I grew up in the shopping mall era. Many weekends, my friends and I would travel to Castleton Square or Glendale Mall on the north side in Indianapolis to wander, eat, people watch, see a movie, and/or play video games. Now and then, we would even shop. Because we grew up in the Midwest, an indoor shopping mall was nice for strolling and people watching during the cold winter months. But, the more I think about it today, the indoor shopping mall had another benefit that you don’t find in today’s “power” centers – they were designed to make you walk.
Sure, malls are one of those land uses that we urban planners love to complain about the most. They contributed to the closing of countless downtown stores, were a product of suburban sprawl, and most lacked any form of artistic design or inspiring architecture. But, on the plus side, their elongated layout with limited entrances encouraged shoppers to walk from store to store. By the time you walked back out to your car to move it to another store and walked back in, you might as well have walked the length of the mall. This was a positive attribute for those who needed more passive exercise. Likewise, here in the northern latitudes, one could walk the mall year round, just for exercise, as many seniors and walking geeks still do today at my local mall.
Power centers are aptly named for our car-cultured mannerisms and they certainly promote a sedentary lifestyle. Instead of having the so-called “aggravation” of walking/strolling from store to store, now you can park right in front of a specific store, quickly walk in and out, and then drive on to the next store. What better way to celebrate American laziness, than with a car-centered power center! Whooppee!