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'What Mall?' Landlords Laugh Nervously While Trying to Hide Giant Sign Reading 'MALL HERE'

What mall? I don’t see a mall! Photo: Getty Images.
What mall? I don’t see a mall! Photo: Getty Images.

When you see 360,000 sprawling feet of retail options, you may assume you can safely call it a “mall.” But landlords insist that you are a silly goose and in fact it is a “promenade.” Or “shoppes.” Or a “crossing.” But it is definitely not a mall, and they don’t know where you got that impression!

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The Wall Street Journal reports that more and more landlords and developers are frantically stripping the word “mall” off things that are definitely malls:

The former Ballston Common Mall recently scrubbed the four-letter word from its name, part of a makeover designed to obscure that it is, well, in fact, a mall.

“The mall needed to de-mall,” said Jean Komendera, president of marketing firm Gold Dog Communications Inc., who worked on rebranding the property. Also off the list was any word that sounded like a mall, such as pavilion and galleria.

Landlords are expunging the m-word from shopping-center entrances, Facebook pages and corporate materials. Of the 90 regional malls that have undergone renovations since 2014, 17 have removed “mall” from their names, according to property consultancy JLL.

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And, to be fair, many times they’ve made changes to justify the name change:

Owners of upscale multipurpose leisure-time consumer destinations [I love it when the Journal gets sassy -KF] say a name change is in order, since they have ripped off roofs, planted trees and otherwise reimagined their properties. The centers no longer are rectangular boxes of windowless stores surrounded by rectangles of parking. They now boast gyms, office space and restaurants as well as street lamps, apartments and hotels.

“Retail, especially in the context of mixed-use projects, is as much about place, experience, entertainment, wellness and community as it is about shopping, and the word ‘mall’ doesn’t fully embody those qualities,” Will Voegele, SVP of development at the parent company of what was Ballston Common Mall, but with the addition of “apartments, a food hall, and outdoor event space” has become Ballston Quarter. Totally not a mall! Just like those upscale food halls featuring a variety of local restaurateurs are definitely not regular old mall food courts with a graphic design sensibility that borrows heavily from Etsy.

Just think of all the rebrands the future holds. Miniature golf courses from the ’60s can become “destination experiences” for millennials hunting social media photo ops, in the style of the Museum of Ice Cream. Insist all the shopping bags are made out of plain brown paper and suddenly it’s like an old-time general store. Add a shuttle bus to a giant parking lot two doors down and it becomes “ride sharing.” Those aren’t massage chairs—they’re a networking hub. The possibilities are endless!

Senior Editor, Attic Haunter, Jezebel

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DISCUSSION

In Maryland they love “Town Centers” in place of malls (or “Towne Centres” depending on their level of douchiness). Big outdoor areas with a quaint little “main street” with benches and a fountain and shit like that, usually with a traffic circle or two thrown in for good meausure. Along that main drag you’ve got a bunch of clothing stores, small restaurants, salons, stuff like that. Then it’s anchored on the outer edges by big box stores (Target, Bed Bath, etc.) and chain restaurants, with maybe a grocery store or a movie theater along the perimeter as well. Oh, and there are often residential areas near it (town houses) or literally on top of it (luxury condos built on top of the shops). They’re trying to create little mini-neighborhoods, and it’s weird and artificial as hell.