Women’s Wear Daily
04.19.2014
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people

Moment 23: The New Mall

Seattle was home to the first suburban shopping mall in 1950, before the phenomenon took hold across the country.

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The Mall of America in Bloomington Minn

In spring 1950, Seattle became the home of the first suburban shopping mall, but it wasn't long before the car-friendly phenomenon took hold across the country. Lakewood, Calif.; Framingham, Mass.; San Francisco, and Southland, Mich., were among the communities to embrace the all-are-welcome concept.

As more shoppers started flocking to shopping centers and malls, downtown shopping districts introduced free parking in 1955 as an attempt to lure customers back. WWD wrote about their efforts, and the following year "Turning Main Street Into Tree-Lined Malls" was front-page news. WWD also reported how some stores introduced babysitting services as an incentive for shopping mothers. Merriment was evident, when images of Toy Town at Seattle's mall were splashed on the front page in December 1955.

The fully enclosed regional-size shopping complex was pioneered in 1956 by the Austrian-born architect and American immigrant Victor Gruen. In May 1958, his plans for the first skyscraper shopping center in New Rochelle, a 24-floor building anchored by a 225,000-square-foot Macy's, were detailed in WWD.

Given the popularity of malls, it is no surprise that WWD declared "Early Census Data Point to Suburban Expansion" in June 1960. Fast-forward three decades and hundreds of malls later, and the shopping-as-entertainment and multiuse megamall concepts were fixtures on the pages of WWD—including the 1992 opening of the Mall of America in Bloomington, Minn., complete with an amusement park–sized roller coaster at center court.

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