Ellen Dunham-Jones speaks mall retrofits on NPR

Dunham-Jones and Williamson's book, "Retrofitting Suburbia," serves as the basis of their session at CNU 17.

To the tune of Robin Sparkles’ “Let’s Go to the Mall,” Ellen Dunham-Jones recently spoke about retrofitted shopping malls on NPR’s The Takeaway. Along with June Williamson, who co-authored her book Retrofitting Suburbia, Dunham-Jones has received a great deal of praise recently in features by the New York Times, CNN Money, Newsweek and Time Magazine, who deemed suburban retrofits as #2 on its list of the “Ten Ideas Changing the World Right Now.”

In her interview with NPR, Dunham-Jones places responsibility for the death of the American shopping mall on new office growth in the suburbs, which has shifted demographics to young professionals who tend to favor open-air shopping centers as an alternative.

“The trend has been for a lot of older malls to be redeveloped as mixed-use town centers with public streets and retail at the ground level and people living and working above the mall shops,” says Dunham-Jones. Other dying malls have been reborn as nursing homes, community colleges, and artists’ spaces.

As a result, additional pedestrian-friendly, positive growth has occurred within suburbia in areas surrounding converted malls.

“We’re getting more urban pockets throughout the larger metro area. And that reduces over all trip lengths and does help to start to retrofit sprawl itself.”

The 17th Congress for the New Urbanism, June 10-14 in Denver, Colorado, will focus extensively on the idea of rejuvenating spaces to make way for new urbanism. Dunham-Jones and Williamson are just two of the speakers who will focus on this wide-ranging issue in their New Urbanism 202 class “Retrofitting Suburbia.”

In the mean time, listen to her full interview here.


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