The Third Place: Vacant Spaces and Dead Malls

In this Entry, I will be delving into two relevant topics which are of importance to the Shopping Citadel as a worthy rival of the Shopping Mall. First, I will discuss about the sensation behind the “Dead Mall” phenomenon and how the fascination with them by urban explorers, scholars, and artists bear some relation to the State of Total Mobilization. Next, I will then try to tie the discussion back to the Shopping Citadel by describing why there can be vacant spaces reserved for either the VCS Economy or the SSE. The presence of a vacant space inside a Shopping Citadel or a Shopping Mall is related to their opposing Modes of Production. The same is also true concerning how those vacant spaces are addressed by their owners and operators.

The Dead Mall Phenomenon

The rise of eCommerce has forced the Retail Industry to adapt to its technological implications. The effects are most profound in the Shopping Citadel’s rival in Production for Profit and Production for Utility, the Shopping Mall, where the Dead Mall phenomenon has grown in recent decades. A byproduct of the impact of Globalization and Deindustrialization, a Dead Mall refers to any Shopping Mall that has a majority of its tenants unoccupied. Vacant tenants deter the Shopping Mall from collecting on Rent payments. It is a consequence of the design philosophy that Viktor Gruen was relying on in his conceptualization of the Shopping Mall.

When Gruen originally conceived the Shopping Mall, he put great emphasis on the presences of “Anchor Stores” to serve as the primary source of Kapital in its economic activities. An Anchor Store such as a Department Store or a Supermarket would serve as the main attraction to the Shopping Mall. Incentives, like Rent discounts or bonus Kapital from the real estate firm or privatized commercial bank controlling the Shopping Mall, are then issued to the Anchor Store in order to compel them to stay. By keeping them around, the Shopping Mall will be able to attract more visitors to its premises. The increased generation in the Quantity of Kapital spurs further Incentives for smaller firms to obtain retail space as future tenants.

The success or failure of a Shopping Mall rests on the ability of the Anchor Stores to keep the Shopping Mall’s Quantity of Schuld lower than its Quantity of Kapital. As with any other form of economic activity in Production for Profit or Production for Utility, the Quantity of Kapital must always surpass the Quantity of Schuld. Thus, the Quantity of Schuld cannot be allowed to overwhelm the Quantity of Kapital. If a Shopping Mall were to lose any one of its Anchor Stores, it misses out any Kapital that it might have generated from future customers revisiting the premises. Should more Anchor Stores follow suit, the smaller firms operating inside the Shopping Mall will also face closure, causing the Shopping Mall to become a Dead Mall.

Dead Malls are characterized by their vacant retail spaces and growing lack of visitors. A liminal space begins to emerge from the growing sense of isolation and alienation that pervade the atmosphere. As the smaller firms shut down, the remaining ones are just scrapping by, trying to make sure they can survive another month. Since the Department Stores are struggling to contend with eCommerce and other competitors, the Dead Mall phenomenon has only grown by the turn of the 21st century. The Subprime Mortgage Crisis that preceded the Great Recession helped contribute to the demise of Shopping Malls and the same can be said about the social distancing measures associated with the Coronavirus Pandemic.

Seen in a different light, the Dead Malls represent an extension of the very urban decay that Gruen had expressed concern towards the end of his life in the 1960s and 1970s. After becoming disillusioned by what became of the Shopping Mall, Gruen devoted the remainder of his life decrying the urban decay of major US cities. The urban decay that defined the crime and depravity of US cities in the 1970s was preceded by problems that started appearing in the 1960s. Writing two books in 1965 and 1973, Gruen argued that America should pursue an infrastructural and architectural renewal effort in its cities to combat the rising urban decay. He believed that the economic livelihood of the American city was in decline because of American Suburbia and the automobile in particular. The Shopping Mall, in addition to being a communal institution, would have served as the introduction to European-style urban squares on American soil. The ideas that Gruen proposed in his works included the construction of highways that circled around major US cities and pedestrian-only locales in the downtown districts.

In a certain sense, some of his ideas have been realized, but others have not. Americans still rely on the automobile as their primary mode of transportation, even though they may have to trudge through increasingly clogged highways plagued by traffic delays and traffic jams. American Suburbia may be swimming in Schuld that it cannot possibly pay back anytime soon and the cities have become gentrified by young generations. However, the mentality that led to the urban decay of the cities, the rise of American Suburbia, and the decline of Shopping Mall have been left unchanged. It is because of this particular mentality that the Dead Mall phenomenon was able to become its own artform in own right.

Following the widespread popularization of the World Wide Web, a number of scholars, urban explorers, and artists have devoted websites, blogs, video documentaries, and photography of abandoned Dead Malls. Some of their artworks covered Shopping Malls that were either at risk of closing or have already closed its doors long ago. The latter in particular is where the real interest becomes apparent in truly abandoned Dead Mall as huge decrepit blights on nearby communities. The sizes for some of them can be too costly for certain towns and cities, especially those hit hardest by Deindustrialization and Globalization, to afford in Kapital. It is because of that so many continue to remain standing without anyone interested in reacquiring the premises or wanting to tear the Dead Mall down and convert it into something else.

The Intents behind the efforts of these people do vary. Some view the Dead Mall to be a convenient critique of the role that Viktor Gruen had played in fostering the Consumerism that made American Suburbia possible, even if Gruen is not the real target of their criticisms. Some partake in such ventures as a way to document fading memories of early adulthood, while others engage in what is really an exercise in social commentary. Those who perceive the exploration and documenting of Dead Mall believe that they are raising awareness about urban decay and the slow death of communities throughout parts of the American heartland. They argue that letting these abandoned building to rot signify a waste of resources and living space which could otherwise be devoted toward more beneficial endeavors that can support the livelihoods of surrounding communities.

Significance of Empty Spaces in Shopping Citadels

Therefore, one must ascertain whether the presence of a few empty spaces inside the Shopping Citadel or even the Shopping Arena to be necessary. This question must be addressed in a Financial Regime where the Rents and Mortgages are prohibited as compatibility issues to the Work-Standard. To understand why, we first need to recall that empty spaces inside a Shopping Citadel or Shopping Arena can be readily filled by the Council State. Sometimes, a Shopping Citadel or Shopping Arena might have empty spaces because the Prices for their Personal Properties may be higher than most Enterprises could afford. For those who cannot afford to own those Personal Properties and need them for their Vocation, the Council State may be convinced to allocate those empty spaces to interested Enterprises. Alternatively, the empty spaces could be provided to prospective tenants as a Prize for those who have proven themselves worthy of attaining them.   

However, there may be occasions where a Shopping Citadel might have certain workspaces reserved for special occasions involving the SSE or the VCS Economy. A few significant instances include the establishment of movie theaters, music venues, convention halls, and auditoriums. It is possible that those areas of the facility may not always be in use by the SSE or the VCS Economy. Under ideal conditions, we might expect the SSE and VCS Economy taking turns to use those areas for their respective economic activities as part of a waiting list or schedule as per the terms of a Work-Plan or Sponsorship. But in other circumstances, the only one using them might even be the SSE or the VCS Economy.   

Going by the Shopping Citadel and assuming that it is applicable to the Shopping Arena, why would the SSE and VCS Economy be turning turns to run and operate what were otherwise intended to be empty spaces? Should every Shopping Citadel (and every Shopping Arena for that matter) have all of its tenants fully occupied? What would be the Intent behind leaving certain tenants vacant to promote economic activities that have nothing to do with the Retail Industry?

Unlike the Shopping Mall, the Shopping Citadel is meant for far greater endeavors than just serving a large complex housing the various Enterprises of the Service Sector. It, along with the Shopping Arena, can be designed to nurture the National Consciousness and Socialization of Young Minds for both the Totality and the Student Body. In essence, the Shopping Citadel needs to be more than a simple “lifestyle center,” which is in final analysis an ersatz downtown. It has to serve as an important locale where the Totality’s cultural and traditional works of art can be displayed for Nationals and Foreigners alike to witness. Even the architecture itself can be designed to reflect the Authentic Dasein of the Totality. Festivals and holidays can be celebrated on its premises, in addition to serving as the primary meeting point for the Student Body to congregate and even socialize with international students from other nations.

More importantly, the Shopping Citadel can serve as an important facility in the promotion of a “Student Media” to compliment the State Media and the Social Media. The Student Media serves as the means by which the Student Body creates its own cultural and social achievements for the National Consciousness that they and the Totality share. Literature, music, films, TV shows, and video games can all be sold there insofar as it is possible for the physical copies to be cheaper than their digital counterparts. The Student Government might be inclined to invest in the broadcasting of Student Media to the rest of the Totality as a compliment to the other two forms of mass media. At the same time, it could provide future Intents for young people to express themselves and promote the Freedom of Conscience that I had discussed previously in Section Four.

For both the Shopping Citadel and the Shopping Arena, it is also possible to envisage them as reserving spaces for the organizational functions of the SSE’s Student Government. Since the Student Government is meant to be replicate the functioning Council Democracy that governs the State and Totality, many aspects of Council Democracy can also be applied at those facilities. A Shopping Arena of sufficient size might be able to host the Student Guilds and Student Enterprises of the Chambers subordinate to the local Student Council. Larger ones can even house the local Student Council itself. The same can be said about their regional counterparts in the Shopping Citadels. If the Kontore (Financial Offices) and the State Commissariats of Wages and Prices can be built into each Shopping Arena and their administrative personnel at the Shopping Citadel, it is only logical to include the Student Government’s regional and local Student Councils as extensions of the same proposal.

Given the characteristics of the Total Educational Effort, I am not expecting the spaces reserved for the Student Councils to always be filled during the opening hours of every Shopping Citadel or Shopping Arena. After all, part of the Total Educational Effort does involve the mandatory attendance of Academic and Specialty Classes where the Student Body is to receive classroom instruction. And even then, the Delegates sent from the Student Enterprises are not always going to be at the Chambers of their Student Councils because they will be working alongside the rest of the Student Body at the workspace. Thus, those spaces are only going to be used when the Student Body and the Student Government require them.

Conversely, we could argue for the same in the context of any convention halls that may be operating at the Shopping Citadel or Shopping Arena. Those convention halls are not always going to be used by anyone in need of hosting large assemblies of people. It is possible to expect the convention halls to be left unused on certain periods of the workweek. Similar should also be made for any theaters and music venues where plays and concerts are to be performed. The audience may not be there, but the performers will still need them for auditions and practice sessions.    

In retrospect, it is important to realize that any perceived constant presence of empty spaces or vacant tenants inside a Shopping Citadel or Shopping Arena do not always signify the signs of a “Dead Mall.” Never forget that the Dead Mall phenomenon is a byproduct of the shared paradigm that unites Production for Profit and Production for Utility. A Shopping Mall, like its Shopping Center counterpart, needs constant sources of Quantity of Kapital in order to stave off its Quantity of Schuld. A Shopping Citadel or Shopping Arena can afford to pay for its own costs and continue operating so long as they are allowed to be used by the Totality and the Student Body for purposes that cater to their National Consciousness as well as the Socialization of Young Minds.              



Categories: Third Place

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