How long before the robots tell us “Thank you, come again”?

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In the suburban fringe of Indianapolis, just within the city limits, patrons of a regional supermarket chain encounter this…um, mural?—as they exit the premises.“See you tomorrow.” Clearly it’s a marketing ploy, gently cajoling the visitor into making the grocery trip a daily occurrence. More than anything, though, this sign is a nod to nostalgia, evoking …Read more…

In Central Falls, a strip mall is still salvation.

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Even in the best of times, the opening of a new strip mall rarely if ever gets anyone’s pulses racing. This one, on the southern boundary of Central Falls, Rhode Island, a suburb of nearby Providence, is no different.The only characteristic that distinguishes this is a certain three-letter adjective that appears in my first sentence—a word …Read more…

City View Church: an old, urban fedora atop a young, suburban head.

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Religious conservatives have bemoaned the perceived encroachment of secularism in this country for decades, manifested most powerfully through surveys over the last few years that reveal an unequivocal rise in religious “Nones”. Credible those these results may be, polls do not always align with on-the-ground manifestations of those surveyed sentiments, as the data collected before …Read more…

Full skyscrapers, looming over empty streets.

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Those of us who identify as urbanophilic—to which I include myself a great deal of the time—have long bemoaned the lack of density afflicting many of our American urban centers, which impedes these places from achieving not just the level of on-the-street liveliness heralded by Jane Jacobs—the first great autodidact urbanophile—but their basic capacity to …Read more…

Drive-by wifi?

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If we’re seriously looking—and you know I am—rarely a day goes by where we can’t spot some new sign of desperation in the retail sector. We can visit the stores themselves, and witness not just the deep sales (“By one dress shirt! Get another for a Penney!”). In the most incorrigibly floundering businesses, the thin …Read more…

A power center turns over a new leaf, only to find more grubs.

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About a year ago I explored one of the few retail typologies that seems to be growing in prevalence during this turbulent era: the power center. It’s essentially the only physical construction that suburban retail developers are building these days. And they usually look like little more than a strip mall on steroids—which, apparently, is …Read more…