be accompanied by an adult on Fridays and Saturdays after 3pm. In the wake of the incident, the policy was expanded to include Sundays.
What was truly anemic was the response of the police. There were between two and three hundred people involved in the incident, but only "several" arrests. What really should have happened was massive arrests should have been made, and every last person should have had the book thrown at them ... the only question is: would they be able to read it?