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Adam Minter

Death of Malls Has Been Greatly Exaggerated

America’s dying shopping malls are often treated as a shorthand for the country’s economic troubles. Asia’s retail landscape suggests a more complicated story.
Don't mind the Gap.

Don't mind the Gap.

Nicky Loh/Bloomberg

I live in Kuala Lumpur, in a high-rise attached to a shopping mall. That shopping mall is a 19 minute drive from two much larger shopping malls, and a 20 minute drive from three more. And not to brag, but three of those nearby malls recently ranked among the 10 largest in the world, including 1 Utama, the world’s fourth largest, with 364,515 square meters (3.9 million square feet) of leasable space.

Once upon a time, the U.S. was the one building world-beating malls. These days it’s more busy tearing them down. Last Monday, crews began demolishing Cleveland’s Randall Park Mall, which opened in 1976 claiming to be the world’s largest shopping center. It’s just the latest entry in a growing list of expired indoor shopping emporiums that “once served the working class,” according to a CNN Money report on Randall Park.