To the mall and back
Many mall operators and their communities are working hard to reformat their malls to become more mixed-use and experience-driven. We are involved in several of these types of projects. But some communities are taking a different tact. They realize that some malls cannot, and perhaps should not, be saved. Instead, they are focused on smart investments in the places that the mall disrupted.
One example is where we are working along East Main Street in Trotwood, Ohio. Trotwood is a railroad town-turned bedroom community for Dayton, Ohio, that saw its regional mall abandoned in 2005.
The City, rather than solely focus on the former mall site’s future, has taken a different tact. Rather than attempting to revive the highway-oriented mall site, it is doubling down on efforts to return its former Main Street into the active center of community life. Their goal is simple: create a walkable village that will create demand for residential and employment growth around it. Through this work they are realizing that a focus on an existing main street has some significant advantages over a former mall site. Main Street is:
Building and lot sizes are smaller, which allows for more incremental, authentic, and layered reinvestment.
The city grew up around a railroad corridor that is in the process of being converted to one of the country’s best bikeway networks. This will be a powerful draw for the district.
The former Main Street is still home to the civic center of the community with the library, courthouse, and city hall all within the district.
The district is closer to where people live and existing or potential job centers already are. It will serve as a real value-creating amenity for these neighborhoods.
The older main street sits along a river corridor that can provide far better access to natural amenities than the paved over former mall site.