A Mall that is a Place

This page presents an integrated community shopping mall development concept that has been gestating in an ad hoc committee since April.

Local situation:

In North Seattle, an effort is underway to restore Thornton Creek to its former full extent and health. The creek is now interrupted by the Northgate Mall and Interstate Five. Water from the upper, western, watershed, near the community college, is drained through culverts to the eastern side of the mall, where it surfaces and continues on to Lake Washington. The objectives of the restoration effort are:

There is considerable community sentiment that the mall and the interstate do not provide adequate pedestrian and bicyclist access across town (east/west) and that the mall's exclusively regional focus is an affront to the local community. Residents are asking for more locally oriented shopping and services in the mall and better pedestrian facilities.

The mall will be extending to the south to create a 6000 seat cineplex, office and apartment buildings, and a two level parking structure, all located in a lot spanning the historical creek bed.

National context:

These concerns are typical of communities all across the country:

Developers make deals with city governments who purportedly represent the interests of their communities, but in fact do not.

Interstate highways sever wildlife communities in ways that threaten biodiversity, and degrade human communities as well.

Streams are buried in extensive culvert systems that are hostile to aquatic life.

Cookie cutter malls displace cummunity shopping areas, resulting in environments that could be anywhere, models of global monoculture.

Meanwhile more money is moving through online shopping venues every day. The shopping malls are losing their moneyed customers to the internet, the ultimate in placeless shopping.

Our proposed synthesis:

Design the Northgate Mall's extension to feature the unique character of the place as a draw for Seattle's nature and community conscious population. Feature the creek instead of erasing it. Connect the creek back to its western headwaters, and in so doing, connect to the community college. Provide community level shopping as well as regional stores. Involve the local community in planning the space, so that it develops some character that is distinctive and pleasant. Develop the "third place" concept here as an outdoor green web that attracts and facilitates pedestrian and bicycle traffic as well as motor vehicles.

The combination of good places to eat, a cineplex, and a park-like atmosphere featuring a real stream with live salmon, walking and bicyling traffic to and from local destinations, a neighboring community college with its youthful population,... and you have a real win/win/win situation. The next wave in shopping mall design. A mall that is somewhere, not anywhere. A mall where it is a pleasure to spend your leisure time. A destination for community as well as commerce.

It should be noted that this concept has already been implemented, and very successfully in Kent, UK, a regional shopping mall called "Bluewater". Project goals included:
"...the finest retail mix in the United Kingdom."
"...the restoration of the greenbelt."
"...partnership with local authorities and commuity"
"...the integration of retail and leisure space to create a civic sense of place that would become a destination in and of itself."
The developer was Australia's Lend Lease Corporation who are also known for such projects as the Sydney Opera House.
See Fast Company magazine, Sept 99, page 160, "The Company Without Limits"
This article is online now at their web site.
See Specifications for a Design Alternative for Northgate Mall for the current goals developed by Citizens for a Liveable Northgate.
If this concept interests you please contact me:
Rhodes Hileman
Cheryl Klinker