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Make Me Smart with Kai and Molly

The indoor mall turns 50

Marketplace Staff Oct 6, 2006
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SCOTT JAGOW: Time to raise an Orange Julius, I guess, to the indoor shopping mall. That great American icon turns 50 this weekend. Minnesota Public Radio’s Toni Randolph takes us back a half century.


TONI RANDOLPH: When Southdale Center opened just south of Minneapolis in October of 1956, it was a huge event.

St. Olaf College history professor James Farrell says Southdale was the prototype for the modern mall.

JAMES FARRELL: An I would argue that it’s the most important mall ever built because every mall after Southdale in 1956 were just variations on a theme of Southdale. There were lots of problems with malls that Southdale solved and everyone just picked up those kinds of innovations.

Those problems, Farrell says, included climate, control of the interior space and multiple stories.

He says surveys showed that at the time, only one in three days in Minnesota were the sort of days that people wanted to walk outside between shops, which is what they had to do before Southdale.

Today there are more than a thousand indoor malls in the U.S. and business is booming. Last year malls and other shopping centers employed more than 12 million people and generated more than $2 trillion in sales.

I’m Toni Randolph for Marketplace.

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