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Tough Economy Threatens Growth of New Urban Shopping Centers

After decades of dealing with the blandness of indoor mall shopping, new urban developers found a way to bring the joy of city sidewalk shopping and strolling to the suburbs with the creation of “new urban shopping centers.”

Now further development of these shopping oases is being threatened because of the crumbling status of our economy and the impact this has had on developers needing bank financing for these expensive developments.

The new urban approach to development is in fact more expensive than typical developments and is more time consuming because of the legal issues and zoning details involved in building/redeveloping communities that have mixed uses (residential and commercial).

I hope we won’t see any regression in the progress we’ve made in building shopping destinations and neighborhoods for people vs. cars because of the state of the economy.

Here’s what one industry insider is saying (courtesy of cbc.ca):

North American developers will have to negotiate financial uncertainties if they want the mixed-use models to succeed, said Stephen Messinger, a senior partner with the commercial leasing group Minden Gross.

“It’s not the end,” he said, acknowledging nervous investors will likely be cautious given the tightening economy.

But he noted many municipalities continue to actively seek out these developments because of their functionality and design.

“In the end, if it gives consumers what they want, it could work out,” he said.

That last sentence caught my attention.

New urbanism is the new standard for community development. That is what consumers want.

As consumers we ought to be consistent and vocal in ensuring our cities, suburbs and towns know our preferences for healthy, green and sustainable communities – no matter the financial challenges before us. Considering what the alternative would cost to our lives and the environment this should be a non-negotiable stance.

This financial mess we’re in may end up being one test for determining just how rooted the new urban-green-living movement is in our society.

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