December 31, 2018
Yesterday I took the kids to see Ralph Breaks the Internet.
The movie was great, all three of us laughed and enjoyed the silly moments Disney is so good at capturing in their movies, along with their typically great main storylines. My son liked the Fortnite cameo. I enjoyed the movie’s portrayal of the Dark Net.
Given the first movie’s title, I was a little surprised this one wasn’t called “Ralph Wrecks the Internet”. But I digress.
The closest theatre showing the movie was at The Artist formerly known as Chesterfield Mall. Man is it in bad shape. I haven’t been there in probably 5-10 years. Between the rise of internet shopping and new, outdoor malls built less than a 5 minute drive away the mall I grew up with is in shambles. It is eerily quiet. Only about 10 stores remain, a handful of which are national brands such as Eddie Bauer and Victoria’s Secret, the rest a smattering of niche retailers. 3 of the 4 “anchor tenants” are gone, with only Macy’s left. The food court is empty except for a lone establishment braving the quiet.
Certainly the internet has taken a toll on brick and mortar retail stores, but in this case the larger culprit has to be 2 new outdoor outlet malls built a few years ago just a short drive down I-64. At the time, there was great excitement about growth, progress, or whatever buzzwords the city used to justify allowing construction on one hand, and likely doling out tax exemptions with the other.
I understand the need to replace structures that become unsafe or are no longer useful, but in this case the existing mall is still in great shape, with plenty of capacity for all the stores that occupy the new malls. (In fact, a good number of the stores likely just picked up and moved. Though maybe not obviously opening the new, then closing the old store.)
I wonder how long this trend will continue. You see it in pro sport stadiums as well. The old stadium is no longer good enough (aka the owners can’t make enough money on it, by their definition at least) so they demand a new home or threaten to leave.
Corporate headquarters are the same story, most recently with Amazon teasing the entire country over their so-called HQ2 hunt.
I suppose as long as the risk of pissing off big business is greater than the risk of pissing off voters, we will continue to see these type of projects move forward.