Ellen Dunham-Jones: This Year’s Holiday Shopping Must-Have is Space
November 23, 2020 | Atlanta, GA
By Carmen New
It is that time of year when people visit malls and shopping centers to shop and soak up the holiday season. This year, in true 2020 fashion, even the traditional holiday shopping experience will be disrupted. But not necessarily for obvious reasons.
“Mall shopping, in particular, has really always been more of a leisure activity than a necessity, errand-type activity,” said Ellen Dunham-Jones, professor and director of the Master of Science in Urban Design (MSUD) program in the Georgia Tech School of Architecture.
“With the increase in the number of hours that Americans now spend indoors, especially looking at a screen, a lot of us are craving to spend what leisure time we have outdoors,” she said.
“That's what was driving the conversion of indoor malls into outdoor and mixed-use centers, pre-pandemic.”
Co-author of Retrofitting Suburbia: Urban Design Solutions for Redesigning Suburbs and the forthcoming Case Studies in Retrofitting Suburbia: Urban Design Strategies for Urgent Challenges Dunham-Jones is renowned for her research related to the death of malls and the retrofitting of abandoned shopping and business spaces.
Enclosed spaces, from large malls to small standalone shops, face new challenges as consumers opt to shop online instead of in-person, as a matter of safety. The changes we will see in this year’s holiday shopping season were set in motion years ago, she said.
"Reality is, malls might have initially been built as open air, and then it became fashionable to have the roof and then became fashionable to take the roof off," said Dunham-Jones. "They're constantly evolving."
Dunham-Jones studied many malls around the country and observed how they thrive once retrofitted. She found that there are approximately 1500 buildings or developments in the U.S. that were at one point in time enclosed malls.
Many of those spaces have taken on new purposes to better serve their communities. Enclosed malls live new lives as medical facilities, green spaces, housing for seniors, and more.