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Mall, or nothing?
June 16, 2008 7:10 PM   Subscribe

We've discussed dead malls before. But did you know that the world's biggest mall is also its deadest?
posted by Afroblanco (36 comments total) 23 users marked this as a favorite

 
Creepily-good find, Afro-b!
posted by Dizzy at 7:16 PM on June 16, 2008


China has done a lot of that kind of thing. There are also a bunch of theme parks there which are dead. (Also something that's been talked about here in the past.) A lot of that stuff was the result of central planning, built with government money, and done as prestige projects (and opportunities for graft) without regard to whether they made any economic sense. Sort of like that hotel in PyongYang.
posted by Class Goat at 7:17 PM on June 16, 2008


Interesting comment Class Goat (Glass Coat?), thanks for that insight, I always had a hard time getting my head around all the money spent to build these large commercial structures only to have them die with little to no patronage.

Thanks for the additional links Afroblanco, I saw the dead mall from boingboing, but hadn't see the others.
posted by sir_rubixalot at 7:23 PM on June 16, 2008


Cool post. Those photos of the South China Mall seem almost post-apocalyptic.

The once-busy mall of my hometown, the place where we went to "see and be seen" in my early teens, became a barren echo-chamber when a newer, bigger mall opened right across the street. Now, years later, the newer mall is half-empty and the old mall has been revitalized. Commerce and consumerism, and the commercial real estate market, are nothing if not fickle.
posted by amyms at 7:25 PM on June 16, 2008 [2 favorites]


A lot of that stuff was the result of central planning, built with government money, and done as prestige projects (and opportunities for graft) without regard to whether they made any economic sense.

Interestingly, however, the article seems to indicate that this particular project is the result of an independent developer and too-loose credit:

"Dick Groves, a retail consultant based in nearby Hong Kong, chalks it up to inexperience in the leasing business, mixed with an undisciplined financial system. 'When it’s easy to get financing without having to convince someone of the project’s feasibility, and without having to show pre-leasing commitment, you can start to get into trouble,' he says."
...
"'Many developers [in China] have fallen into what I call the cowboy league,' deSwart says, trying to explain how the mall ever got built. 'Guys who all of a sudden have a lot of money and want to build a magnificent structure, without thinking it through.'”

This development in particular was built by an "instant noodle billionaire". It looks like this is going to have to be chalked up to a failure of capitalism...
posted by mr_roboto at 7:30 PM on June 16, 2008


Perhaps the Chinese are just eliminating the inefficient middle period of mass consumerism and making a great leap forward to join the rest of us as we crumble into post-capitalist ruination.
posted by briank at 7:35 PM on June 16, 2008 [15 favorites]


I grew up in Jersey and I still can't figure out the appeal of these monstrosities. I wouldn't mind having a giant, semi-abandoned building next door, though. Imagine all the fun you can have endlessly walking down the up escalators.
posted by backseatpilot at 8:07 PM on June 16, 2008 [1 favorite]


"an instant noodle billionaire," not "the"? Has the added thrill of a misreading in which great wealth is attainable through boiling water, a plastic-wrapped ramen slab, and a pinch of MSG.
posted by kingfisher, his musclebound cat at 8:10 PM on June 16, 2008 [3 favorites]


Could they use it to make the biggest ever zombie movie?
posted by sien at 8:13 PM on June 16, 2008 [3 favorites]


Mr. Roboto, a lot of that "easy credit" for big prestige projects like this has been the result of "unofficial" direct orders from the powers-that-be, often because they received a bribe.

This isn't a "failure of capitalism" because it isn't capitalism.
posted by Class Goat at 8:17 PM on June 16, 2008


round here we call them dirt malls. Flea-markets are gonna make a come back.
posted by nola at 8:25 PM on June 16, 2008


nola said: Flea-markets are gonna make a come back.

I luuurve flea markets. They're huge here in Kansas. There's one about 20 miles from me that offers free vendor space, and I am so tempted to take advantage of it.
posted by amyms at 8:32 PM on June 16, 2008


The mall entered the world pre-ruined, as if its developers had deliberately created an attraction for people with a taste for abandonment and decay.
This sentence doesn't just belong in a news article. I wish I'd written it.
posted by chimaera at 8:47 PM on June 16, 2008 [4 favorites]


The article reminded me of an unamusing theme park named Freedomland which opened (and closed) when I was a kid. What was finished was closed and/or broken, and what was open didn't seem to have many visitors. I live a couple blocks away from a dead mall right now. It was called a "downtown mall"; best of both worlds the planners must have thought. It died a strange death it seems to me.... It didn't fall apart into a dramatic ruin; it still looks very nice, but faded away into office space and a few restaurants. Oop! It'll be light in a few hours; I really should get back to the coffin....
posted by Kronos_to_Earth at 8:50 PM on June 16, 2008 [1 favorite]


Is this Mad Max day at Metafilter?

I think I missed the memo.
posted by eye of newt at 8:56 PM on June 16, 2008 [3 favorites]


Is it wrong that when I see abandoned urban structures the first thing I think of is "where's my skateboard?"

No, seriously, let's build ramps all over that thing. We can garden up on the roof and in the parking lots. Set up some windmills. Brew beer. Put up some razorwire, run Bartertown, etc.

But for now, I'm going to take a nap. Wake me up when all the malls are dead.
posted by loquacious at 9:02 PM on June 16, 2008 [4 favorites]


When I saw the .ae addresses of the links in Afrobianco's post, I thought this was a big dead mall in Dubai. Surely the UAE can do better than China!
posted by lukemeister at 9:07 PM on June 16, 2008


I am heartened by this failure.
posted by TheOnlyCoolTim at 9:34 PM on June 16, 2008 [2 favorites]


The thing that makes me sad is the waste. However, the thing that is awesome is also the waste; the fact that not every inch of the world needs to be devoted to highly successful retail.

if only this land would be reclaimed for something nice
posted by davejay at 9:35 PM on June 16, 2008


if only this land would be reclaimed for something nice

Like a giant squat filled with skateable terrain, a brewery, a windfarm and a vegetable and herb garden.

Also: Flamethrowers and stuff. Feral kids with metal boomerangs. Rocket-propelled gyrocopters.


13:27: Kit goes off to do peculiar things in a corner
13:30: loquacious: Corners are certainly the second best places to do peculiar things.
13:32: loquacious: The very best places to do peculiar things are nice places like churches or shopping malls.
13:34: Lord Brawl: nice != mall
13:35: loquacious: Oh, they have such nice things there! You really should try it. So many wonderful, nice, flammable things! *shivers*

posted by loquacious at 10:03 PM on June 16, 2008


Most of the dead commercial real estate that I've seen in the past was built in the 60s and 70s. What was striking about this mall, besides the size, is that it is new- yet it is already showing the initial signs of decay. Visqueen, dust, peeling paint and falling plaster are cosmetic, but malls live and die by appearance.

I think there is a similar relationship between the collapse of the old postwar suburbs (and residential areas of the larger industrial cities) and the failed McMansion subdivisions. Changes in society, demographics and the economy obsoleted the former, but the latter never made sense (at least in the quantities they were being built.)
posted by theclaw at 11:43 PM on June 16, 2008 [1 favorite]


This isn't a "failure of capitalism" because it isn't capitalism.

This has nothing to do with "central planning" either. It's corruption. Corruption in a system that is much more capitalist than socialist.
posted by afu at 1:11 AM on June 17, 2008 [1 favorite]


Mr. Roboto, a lot of that "easy credit" for big prestige projects like this has been the result of "unofficial" direct orders from the powers-that-be, often because they received a bribe.

This isn't a "failure of capitalism" because it isn't capitalism.


By that standard capitalism has never existed. Even in free market land mall builders require planning and zoning permissions, request and receive tax subsidies and have to buy local councilors hot tubs.
posted by srboisvert at 1:33 AM on June 17, 2008


Pyongyang's abandoned hotel.
posted by stavrosthewonderchicken at 2:56 AM on June 17, 2008 [5 favorites]


As the mall was about to open, one of its design consultants, Ian Thomas of the Thomas Consulting Group in Vancouver, told the trade publication Shopping Centers Today that the zones were “done with such authenticity, with such great attention to detail, that you really think you’re in the real thing.”

The Arc de Triomphe that stands in the very middle of the South China Mall – one of the first things I saw upon arrival – bears eleven circular seals engraved with the name of the city that meant so much suffering for Napoleon’s army: “MOCSOW”. It takes a minute to figure out that the seals have been affixed upside-down.


This is nothing short of brilliant.
posted by Spatch at 5:38 AM on June 17, 2008 [4 favorites]


I have no idea of the particulars Class Goat but the bloated and mostly deserted mall is a common motif here in the US, central planning and government money or not.

When you get right down to it big centrally managed top down corporations are indistinguishable form big centrally managed top down nation states. Once you believe you have and endless supply of whatever you need and no one ever tells you no, the sky is the limit.

Right until reality rears its ugly head.
posted by Kid Charlemagne at 5:45 AM on June 17, 2008 [1 favorite]


My hometown has its own dead mall, although it surely lacks the grandeur of the South China.
posted by The Card Cheat at 6:19 AM on June 17, 2008


Perhaps the Chinese are just eliminating the inefficient middle period of mass consumerism and making a great leap forward to join the rest of us as we crumble into post-capitalist ruination.

Very astute observation.

Interestingly, however, the article seems to indicate that this particular project is the result of an independent developer and too-loose credit

There is no development in China without government involvement (read: kickback$). Land is not privately owned so developers are "licenced" by government agencies to build. Often they do so without any prior planning, they just sell a big idea to a mayor, the developers and the mayor get investors to pour in money, they get out before the inevitable collapse and leave the shareholders holding the bag and the displaced masses that lived on/farmed the land with almost nothing.
posted by Pollomacho at 6:45 AM on June 17, 2008 [1 favorite]


Neat find!

I work over in a neighborhood where the mall is dying. Actually... it's all mall ya'll might know -- Metrocenter, from Bill 'n' Ted's Exellent Adventure. The whole area of phoenix is kinda shutting down... it's weird. In a place like Portland artists would take it over or something, occupy the empty department stores or something for awhile... but instead, the main tenants just keep moving out, only to be replaced with either nothing or a cellphone store.

You'd be amazed at how many cellphone stores a single mall can support.

It's remarkable, though, that this project in China would ever be built, given that they didn't seem to have a good plan for how to actually use all that space. Seems like it'd be a fun place to go roam around, anyway...
posted by ph00dz at 7:12 AM on June 17, 2008 [1 favorite]


Looks like another Millionaire needs to make a donation to the homeless (or something). I hear 5 million Chinese are homeless after the earthquake. Bet one could house a lot of people inside this behemoth.
posted by HyperBlue at 7:22 AM on June 17, 2008 [3 favorites]


Bet one could house a lot of people inside this behemoth.

Except, like much of China's hastily thrown together developments, it's probably already begining to crack and collapse.
posted by Pollomacho at 7:41 AM on June 17, 2008 [1 favorite]


I find these supermalls to be kind of soulless places. Which isn't some kneejerk I-hate-malls thing, because I actually am quite fond of shopping malls. They are great places to sit back and people watch, but over the years, I've witnessed one mall in the Milwaukee area slowly get bigger and bigger. And, without a doubt, they have done nice work with it, the architecture is attractive and it's ability to move customers through it has been greatly improved. But I remember what it once was; it had a plant lined stream with goldfish and koi, bisecting it's entire length. In the center there was an ice-skating rink, which was directly underneath the first McDonald's to not have the golden arches outside of it. There was a two-story green house which straddled the stream and filled the mall with the smells of flowers.

The stores were almost all tiny little specialty shops which carried all manner of strange and wonderful things. Unfortunately times changed and the management must have realized that the real money was in franchise operations. Within a few years, all the things that made the mall unique were gone and while the place is easier to navigate, it's much less fun to visit.

It's not a dead mall by any means, now it's a clone of every other mall within 50 miles of it and that makes it a lot less interesting.

Still, if it ever gets abandoned, I'm totally breaking in and taking photos.
posted by quin at 8:14 AM on June 17, 2008 [1 favorite]


This is fascinating.
posted by lunit at 9:12 AM on June 17, 2008


amyms: The once-busy mall of my hometown, the place where we went to "see and be seen" in my early teens, became a barren echo-chamber when a newer, bigger mall opened right across the street.

I'm reminded of the bit from Babbitt where the real-estate-developer protagonist colludes with city management to sell an adjacent lot to a store owner by threatening to sell it to a competitor. In other words: this kind of thing is a fixture on the landscape of American capitalism.

A Dominos near here opened up six months ago across the street from a locally-owned pizza place. The local place, Ed's Pizza, went out of business a week ago because of it. The weird thing is, it's a kind of weird place to open a Dominos: there's little development in this area other than the new grocery store. The place is doing well for the moment, but I have to wonder, what was it that inspired Dominos to open a store here. Do they have agents scouring the nation looking for plucky little pizza businesses to crush? Is this how they do their site research?
posted by JHarris at 9:49 AM on June 17, 2008


JHarris - Babbit is an amazing book! When I read it, I was absolutely taken aback by how little the American character has changed in the last 80 years.

The last 7.5 years in particular have been an age of high babbitry.
posted by Afroblanco at 11:13 AM on June 17, 2008


This isn't a "failure of capitalism" because it isn't capitalism.

I once heard a staunch communist say the same thing about communism and the USSR.
posted by ornate insect at 12:03 PM on June 18, 2008


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