shopping center

shopping center, a concentration of retail, service, and entertainment enterprises designed to serve the surrounding region. The modern shopping center differs from its antecedents—bazaars and marketplaces—in that the shops are usually amalgamated into one encompassing structure. The first modern shopping center, the Country Club Plaza, opened in Kansas City, Mo., in 1922. By 1956, when the first enclosed mall, designed by Victor Gruen, opened in Edina, Minn., a suburb of Minneapolis, about 2,000 shopping centers had been built. The so-called malling of America peaked in the late 1980s and early 1990s, when approximately 60 large malls (more than 400,000 sq ft/37,000 sq m in size) were built annually; over 100 were built annually in some years during that period. In comparison, only about 30 large malls were built in 1998. Shopping centers accounted for about 76% of all nonautomotive retail sales in the United States in 2003.

Of nearly 47,000 shopping centers in the United States, about 1,100 are categorized as enclosed malls, Regional malls contain at least two department stores or “anchor stores” and, depending on population density, attract consumers from within a 20-mi (32 km) radius. Superregional malls, of which about 350 exist, include at least five department stores and 300 shops and may serve an area of up to a 100-mi (160-km) radius. Generally smaller, open-air strip centers, unlike the larger malls, do not usually feature an indoor concourse, although in the 1980s and 90s the construction of enclosed, or all-weather, minimalls began to accelerate. Open-air shopping centers are typically anchored by large grocery stores. Another distinction among shopping centers is location, namely suburban or downtown. In an attempt to revitalize retail sales in central business districts, many large U.S. cities have built so-called festival-marketplaces, which combine shopping, entertainment, and sightseeing. Examples of such centers include Faneuil Hall in Boston, South Street Seaport in New York City, Harborplace in Baltimore, and Ghirardelli Square in San Francisco.

The world's first megamall was the West Edmonton Mall in Alberta, Canada. Long also the world's largest mall at 5.3 million sq ft (493,000 sq m), it was the culmination of the developer's dream of a consumers' and retailers' paradise when it opened (1981–85). The mall contains more than 800 shops, 11 department stores, 110 restaurants, an ice-skating rink, the world's largest indoor water park, 19 movie theaters, a hotel, a chapel, 13 nightclubs, and a replica of Columbus's Santa Maria. The world's largest malls, in Dongguan and Beijing, China, began to open in 2005 and 2004 respectively, though the former is largely without tenants; there are a number of other megamalls in Asia. The largest mall in the United States is the 4.2-million-sq-ft (391,000-sq-m) Mall of America, opened in 1992 in Bloomington, Minn., which features at its center a seven-acre amusement park.

See V. Gruen and L. Smith, Shopping Towns USA: The Planning of Shopping Centers (1960); H. MacKeith, The History and Conservation of Shopping Arcades (1986); J. Garreau, Edge City: Life on the New Frontier (1991); M. Sorkin, ed., Variations on a Theme Park (1992).

The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright © 2024, Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.

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