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…

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…