(james benedict brown) on the road

The emptiness of mall life…

Posted in Posts by James Benedict Brown on 21 November, 2005

I’ve just completed a mandate shift, courtesy of my friends at Randstad. On behalf of a well known publishing house, I helped set up the furniture, move the stock and set up for their annual staff only clearance sale. On sale for just C$5 each (about £2.50) were thousands of remaindered and returned books, videos, DVDs, CDs etc… even some very juicy atlases that I had my eye on, but which were snapped up before I returned on Monday.

This all took place in a grim suburban mall out in Hampstead, in the west of the city. It was a typical example of what happens to a shopping centre when it loses the vital ‘anchor’ tennant. In this case, a massive two storey department store formally run by Eatons, which propped up one end of the mall. It shut up shop in 1999, leaving behind a vague shadow of the mall, with about 30-40% of the retail units vacant, and a depressing feel of a mall that’s dying on it’s feet. No big name, means most people would rather just head downtown than shop there.

It’s a stereotype (and a pretty accurate one, in my experience) of modern North American life that with nothing else to do, teenagers like to cruise the mall. Many communities don’t have the social facilities for them elsewhere, so it’s something that I’m pretty used to. However, this particular mall exposed another startling ommission from the local community – an effective senior centre for the area’s large population of eldery and retired people. Each morning, when I came in at around 0830, the place was buzzing… but no-one was shopping. Groups of lycric clad pensionners (*shudder*… now there’s a material that looks good on no-one…) were making gentle walking circuits of the malls atriums, and enjoying lively banter over breakfast in the foodcourt. With nowhere else for them to go, the community had started to appropriate the space in the mall for them to use for exercising and socialising…

So now we have two distinct groups who have been marginalised by society and who have found themselves with no alternative but to use a privately (rather than publicly) managed space for their leisure activities – the under 18s, and the over 68s…


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