Mall-Free Planet: Finish What Occupy Gezi Started
By Mickey Z
09 June, 2013
"The mall at the end of town is dead. Amen." - Rev. Billy
At their root, all protests and demonstrations are the result of systemic issues—and the current uprising in Turkey is no different. However, one of the original sparks for Occupy Gezi was a government plan to remove Gezi Park—a rare green oasis on the European side of Istanbul—to not only rebuild the Ottoman-era Taksim Military Barracks but also to erect a shopping mall.
Now, I'm sure those same Ottomans—not to mention the Aztecs, Incas, Romans, Mongols, etc.—were pretty damn pleased with themselves at one point and figured what they were doing could and would never end. But, in reality, all empires, cultures, and civilizations fall…leaving behind tell-tale remnants.
Like military barracks.
And shopping malls.
From sea to overfished sea, the land of the free™ is littered with dead malls.
While malls were constructed at a rate of roughly 140 per year during the 1990s, by 2007—for the first time in five decades—no new malls were built in the U.S. In the following two years, more than 400 of the largest 2,000 malls in the U.S. shut their doors and currently: there are more than 200 malls with over 250,000 square feet that have vacancy rates of 35 percent or higher
"For some, the end is coming none too soon," writes Kimberly D. Mok at Treehugger.com. "As icons of excessive consumptionand shortsighted urban planning, malls represent everything that has gone wrong with our car-based consumer culture."
However, I’d suggest that some deserted structures are worthy of mourning. I came to this conclusion while contemplating the fate of what was once the hallmark of modern pop culture: abandoned movie theaters. Sadly, the act of attending a film showing with a few hundred of your closest friends appears to be going the way of Vaudeville and Burlesque.
The way I see it, while we're still living in the midst of industrial civilization, communal movie viewing is something we should definitely encourage. It's got to be better for us to get off our couches and meet friends to laugh, cry, thrill, swoon (and more) at the local theater. Prior to cable TV, VCRs, DVD players, the internets, and hand-held entertainment, going to the movies used to be good old-fashioned neighborhood fun.
The moral of this tale? Let’s revive the movie theaters for their original function but find much more progressive uses for all those deserted malls.
Kimblery D. Mok wonders if “eulogizing the death of the shopping mall may be premature” as she offers this for us to ponder: “What we could have on our hands is a great opportunity, limited only by imagination and the political and communal will to transform these dead spaces into something potentially greater.”
How to Re-Purpose a Mall?
Here are just a few of the ideas that came to my mind:
· Affordable Housing
· Artists' Studios
· Community Centers
· Community Gardens
· Re-Open Them as “Museums of Consumption”
· Roomy Places to Plot the Coming Revolution
· Let Nature Run its Course
I also put the question to those who visit my Facebook page and here’s a sampling of their replies:
Farm, solar/wind power plants, town square, a city market indoors, free public library, community center for wayward teens, high quality government subsidized daycare with awesome indoor kiddie gym, dance halls, roller rinks, farm the roof, huge cooperative spaces with greenhouses and organic food markets and educational centers, free beds and showers, sharing libraries like tool libraries and clothing exchanges and even furniture exchanges, create a "tree museum" of what once was here, a place to barter or to give things away…
One FB suggestion perhaps best summed up the direction we need to explore, e.g. creating a softer place to land:
As the Occupy Gezi graffiti goes: "When capitalism has nothing to offer us except malls and tear gas, resistance becomes an imperative."
NYC event note: Come see Mickey Z. in person at Union Square Park (north) on June 9 for the Third National Animal Rights Day: https://www.facebook.com/events/547693975261320
Mickey Z. is the author of 11 books, most recently the novel Darker Shade of Green.
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