Saturday, February 16, 2013

Mystified again...

I am confused again.  That happens a lot, perhaps just because I am a simple boy and don't understand things well, but this is causing me to wonder.
Years ago, downtown Birmingham was Shopping Central.  All the big stores were there, from the discount stores (S.S. Kresge) to the the high-line fashion centers (Parisian, Blach's, etc) with a huge Sears & Roebuck prominent in the mix.  As urban sprawl took over, shopping downtown became inconvenient - it was a long distance downtown from the 'burbs, if one rode the streetcars [later busses] it was difficult to bring one's shopping home, if one drove to downtown, parking was insufficient and expensive, etc, etc.
Retailers responded with the Shopping Center out toward the 'burbs - strip centers offering free parking, stores in one area, and much convenience for suburban shoppers.  The strip centers were not perfect of course, one disadvantage being exposure to weather while moving from store to store.
The next development solved many problems - the Mall.  Malls had the free parking, large numbers of diverse stores in one place, including the big names from downtown, and offered a weather-protected, comfortable environment for shopping.  Most offered a food court with passable food items, and it was possible to transfer purchases to the car during the shopping runs.  Nice.
Change happens, of course, and these huge shopping venues must eventually relocate due to changing demographics.  Two of the "new" venues in my area are the Pinnacle and the Summit.  Disturbing to me, though, is that these flashy new structures are - strip centers.  The free parking is still there, but we are back to an open environment, with sidewalk access between the stores, unprotected from weather.  The food courts are now stand-alone restaurants scattered about the edges of the parking areas, requiring long walks in the heat, rain, etc to reach them.  Is this not taking a step backward?
Back in 1960, the first mall in Alabama, and the second enclosed shopping mall in the southeast, was Eastwood Mall in Birmingham, a revolutionary idea at the time, and a destination for shoppers from all over the state, and as far away as Atlanta and Chattanooga.  Changing demographics and mismanagement led to the closing of the mall in the late 1990s, and it was razed, and replaced with a Wal-Mart supercenter, with a large surrounding - strip center. [sigh]

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