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…

Sitting on the property, banking on its value to rise.

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Despite the seismic cultural and political shift that typically takes place every four or eight years, Washington DC has enjoyed a growth trajectory that surpasses most other US metros. In the first ten years of the 21st century, the region grew 16.4% –fourth highest among the ten most populous metros, and it proved particularly resilient …Read more…

Lifestyle centers: with Saucon Valley, neither lively nor stylish.

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Now that the holiday season is long behind us, we can only hope to rebound from the latest wave of contractions among our perpetually ailing retail sector. You know what I’m talking about. After dismal holiday performances, chains like Sears, Kmart, and Macy’s announced a slew of nationwide closures.  Meanwhile, smaller, specialty retailers The Limited and …Read more…

Mall department stores: will the last one please turn the lights out?

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We’ve been hearing and witnessing for years the turbulent state of American retail. Conventional sellers of durable goods—of housewares, sporting goods, electronics, and clothes—have suffered in general, and malls have suffered in particular. But even more salient have been the struggles of the historic department stores to our malls. Scarcely a week goes by when …Read more…

Who needs Vegas for quirky chapels? The rest of the country is holding its own.

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I’d wager that the American religious landscape is currently undergoing a cataclysmic shift, but that would be disingenuous, since it suggests that the shift, with all these denominations, is something recent. It isn’t. Religious expression—or the demonstration of it among its adherents—has never really been static in this country. Throughout the twentieth century, the number …Read more…

When a business hits the big time, it goes small.

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Hot on the heels of my article on a mac ‘n cheese food truck that made it to the major leagues—that is, as a standalone restaurant–I have stumbled across a sign for an eatery that seems to be adopting a similar approach: Yes, macaroni and cheese is incredibly en vogue at the moment, so it should …Read more…

For moribund malls, there’s redemption in restaurants.

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Amidst the prosperous expanses of suburban Philadelphia, we encounter a mall.Let’s get real here. This the eighth largest metro area in the country. Of course there’s a mall—quite a few, actually, and this blog has covered more than its fair share. This one, heretofore unexplored and located within Montgomery Township, Montgomery County, Pennsylvania, is appropriately …Read more…

Among those ritzy restaurants…a Reading Room.

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In a nondescript nook within Summit, New Jersey’s generally thriving downtown, we encounter a main street standby from days past. Yes, it’s a Christian Science Reading Room. I imagine most of us—most Americans, at least—have seen one at some point, even if quite a few probably don’t know exactly what they are. In the past, …Read more…

If a tree grows in Brooklyn, then Queens can claim an entire garden.

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When a settlement grows suddenly and rapidly, it’s common for the new development to completely overwhelm everything that preceded it: not just for the older settlement to get engulfed in the new, but for it to disappear completely. It’s happening all over the fast-growing areas of the American southwest, particularly states like Texas, where formerly rural …Read more…