Build It And They Might Not Come

5 thoughts on “Build It And They Might Not Come”

  1. Johnny, great blog, love your insights and they have really affected my perceptions of things. Other than being aware of these issues, and agitating for change locally, is there any action we can take?

    Also, are you aware of the new Westfield Topanga mall in Woodland Hills, CA? I work about a block away. Curious on your thoughts about this project.

    Best Regards

    Luke Weiss

    1. The Topanga Mall is different from a “build it and they will come” project. Instead this is an example of the gradual thickening of the suburban fabric as property values rise and infill asserts itself over several decades.

      There are two components to the Topanga Mall.

      First, Westfield gave the old Topanga Mall a skin job renovation inside and out to keep it competitive. This is the second or third fluffing it’s received since it opened in the early 1960’s. I remember when it was getting a little seedy in the early 1980’s and the Sherman Oaks Galleria and the Promenade Mall stole it’s thunder. They replaced the ice skating rink with a food court – all the rage at the time. So the current skin job is just another makeover to keep the place relevant.

      Second, Westfield built an annex across the street on what was a massive old parking lot and a few low grade one story suburban retail buildings. The new “village” will be an indoor/outdoor, touchy-feely, green, yoga, salad, blah, blah, blah “experience” aimed at the coveted Millennial generation.

      The Valley, especially the Woodland Hills area, is now wealthy and densely populated enough to support this kind of infill development. But it’s all car oriented and will continue to repel pedestrians and cyclists. As is so often the case in Los Angeles people will drive to have their “authentic” urban experience. Shrug. “Whatever.” It’s LA…

      If you want to see where the Topanga Mall neighborhood is headed in about thirty more years as things mature check out the area around the Beverly Center and Mount Sinai Hospital in LA proper.

      Maybe I’ll do a blog post about it…

    2. Luke – What can you do?
      First, understand that the financial problems our towns face are deeply rooted and complex and won’t necessarily be solved by the same people or processes that are currently in place.
      Second, be aware that all towns will be hit by some form of economic crisis in the not-too-distant future. It really can’t be avoided.
      Third, some places are more likely to bounce back sooner and stronger after the crisis. A lot depends on how adaptable and dynamic the local population is.
      Your best resources for getting involved are the Strong Towns organization and Urban3 Introduce these concepts to the people in your town that have their hands on the levers of power. They might not be able to act at the moment, but it’s a good idea to get them to think about these concepts ahead of the curve.

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