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Malls such as the Winter Garden in New York, designed by Cesar Pelli & Associates with Diana Balmori, offer pedestrian amenities that many cities rarely provide.

Malls such as the Winter Garden in New York, designed by Cesar Pelli & Associates with Diana Balmori, offer pedestrian amenities that many cities rarely provide.

Photographer: Pelli Clarke & Partners
CityLab
Culture

Lessons From the Golden Age of the Mall Walkers

Shopping malls won over a wide range of admirers, from teens to seniors, by providing something they couldn’t find in their public parks or sidewalks: a safe pedestrian experience.  

Excerpted from Meet Me by the Fountain: An Inside History of the Mall, available June 14. Copyright Alexandra Lange, 2022. Reprinted with permission of Bloomsbury.

When Caroline Knutson began walking laps at the Lancaster Mall in Salem, Oregon, in 1982, she felt like she was onto something. She had signed up for TOPS — Take Off Pounds Sensibly, a nationwide nonprofit wellness group — and it provided new friends as well as a new routine. She chatted, shopped and exercised, on dark winter mornings as well as light summer ones. Back then she drove herself to the mall and walked without assistance. By 2013, when the The Statesman Journal caught up with her, she was vision impaired and using a rolling walker. Her daughter had to drop her off, but she still showed up most weekday mornings at the mall. Now she made one half-mile loop of the mall rather than six to eight.