« Phoenix apocalypse | Main | Rebranding Arizona »

August 17, 2015


Feed You can follow this conversation by subscribing to the comment feed for this post.

Technology- some much more online buying. Look what Amazon did to the brick and mortar bookstores.



Probably the massive footprint- what was once a strength turned into a weakness.

There's lots of retail that is struggling and that trend is going to continue.

Metro center, Christown, Park Central, Fiesta Mall. Good times. Good memories.

Park Central was killed off around 1990 when Robinson's May and Penney's both announced they were leaving. Diamond's remained but in a couple years it became an outlet store. Curiously, a few years prior, there was some "plan" to actually put a second level on it, along with high-rise condos on Central. Tax reform in 1986, which chilled the speculative building boom, put an end that idea. Chris-Town lumbered on a few years longer. For a while, it even had an upscale cachet with a Bullock's store. But when Bullock's went under, the die was cast. Its ultimate reinvention as a power center shows how Americans shop today even if they're still middle class. I lived for a few years close to the mall and witnessed the changing demographics spelling decline to what was once a "good area". In retrospect I can see it was no better than the willingness of people to maintain their connections in a city with shallow social capital. At the first hint of trouble, they skedaddled. Pretty much the same thing is true of Metro Center although it really didn't have the same proximity to pleasant north Central neighborhoods that Chris-Town had. To look at it today you realize how tenuous it always was. Still, this was the good life American-style for several decades. There are parts of this good life I think should be preserved but the city itself seems too distracted to even notice its scattered gems.

I occasionally look at Phoenix Vintage on Facebook and it's sad but understandable that people really did love this jerry-built city. "Do you remember" is the plaintive call across an arcing lifetime in which defunct stores and restaurants defined our lives for a brief if crucial moment. I wonder if today's young people living near "lifestyle centers" will feel the same tug when it comes to a Red Robin or Applebees. For us oldtimers, it's almost sacrilege to think you could find stardust in places like that. But the stories we tell are necessarily based on common experiences. We have no choice where we will invest magic in our cities. It's always where we encountered each other in that time-limited paradise called youth.

...uglified Biltmore Fashion Park indeed, with a capital U.

Drifted through Denver recently.The downtown has been cleaned up but it still has the sprawl matrix of western US cities. The transit is very good and it looks like metro planning is getting out in front of the area's anticipated growth. The bones aren't great like those of Portland, Seattle and many cities east of the Mississippi whose formative years occurred before the auto crazed era.

Part of the reason for all of the crapola housing built in Phoenix is the result of its right to bust unions heritage. Houses built in union strong states are much better built than right to work for lower wage states. Union training and restrictions much enhanced the quality of housing stock and workmanship in general.

Other than 3 restaurants and the Apple store the Biltmore is dead. Macy's is slow to poor. Macys busiest part is the interior Starbucks. It's just matter of time before the high end shops fold.

My take on Chris town is that it has made a slight resurgence. Particularly with the addition of the Super Target. And the movie theatre does well. Metro Centers main mid structure is dead. The exterior stores seem to do fairly well. I must confess that in 84 I shut down cruising on the loop inside Metro Center. And in 54 I picked grapes and lettuce just across the road (now I-17) to the east. And spent those summers living with the Valdez's at 2500 w Olive (now Dunlap). Behind the thier house was a dairy and just to the east was Judge Dunlap house. My first girl friend Priscilla Moreno (recently deceased) lived on ( what is now Townley) just behind the dairy. My parents in 54 paid $7400; for a 3 bedroom and 2 bath house at 30th Avenue and Butler. About .6 tenths of a mile south of the field that would become Metro Center. In between was the Arizona Canal our summer swimming pool.

I lived in Denver for a couple of years in he mid-70s and downtown was really, really good. It had five major department stores, lots of great old buildings, real urban fabric, and a heartbeat that was manifest in the crowded sidewalks where people had important business to do. What happened? Denver's energy boom changed downtown by unleashing the real-estate interests. Downtown was chopped up and rebuilt more in the fashion of Dallas than Seattle. By the early 80's, the department stores had all decamped to Cherry Creek, an upscale mall a few miles away, but still just that - a mall.

Today, downtown Denver is undergoing a major boom in apartment construction, mostly in the old rail yards north of Union Station (stunningly renovated). Still, there's something inorganic about much of it. Portland has something similar called the "Pearl" but it manages to interweave some nice old warehouses into the mix. It's ironic to read Drifter's observation that Seattle and Portland have better bones because Denver's were arguably much better before they systematically started tearing them down. Today, people ooh and ahh about the 16th Street mall but I don't quite get the buzz. It feels low-energy and vaguely pointless.

Denver is an order-of-magnitude greater city than Phoenix, so there's no point of comparison except, as Drifter notes, for the epic sprawl. Denver is a good enough city overall to turn Colorado purple if not blue. Phoenix cannot do the same for Arizona, at least not yet (c'mon Donald Trump! You can do it for us!). Phoenix's more modest apartment boom might eventually create some energy downtown. Let us pray.

I've never liked the term "right to work". The workable correct term is "right to starve".

Our economy needs Unions to maintain a balance .

Too bad that unions went corrupt and did themselves in.

Phoenix shopping...(oxymoron)...
For me...once or twice a year to Biltmore, 24th/Camelback... Costco and Super Target and J. C. penny, at Christown Mall.
I have not been to Snottsdale in a couple years... Same for Superstition Springs Mall.
On line.... Amazon, EBay, Sgt Grit... That does it all..
I hate the traffic to/from the big Malls. Christown is close, and all surface streets. Downtown offers AMC Theater, Christown is Harkins.
Downtown Phoenix still drys up at close of business and weekends.

Thanks for this, Jon. Insightful analysis. But I think there's far more unconscious racism in consumer choice with malls that you give credit to -- Arrowhead Towne Center (ridiculous name) and Desert Ridge Marketplace are regarded as the "white malls" as Metro went browner and browner over the years. The white rooftops are still there to the east of I-17 but in the collective mind of Phoenix, Metro became one of those places to look through rather than at.

I love the (WBIYB) tag next to every light rail mention. Reminds me of the Muslim tradition of (PBUH) after mention of the prophet.

I agree with you, Tom. But the brown people are also stuck in the lowest-wage jobs, lowest purchasing power, underground economy. Chandler is fine with the other brown people, subcontinent Indians working at Intel.

Re Denver:

I lived there in the early 1990s working at the Rocky Mountain News and have been back many times since.

One must differentiate Denver from the mass of sprawl on the Front Range. The city is compact thanks to the Poundstone Amendment, meant to hurt it by preventing further annexation — but it actually saved it.

Denver has great bones. Classic neighborhoods; City Beautiful Movement parks; one of the best rail transit systems in the country; great cultural assets, a real economy, etc. etc.

Outside of the city is a sprawl disaster and breeding ground for Krackpot red politics.

Denver made critically important decisions, and some were close-run things. People wanted to tear down the warehouse district and old buildings that became today's LoDo. Enough people loved the city that it didn't happen. Coors Field was melded into the fabric of LoDo. Dana Crawford was the first of the urban developers who brought the tools uniquely needed to make projects work in a dense city fabric. Passing FasTracks was absolutely critical.

Yes, I lament the exit of so much retail. Even when I was there, two department stores were downtown. But Cherry Creek is an urban mall, part of a walkable shopping district, and as close to downtown as Park Central is in Phoenix. Also surrounded by great neighborhoods.

I'm at Chandler Mall having a Wildflower salad walking, taking my BP and looking at dogs for sale. This part of town is owned by White LDS folks but includes significant numbers of Asians (think Intel) but many Asians have been here for generations. As there is a large number if Hispanics ( think Agriculture and Dairy). Interesting is that there are a number of Imigrant Spaniards, some of whom have married into LDS families. Some have become wealthy diary farmers. There are also numbers of Middle Eastern folks. But over all the crowd at Chandler on wrekends has a high number of tall white folks with bucks to spend.

Note: Most the Spaniards I know are not fond of Catholism. And do not know if you notice that most Malls have Kiosks selling Forever Flawless, Pink Diamond skin products and featuring Isreal salt sea water. A little inquiry will bring you interesting conversations with male and female ex Israeli military personnel, that man these booths.

Catholism and wreckend. Scuse my spelling.
Forgot to mention that shortly after 911 I heard that Chandler Mall was (the only Mall) on the Terrorists list.

What if downtown Phoenix was a little less glass and steel, and a little more Encanto Park? If the canal system exists to deliver irrigation, would it hurt so much to get some other benefits from it? It might not even be cost prohibitive to divert some water through downtown: isn't it mostly gravity flow? The malls and suburbs took retail from downtown because they're just inarguably more inviting. If Oklahoma City and San Antonio could do it, Phoenix could. Of course, in my naivete I probably don't grasp the politics of Phoenix trying to compete with Scottsdale and the other ticks that have attached themselves to Phoenix' hide, but it doesn't take a genius to see that people are attracted to water and shade.

Don't know that there will ever be a river walk in Phoenix, but if they do, make it no deeper than two feet. That way when the drunks fall in, they can just stand up to save their lives.

Ruben can U stand up while drunk? and do you fall face down?

Up date: Arizona Indians reject White man's yellow water.
I think I read that book, Yellow Stream.

If you've been in any area of Phoenix for a considerable amount of time, just reflect on how that area has evolved over its first two decades (or the last two if it's an older part of town). What too many in our real estate industry readily accept as a cyclical market is really just wasteful self-cannibalism in many cases.

Having grown up in South Tempe, I often think about all the office space and retail that was built on the edges of Awhatukee. Back in the 90s, this was one of the hot spots to be in the Phoenix area, but then the market "shifted." The reason for the shift? Ambitious new plans for Chandler Mall and the 101 corridor. The same thing has happened again and again throughout Phoenix, and we end up with dilapidated shells of buildings that serve little value unless, miraculously, the surrounding neighborhood gets "revitalized."

The failure of this formula is that our community often treats housing exactly the same way -- get into the neighborhood while it's new, sell high, and move on to the next booming area..... How's this working for us today? Is it maybe time for a change in how we treat our surrounding community and overall environment? I think so.

Obviously, I’m from the South and really only can speak of Birmingham and Atlanta with any real knowledge. But an awful lot of this seems very familiar.

Much of what is being spoken of with regard to “dying malls” is mostly racial.

There is a “tipping point” with regards to black (speaking of the South again) residency in an area. Once it reaches a certain point, it will become entirely black. I really never thought about this much until a blog out of Chicago (http://danielkayhertz.com/) pointed this out. Well, you might think that we racist rednecks would feel this way; and we do. But let me point out that Hispanics, Chinese, Japanese, Indians, Cubans, Mexicans, etc. do to.

Another factor is the god-awful governance of many (most?) large cities. They seem to be hostile to working-class and middle-class families – black and white.

The loss of morecleanair is certainly felt on this thread. His insights would have been interesting.

Wkg, it's about race and money.

A minority with money is welcome.

A minority without money, not so good.

I heard last week that a new Walmart is opening soon within Metrocenter, near the Phoenix Conservatory of Music, which is housed in a former storefront.

@RC re: “But they are safely segregated in white-right apartheid.” Per Wiki:

Scottsdale: 90% White
Gilbert 82% White
Chandler 73% White
Seattle 70% White
Portland 76% White
Denver 70% White

Note: these are for the cities, not the metros. No doubt Seattle, Portland and Denver are 85+% White for metro-wide demographics.

For areas that actually have minority populations, the situation is much like Ruben says, if you have money, there’s no real problem – to a point.

Places I’m familiar with there are two categories: mixed and all Black. I suspect in other places mixed, all-Black and all-Hispanic is the rule.


Great list of cities to avoid during Dogpatch America's trials and tribulations. Apparently praying to Aryan Jesus won't do you any good.

Glenn is on a list himself.

People deemed too crazy even for Fox News.

1. Glenn Beck

2. Sarah Palin

3. Don Trump (pending)

I thought this was a good post. The area around Metrocenter is baffling because EVEN AS the center is dying from the inside out, and 35th Avenue is a depressing sprawl of vacant strip malls and check-cashing places and so forth, there is ALSO new-built, successful, vibrant retail development taking place along the north edge of the Metro loop and along the south side of Peoria Ave. E.g. the Panera, the Texas Roadhouse, and some of the other locations that do tremendous business. There are also a couple new-built QT's on Peoria and either Cactus or T-Bird just west of the freeway. (I say this because Circle K's are pretty much the worst thing that can exist on any commercial zoned land, so therefore presence of a QT is always a slight improvement for a neighborhood because it in theory should help reduce the density of Circle K's in your neighborhood due to its size and relative quality and safety.)

So, really, the one factor I cannot explain in the ongoing decline of Metrocenter, is the success of some of the new-build retail and dining on the north edge of Metro. Metro itself, is not some scary place inside. I went a few months ago and it was fairly active, but the mix of stores wasn't the best. I think Wal-Mart going in there is a good thing, it WILL get people into the mall, probably like the Wal-Mart and/or Costco that they have at Chris-Town. Better that than an empty building.

Re: the comment of "Building tomorrow's slums today" ... Some of the far-flung new-build suburbs in particular make me think of Moreno Valley and Rialto/Fontana and some other SoCal communities that experienced much of the same relatively fast transition from brand-new to troubled areas.

The real issue is not with blaming developers for giving people what they want, but figuring out why people would rather live in a new-built frame-and-drywall box on the outskirts of the metro area, than buy an existing home in an established area. I don't get it, but clearly a large swath of homebuyers really like that "NEW!" home feeling despite the high likelihood that the starter-home communities are on an inexorable decline from the word go.

I remember when Metro center opened; the big stores held grand opening parties complete with waiters serving champagne. Those were fun times. Thelda Williams does a good job of keeping us informed of redevelopment plans for the mall. Multipurpose is one term I keep seeing. Educational, medical facilities, and multifamily housing.Hope it all works out. We live only 3 miles from there and have been in our house for 42 years.

This really articulated how I felt about my city but I could never put my finger on it.
I was born in the 70s, my family lived near 31st Ave & Rose Ln...Chris-Town was our mall, Metro was where you went with your friends.
I have since grown up, moved to Scottsdale (kind of chuckled that people still call it Snotsdale in the comments), and it all makes me sad, maybe it was just childhood but remembering Miracle Mile, or McDonald's inside Metro, or Buster Browns because I needed new Mary Jane's...I don't know if my kids will look back & remember Target, or Old Navy or Kierland that way... :(

Put a casino in the anchor space, that should get some action. ha ha

Recently went to Red Lobster by Metrocenter and was shocked by its demise I used to go the ice skating rink Farrells shopped at most of the stores cruised around Metrocenter outside circle then it hit me the last time I was at Metrocenter the Broadway was still there after I moved to Ahwatukee I never looked back
There is Walmart there now but it isn’t even accessible thru the mall so what’s the point i

I worked at Metrocenter from October 2018 until I was laid off in February 2009 due to the recession. I knew before even getting the job that the mall wasn't going to survive if it didn't change, it needed to be an outlet mall due to the surrounding demographics. I felt like we were making great strides. Security was doing a good job of keeping the mall safe, housekeeping kept the mall clean, Guest service was selling a lot of gift cards, we were re-purposing some of the spaces into schools, places to display local art, etc. The mall was very event based with Trunk or Treat, a Jordan Shoe experience during NBA All Star Weekend, and others. We were discounting rates for tenants and doing what we could to keep them. Chick Fil A did very well but when their contract was up they jumped at the chance to leave. I drove an hour each way to that job and loved the people but the problem was Macerich's inability to adapt to the declining area fast enough. I learned a lot and I would do it all over again. I wonder if Speedy the security officer still works there? Say what you want but the mall has outlived Fiesta and Los Arcos. God Speed Metrocenter, forever in my heart.

Jon can check my memory, but I recall back in the 90s or early 00s, when I lived in Phx, Metrocenter was begging the city for tax breaks. They needed to refurbish the mall to keep it attractive and up-to-date, or it would die. Other malls had gotten money (Town and Country), and now it was their turn.

My first thought was, Why give money to a company that isn't smart enough to put aside money to refresh it's infrastructure? Of course, the answer is that a wise company gives that money to shareholders because the public teat will rescue them.

If I recall, they didn't get the money.

Probably a small factor in the grand scheme of things. The article and other comments bring out other, more significant factors.

Only Park Central could have met a different fate. --this is coming back...the mall, open air is the new model..like desert ridge and biltmore fasn park..to cool the entire mall w business's coming an going is quite wasteful...

the net, costco and driving less..all new paradigms..

Verify your Comment

Previewing your Comment

This is only a preview. Your comment has not yet been posted.

Your comment could not be posted. Error type:
Your comment has been posted. Post another comment

The letters and numbers you entered did not match the image. Please try again.

As a final step before posting your comment, enter the letters and numbers you see in the image below. This prevents automated programs from posting comments.

Having trouble reading this image? View an alternate.


Post a comment

Your Information

(Name is required. Email address will not be displayed with the comment.)

My Photo

Your email address:

Powered by FeedBlitz