Room to Shop

Lloyd Center

Americans need room to buy stuff Americans don’t need.

I read an article in last week’s New York Times Magazine about the movement to convert vacant retail space into churches, museums, libraries, schools, and other community spaces.

The article’s author, Rob Walker, quoted some statistics from a book called “Retrofitting Suburbia,” by Ellen Dunham-Jones and June Williamson. The statistics were somehow shocking but not at all surprising. In 1986, the United States had about 15 square feet of retail space per person in shopping centers. By 2003, that figure had increased by a third to 20 square feet. “The next countries on the list are Canada (13 square feet per person) and Australia (6.5 square feet).” The European country with the most retail space per person in shopping centers is Sweden, of course, at 3 square feet per person.

Interesting note: As of October 2008, Portland had the country’s fourth lowest level of retail space in shopping centers per person among major American cities, according to to this report with the ironic title from CoStar Advisors. At 14.43 square feet person (which is still huge), Portland comes in behind New York City (1.66 square feet), Long Island (9.3 square feet), and San Francisco (12.25 square feet). (The picture above is of Portland’s mall, the Lloyd Center.)

CoStar also calculated the total retail space per capita (shopping centers and everything else) for the 59 major markets. Those 59 markets have an estimated average of 43.71 square feet of retail space for every man, woman, and child in the city. Portland has the third lowest retail space per capita at 27.95 square feet, trailing Long Island and Charlotte. The market with the most retail space per capita is Southwest Florida at 74 square feet, followed by Richmod, Winston-Salem, Greenville, Tulsa, Oklahoma City, Toledo, San Antonio, Jacksonville, and Birmingham.

This is a post about our priorities.


2 comments on “Room to Shop

  1. I’ve mentioned this before, Wal-Mart and malls are probably only a few years away from including carnival rides and petting zoos. Scary.

  2. that article pretty much ruined my sunday. so screwed up. anyone for moving to sweden?

    in omaha’s recent mayoral election, one of the hot topics was what to do with the crossroads mall, which is now nearly completely empty as shoppers take their business to newer venues elsewhere. there weren’t any good ideas. it’s hard to re-purpose spaces designed for retail…although a church will probably set up housekeeping there.

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