The Toronto Star is reporting on the emergence of “Lifestyle Centers” in Canada as Toronto hosted a meeting of the International Council of Shopping Centres this week.
“Lifestyle Centers” are the big trend in suburban mall development. Unlike the traditional shopping mall, with its closed interior, anchored by large department stores and surrounded by a sea of parking lots, the lifestyle center tries to mimic a “Main Street” feel by putting streets through the middle of the development in an attempt to create a “street culture” redolent of what one would find in a city. Conceptually, they attempt to minimize the sterile quality of the mall through the provision of public space. Below is a rendering of a planned lifestyle center in Pittsburgh:
They generally look interesting on paper, but once built, they are often awkward since the spaces are basically undercover malls. Perhaps developers are using these models because consumers and suburbanites are sick of the homogeniety of the mall. But oftentimes these clandestine attempts to hide the mall without fundamentally transforming it seem to come up short.