Monthly Archives: November 2015

Shrinking U.S. Shopping Malls Get Makeover

Reprinted from The Wall Street Journal

Overbuilding, e-commerce force landlords to get creative with new developments

austin-texas-mallVisitors used to flock to the Highland Mall in Austin, Texas, around the holidays to stroll through the city’s first enclosed shopping complex and admire the giant Christmas tree crafted from poinsettia plants.

But this holiday season, no shopping will be done there. Workers are converting the 600,000-square-foot structure into a campus for Austin Community College with classrooms, lab space and a culinary arts center.

Austin’s economy is strong and its population swelling, but Highland couldn’t attract enough shoppers to stay afloat.

“Competition came up and killed it,” said Matt Whelan, principal at developer Red Leaf Properties LLC, which is working with the college on the project.

An era of relentless expansion for American shopping centers is coming to an end as a toxic brew of overbuilding, the rise of e-commerce and a wave of retailer bankruptcies force landlords to reimagine once-lucrative properties.

Some owners are converting struggling malls into apartments, offices and industrial space, while others are turning big chunks of retail space into parks and playgrounds to keep shoppers interested.

To read the full article, visit http://www.wsj.com/articles/shrinking-u-s-shopping-malls-get-makeovers-1448361001

 

 

Grant funds youth violence prevention work in Camden

Reprinted from http://www.courierpostonline.com/

camden

CAMDEN – What happens when you restore rundown buildings that contribute to violence?

Camden is about to find out.

The Michigan Youth Violence Prevention Center has received $6 million from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to continue its studies on how improving vacant properties affects violence, property crimes and intentional injuries among youth.

The Michigan center, based at the University of Michigan School of Public Heath, will focus on the effects of engaging residents, particularly youth, in caring for properties in their neighborhoods.

The study will be done in Camden, Flint, Michigan, and Youngstown, Ohio over the span of five years.

Marc Zimmerman, professor of health behavior and health education at University of Michigan, says the study will test a “greening” hypothesis — becoming more active in protecting the environment — and “busy streets theory” — which suggests that by taking care of abandoned, empty lots within inner cities, safer streets will be created.

Read more at http://www.courierpostonline.com/story/news/local/south-jersey/2015/10/29/grant-funds-youth-violence-prevention-work-camden/74730382/

Detroit’s other blight crisis: Commercial decay

Reprinted from www.freep.com

In Detroit, many residents live and shop near hulking vacant buildings that have been abandoned for years, places that attract crime, vagrants, graffiti and scrappers.

Many of these blighted buildings line well-traveled corridors throughout Detroit’s neighborhoods. But exactly who owns them and why they remain in terrible condition for so long remains a mystery to many.

Standing on her porch on East Outer Drive among a stretch of homes with well-manicured lawns and hedges, Tomika Brown, 41, described the multitude of problems associated with a giant, crumbling building across the street. The building is so rundown its hard to tell how it was originally used.

“It just be a lot of drunks stopping in there, scrapping,” Brown said. “I want to tell (the owner), ‘tear it down; do something with it.’ It’s an eyesore.”

Covered in graffiti, the building has all the classic signs of urban blight. There is practically no fencing around the perimeter, leaving it open to trespass. Brown said the grass had not been cut for about three months. The Free Press contacted the property owner’s lawyer. It was finally mowed sometime on or after Oct. 5, Brown said.

The indistinguishable structure at 3040 E. Outer Drive is among a handful of vacant commercial buildings throughout the city the Free Press examined in an attempt to shed some light on the properties’ prolonged abandonment and the monumental task the city is facing it having owners take responsibility for them.

The analysis underscored the complexity of the city’s commercial blight problem. While much attention has been given to getting rid of city-owned blighted residential structures, including the rising cost under Mayor Mike Duggan’s administration for demolition, little attention has been given to blighted commercial properties, whose ownership ranges from out-of-town speculators to the city itself.

Read more here:

http://www.freep.com/story/news/local/michigan/detroit/2015/11/03/commercial-blight-detroit/73600778/