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The Slow Death of the Shopping Plaza

I have written previously about some pleasant [1] and nostalgic [2] aspects of suburbia. Putting aside questions of wise land-use planning, much of what remains from our mid-century suburbs is harmless. The buildings are quirky, often include kitschy salutes to their particular locales, and are built at a human scale. That sort of architecture is long gone, but suburbia is still with us, though with much less of the charm. 

Case in point, the Sully Place Shopping Center [3] in Chantilly, Virginia. This strip mall is built along a major intersection on Route 50—known to locals as the endangered Lee-Jackson Memorial Highway (the name, of course, is endangered—not, unfortunately, the highway). Across the street is a collection of car dealers and an apartment complex called “The Fields of Chantilly.” On the other side, Sully Place butts up against a cul-de-sac neighborhood of mostly identical homes. The plaza is quite large and oddly designed; an American farmer from the days of the Founding would easily mistake it for an alien structure.

The anchor stores in the plaza are currently occupied, and there is none of the loitering or petty crime that tends to hasten the deaths of these places; this is no dead or dying mall [4]. Yet the accompanying strips of smaller shops in between the anchors are one-third vacant. Of about 40 small storefronts, 13 are currently sitting empty (the number of vacancies has actually ticked up in the last several years). One or two stores that are occupied are “marginal” businesses, like the closeout warehouse stocked mostly with returned electronics and smashed cereal boxes. This is in one of the richest parts of one of the richest counties in the nation [5]—the households within five miles of the mall sport a median household income of $110,000—during a supposedly thriving economy. That suggests that the high watermark of the massive shopping plaza is probably behind us, though whether greater blame belongs to e-commerce or to the defects of the sprawl model of development is up for debate. In any case, one wonders what the original builders were thinking in 1991 when the plaza was built.

Three consecutive vacant storefronts in Sully Place. Credit: Addison Del Mastro

One of the anchors, inhabiting what used to be an unusually large K-Mart, is a massive home decoration store, with the distinctly uninspiring name At Home. Imagine dozens of aisles of garden gnomes, welcome mats, rugs, brass urns, and hundreds of other tchotchkes and trinkets. Then imagine, if you will, the tens of thousands of similar stores across the country, filled to the brim with the same junk, accounting for most of what is left of brick-and-mortar retail. As James Howard Kunstler puts it, wave your flag over that [6].

change_me

Where could all of this have possibly come from? The answer is not dynamic, value-generating “capitalism.” It is rather that this endless array of stuff is the home-décor equivalent of junk food. Anyone who studies American food and eating habits knows that most of what occupies the supermarket is nothing but various combinations and permutations of corn, sugar, salt, artificial flavor, and food dye [7].

The same is basically true of those lamps, baskets, Christmas elves, vases, and fake flowers. They are all made from a handful of very cheap, ubiquitous materials: cheap iron and stamped tin, glass, plastic, plaster, particle board (i.e. sawdust), and even actual cardboard. One notices the same thing in furniture shops—all of the beautiful hardwoods have been used up, and so the furniture is made from poplar and rubberwood if you’re lucky, and plywood and particle board if you’re not. Even some of the furniture is made from cardboard, which is green and, we are told, stylish [8]. Plenty of this stuff costs a pretty penny, but virtually none of it has any real value. You can plunk down a couple hundred for a life-sized cactus-shaped urn or Egyptian-esque cat statue if you want, but it’s not going to be an heirloom or an antique any more than that retro-style wood-cabinet record player that shows up in every discount department store at Christmastime.

How long can it go on? How long will there be enough resources and energy to fill discount stores and closeout warehouses and “category killers” to the gills with all this stuff? But that is the wrong question. This is, ironically, what resource scarcity looks like. It’s not an environmentalist trope or a distant cataclysm. It is the reality under which every American consumer lives who is not filthy rich. Recite that list again: glass, cardboard, sawdust, plastic, plaster, stamped tin. These materials will be available in some form virtually forever. So we make everything out of them.

A four-lane road bisects the shopping plaza. Credit: Addison Del Mastro

Exiting this wasteland of garden gnomes and inflatable Santas, you’ll pass a string of those small vacant storefronts. There are rarely more than one or two people on the sidewalk, which is very wide. Two thirds of the parking lot is likely to be empty. This architectural type, the suburban shopping plaza, has married the worst of the windswept Soviet “town square” with the worst of American hedonistic consumerism. Skateboarding, loitering, shoplifting, and demographic changes have slowly killed many a once-mighty shopping plaza, and there is no reason why this one would be exempt from one day becoming a great hulking roadside ruin [9]. A traffic fatality or two might also do it: the sprawling plaza is bisected by an actual road—on which the vehicles routinely do 40 miles per hour—which makes navigating by foot or even by car a risky proposition.  

And while we’re on the subject of cars, the mostly empty parking lot is enormous. There are dividers with shrubs and small trees, intended to prevent the conversion of the lot into a drag strip in the after-hours. Perhaps they are also meant to provide a little greenery, but the sad-looking dried-out pine trees and scraggly bushes only emphasize that this is a vast asphalt desert. There is so much parking that some of the corners and edges of the lot are cracked and neglected, like an entire small lot behind the At Home anchor that is virtually unused. And yet the zoning laws mandate “minimum” parking requirements. Fairfax County’s minimum parking requirement for a shopping center is between four and five spaces—depending on the total size of the plaza—per 1,000 square feet of floor area [10]. Sully Place has 2,819 surface spaces, which is roughly in line with the mandated number. In order to make sure that no one ever waits five minutes for a spot, we pave over double or triple [11] the amount of land that is really needed, and mostly never use it for anything.

An unused, unnecessary segment of parking lot behind an anchor store. Credit: Addison Del Mastro

Most people respond to all of this with a shrug: welcome to America. Or they might suggest that environmental concerns are nothing more than northeasterners in sardine-can cities getting a little stir-crazy. This line of thinking is present in the American West, for example, with its Big Sky Country [12] and endless grazing lands and hardscrabble rural farms. Such a lifestyle, despite its underlying ethic of subsistence and survival, teaches that there is far, far more land and resources than we will ever need. Landfill shortage? Landfills bigger than any now in service could be built all over rural Montana and barely put a dent in the landscape. Think of all the steel locked up in rusting ranch fences and abandoned silos and piles of junked cars. There is some truth to this: the density and claustrophobia of the Eastern Seaboard megalopolis and its sprawl and exurbs is a tiny dot on our massive planet. If the globe is a 70-inch television, Sully Place or even Chantilly is a pixel or two.

But for tens of millions of people, that tiny dot is also home. The existence of the steppes or the tundra does not somehow obviate the uglification of the landscape that we actually inhabit day-to-day, nor does it excuse us from the duty to tend our little corner of the earth with care. We can’t do that all the time, but we can slow down our construction of monstrosities like Sully Place. That’s a start.

Addison Del Mastro is assistant editor for The American Conservative. He tweets at @ad_mastro [13].

26 Comments (Open | Close)

26 Comments To "The Slow Death of the Shopping Plaza"

#1 Comment By Pear Conference On March 1, 2018 @ 4:50 am

How *do* we “slow down our construction of monstrosities like Sully Place”? What’s the conservative solution?

#2 Comment By MT On March 1, 2018 @ 10:02 am

One has two choices when developing an area. The traditional, efficient, human-scale option is to first build a transport hub (e.g. a train station) and a central street or plaza, draw a circle with a radius of a quarter-mile around it, and fill the circle with compact residential (rowhomes and <4 story apartments/condos) and mixed-use residential/commercial. This is your typical pleasant European town or upper-class historic neighborhood in the USA, and accommodates 10-15k residents, along with the commercial and retail services to meet their daily needs.

The postwar American practice is either to omit the "town center" entirely and build the same number of housing units on 5-10 times the land area (giving everyone a postage-stamp lawn and six bedrooms to fill with clutter), or else build one of those awful suburban apartment complexes of barracks-like buildings surrounded by roads, parking, and useless lawns. This is why you end up with strip-mall-filled, car-dependent anomie.

#3 Comment By collin On March 1, 2018 @ 10:16 am

I sure what you are trying to get at here and we are likely to see the decline of such commercial real estate.

1) This seems Example A of the need for more housing density (Matt Yglesias goal) in Virginia there is this much wasted land of empty parking and marginal stores. Of course these solutions tend to build more utilitarian houses for a lower price.
2) In terms of furniture I believe the quality of ‘disposable’ furniture is increasing and that is a good thing for most citizens. (I think Furniture is one of the items controlling inflation in this nation.)
3) I am concerned on jobs for people because store workers are the largest worker set in the nation.
4) IMO the big battle over retail and land is car dealerships over the next ten years. Right now the car lots take a lot of land and state car dealership laws over-protect these lots which are ripe for internet sales.

#4 Comment By Sam M On March 1, 2018 @ 10:47 am

Not objecting to the larger piece, but I am curious as to what makes you believe this:

“all of the beautiful hardwoods have been used up”

Have they? According to whom? Here is a report from Indiana indicating that price of most premium species (per thousand board feet) has plummeted in recent years.

[14]

I do not believe that there is any shortage of beautiful hardwood. Rather, people don’t want it. Which is a problem worth discussing, but it’s the opposite problem of “all the hardwood has been used up.”

Fact of the matter is, people prefer cheap junk they can replace year to year. Even when furniture made from real hardwood is cheaper than ever.

#5 Comment By Aaron Paolozzi On March 1, 2018 @ 11:31 am

As a former resident of South Riding, very close to Chantilly where the “sully plaza” of note exists I have a couple considerations for you.

1) The three closed store fronts in a row that you show actually used to belong to one store “The Game Parlor” which I frequented, it was owned by a lovely couple who had that store and one other in Woodbridge (30 minutes south). I remember when they decided to retire, their kids did not want to run the shop, so they held a huge sale and party, and we went out in style.

2) Most of the side stores are actually owned by people such as this. Only the anchors like Lotte and Lowes are really not. (side note: was wondering if that KMart finally died, glad to hear it did, but sounds like something doing the same thing different name showed up)

3) As the Mom and Pop’s retire, they are not being replaced. Thus empty landscape. I think this another issue not being discussed. If people who have run small businesses are retiring with no continuity and others are deciding not to enter the market in the traditional sense (I see more home business than store based anymore) What does the next phase of the mom and pop store look like. Is it home based? Is that even a bad thing?

Either way when I saw the article I did a double take…for about four years I lived at sully plaza. And yes it was terrible to walk (which I did anyways). I’d park my car and walk wherever I wanted to go refusing to go from parking lot to parking lot. Just felt like being in a game of frogger that is for sure

#6 Comment By The Scientist 880 On March 1, 2018 @ 11:43 am

The close in suburbs of DC will be ok long term but what is going to happen with the McMansions we have built in the exurbs? I believe we are going to see a bunch of boomers taking massive haircuts on these homes because tastes have fundamentally changed. Millenials are not interested in doing 2 hour commutes each way if they can help it. These homes are expensive and most of the cities that have them have much lower crime rates then they had in the 90’s. Also, Millenials have debt. Very few will be taking out big loans to move out to the middle of nowhere. It’s going to be interesting times in the next 20 years.

#7 Comment By Addison Del Mastro On March 1, 2018 @ 11:55 am

Aaron: thanks for the comment! That’s definitely one reason a lot of places end up closing down. They’re not even being driven out of business, they’re just not what the newer generation wants to do anymore. Home-based business, aided by tech, is certainly a great option for people, but zoning makes it hard to go beyond e-commerce stuff, and there’s the question of what to do with all the extra retail space. Tear it down and turn it into condos, I guess, which is happening all over Fairfax/NoVa. In any case, it’s really too bad that those mom-and-pop shops are disappearing. You just can’t form the same relationships, get the same first jobs, make the same deals with franchise and chain establishments.

As to the K-Mart replacement, I’d actually say that place is worse than K-Mart. K-Mart was a (dingy, aging) full-line discount department store. This new place isn’t, and there are lots of basic necessities you can’t buy there.

#8 Comment By PrairieDog On March 1, 2018 @ 11:56 am

Two comments:

1. Good quality furniture made of hardwood is available second hand. Many pieces won’t even need to be refinished.

2. While I don’t disagree too much with your article, I don’t think photos of the leafless, wintertime trees really “prove” how ugly that mall parking lot is

#9 Comment By Addison Del Mastro On March 1, 2018 @ 12:06 pm

PrairieDog: That’s true. Most of my furniture is used hardwood. Unless you go really high-end/custom, you can’t find much of anything that elegant and sturdy in a regular chain showroom.

I wasn’t really going after the lot being “ugly” per se as much as the whole plaza together. On the lot pictures I meant to show the four-lane road and the fact that portions of the lot are in disrepair because they are not used or maintained (because there’s way too much parking).

#10 Comment By Aaron Paolozzi On March 1, 2018 @ 12:32 pm

Addison Del Mastro: Excellent points! I didn’t even think of the first job experience. Mine was a sub maker at Quiznos, but I know that who they had managing the place never took another job because he loved his store and customers so much. I knew everyone by name, they knew me, and I could spent an hour just talking to Miss Wendy(one of the co-owners) about her day and the store, who came by and all that. I have a huge attachment to place and people. I will miss those relationships and I still look for opportunities to rekindle that but our current economy is so atomized its hard to find.

As for the “tear it down and make condo’s” I know people in, I call it “super” No/Va, would love that as there is definitely a need for housing. But the aesthetic and walk-ability in most places and designed, is atrocious!

#11 Comment By Bandguy On March 1, 2018 @ 12:43 pm

No one has brought up the astronomical rents some of these over-leveraged developers charge for tiny stores. I believe you could fill the spaces in a week if the rents were reasonable.

#12 Comment By David Nash On March 1, 2018 @ 1:03 pm

The American Way of Life depends on ever-increasing Consumption!! It is subversive even to hint the consumer should spend money on quality goods which last rather than ephemeral junk which needs to be replaced yearly. What are you trying to do, throw billionaires — I mean the proletarians — out of work?

OTOH, Russell Kirk would be proud of your essay.

#13 Comment By LouB On March 1, 2018 @ 1:20 pm

An anecdotal example;
In Chicago’s western suburbs US Rt34 exits the city core into Cicero. Shortly thereafter the endless strip mall begins and continues unabated until you exit the town of Sandwich four counties to the west. Meanwhile, the old school downtown shopping areas adjacent to this winding commercial mecca are either largely abandoned or in the more affluent areas comprised of cutesy boutique shops.
The source of all this runaway commercial development was mostly investment capital.

As long as a huckster can convince a rube that the sole remaining vacant plot of land can be developed to yield storefront space that innumerable commercial ventures are just itching to move into, there will be a sucker to plunk his money into it.

#14 Comment By TN On March 1, 2018 @ 2:26 pm

It is not “all of the beautiful hardwoods have been used up” as one of the earlier commentators pointed out. I have oak wood logs laying in my backyard slowly decomposing and my only use is fire pit burning. So do many of my neighbors.
I also don’t think an average Jane/Joe prefers cheap junk either if they have a chance and time to sit down and compare the life time (or life cycle) costs of buying junks (multiple times) vs. buying one good item once a lifetime.
It has a lot to do with the capitalists/manufacturers implementing built-in obsolescence into every aspect of our daily lives, from objects, tools, electronics, to manpower.
As part of their plans, they also indoctrinated us, successfully I may say, on embracing consumerism, i.e. cheap stuffs, quick money, and instant gratification. We are so indoctrinated that we regard consumerism as our core believes. In addition to FDR’s Four Freedoms, we have a new freedom, freedom to buy and clutter our houses with junks.

#15 Comment By Olivier On March 1, 2018 @ 2:42 pm

Plastic will not be available forever. The rest (plaster, glass etc) maybe but not plastic.

#16 Comment By Josep On March 1, 2018 @ 2:53 pm

Anyone who studies American food and eating habits knows that most of what occupies the supermarket is nothing but various combinations and permutations of corn, sugar, salt, artificial flavor, and food dye.
This is one motivation for me to leave the States and move abroad. The fact that the government is subsidizing corn and sugar makes me further convinced that the States is FUBAR. Sure, people have the option to avoid this processed food and eat fresh produce, but what is it with the people that they refuse to do this?

@ MT
I live in the rural part of Washington state, and it’s very cumbersome to rely on a car all the time. I don’t know who had the idea to make America’s infrastructure car-dependent, but whoever it was, it creates an unsustainable system that will get even more so with rising fuel costs.

#17 Comment By Paul Clayton On March 1, 2018 @ 3:19 pm

Big, ugly, inefficient, selling cheap retro and faux home decor and ‘products’ most people don’t really need, and all of it, by the way, Made in China… So, what is the point of it all? The point is that people NEED to go out to a common area, a market place, and see other people, be seen, and BUY stuff. In ancient times, 95% of that stuff was what was required to survive, and 5% mere wants, like jewelry and crafts. Now these huge malls sell 5% of what people need to live, and 95% want in their houses. Women, mostly, drive this trade. Women see shopping as an ‘activity.’ Men see it as a necessity, except, of course, for the Metrosexuals that live in the big cities. The article mentions our food being various combinations of ‘corn, sugar, dye, etc,’ and he’s not wrong. Result: shows like my 800 Lb Life. The ‘consumer culture’ has resulted in ‘Hoarder’ shows, people stuffing so much crap in their houses that they can hardly move about. All these things are symptoms of ‘wrong living,’ of a consumer society that is, dare I say it, unsustainable, and doomed. And what will happen when it all crashes and burns? People will go back to living in caves, eating bugs. Perhaps a thousand years later they’ll rise up to the ‘grain’ level. Then the ‘markets’ will appear, along with the crafts people and merchant class. In another thousand or two years, the world, at least the Free (to consume) part of it, will be right back to where it was.

#18 Comment By GregR On March 1, 2018 @ 4:43 pm

I would not argue that retail space in the US is closing, but it is far more complicated than this article makes out.

Take a look at retail space per capita and compare the US to the rest of the world. Depending on the metrics you chose to use the US has overbuilt retail space to the tune of five to six times the amount the rest of the developed world has. Macy’s CEO Terry Lundgren called the situation “ridiculous,” noting that the U.S. has 7.3 square feet of retail space per capita, versus 1.7 square feet per capita in Japan and France.

Basically due to weird US focus on building out additional marginally profitable capacity we built enormous amounts of retail space no one really wanted, and no one could really use. Developers built malls and shopping centers not because they really cared about the retail space, but as a way to pay off the property taxes they were going to be saddled with while they waited for the land to appreciate in value.

Sure internet shopping has had some effect around the edges, but the principle problem in the US with retail space is we built far more of it than we really needed.

#19 Comment By Erdrick On March 1, 2018 @ 6:48 pm

It’s funny to see a whole article devoted to a place as unremarkable as Sully Place. I live nearby, and I was surprised to see a photo of it (which I immediately recognized without reading the caption).

Sully Place isn’t all bad- it has many decent to good restaurants. For example, Buon Appetito has very good pizza for the area. Backyard Grill is a nice place for a burger and a beer. Milwaukee Custard is delicious. The sushi place (Otani) is pretty good, and I’ve heard the Vietnamese place (Pho Bac) is as well. It’s not the most exciting shopping center in the world (and losing Kmart makes it even more pointless), but I’ve seen far bleaker shopping centers. Heck, there’s another shopping center less than a half mile further east on 50 that’s in far worse shape than Sully (the Chantilly Shopping Center- it lost both of its anchors- Staples and Steinmart- within the past year or so and has little else there).

The problem with Sully Place isn’t so much that Americans are no longer going to shopping centers; rather, the problem is that Northern Virginia is already completely oversaturated with shopping centers. Sully might be fine on its own, especially if a Target or Walmart came in to replace Kmart. But Sully is completely surrounded by more attractive options. The massive Fair Lakes complex is about 3 miles to the east, it dwarfs Sully, has better stores, and is always pretty busy. There’s another large shopping center about a mile west of Sully with a Target and a Costco. There are two largish shopping centers with Giants within two miles of Sully (Franklin Farms and Greenbrier), and one with a Harris Teeter (Pender). There’s also the Dulles Expo Center complex (complete with a Walmart and several restaurants) right across the street from Sully. There’s an indoor mall 4 miles to the east of Sully (Fair Oaks), and a swanky “new town” type shopping center another mile or so away (Fairfax Crossing). Plus Herndon and its cluster of shopping centers is only about 4 miles north of Sully.

With all of those options, there’s nothing that really makes Sully desirable other than maybe the restaurants, the Lowes, and the Babies-R-Us (which might close soon given the situation of its parent company). To me, it’s surprising that Sully Place is as vibrant as it is (especially given that it has been handicapped by having a Kmart as its anchor).

I agree with you that Northern Virginia is not a very scenic or pleasant place to live. But I don’t think we’ll have to worry about them building more Sully Places in Fairfax. There’s just no more room for them, and the land’s too valuable. But, in contrast to places I’ve been in the Rust Belt, there’s no shortage of consumption in most of the extant Northern Virginia shopping centers. Just try to go to Fair Lakes Target or Whole Foods on a Saturday afternoon. You don’t see the truly deserted shopping centers in the area like you do if you go to Rust Belt areas in Ohio, Pennsylvania.

In the end, I don’t think that any grand lessons can be drawn from Sully Place other than “location, location, location” and, perhaps, “Don’t stake your future on Kmart.”

#20 Comment By Erdrick On March 1, 2018 @ 7:19 pm

Correction – the swanky new town shopping center is named Fairfax Corner, not Fairfax Crossing. I also forgot to mention Fairfax Towne Center (with a Safeway and Movie Theater), McLearen Square, and Sully Station, three other shopping centers also within 3 or 4 miles of Sully Place. Suffice to say, there’s no shortage of shopping options in the area. Sully Place is feeling the brunt of oversaturation.

#21 Comment By Erdrick On March 1, 2018 @ 7:41 pm

Sorry for spamming your comment section, but I think that your article buries an interesting question- what exactly is Chantilly, Virginia? The government calls it a “Census Designated Place.” It’s a name on the map, but there’s no city center, no town hall, nothing but shopping centers, car dealerships, and office buildings. There’s no “there” there. There’s something about the artificiality of the place that is vaguely unsettling. Even though I’ve lived in the area for over a decade, it still does not feel like home. It’s hard to articulate my feelings on the matter, but there’s something deadening about living near a place like Chantilly- it’s bad for the spirit.

#22 Comment By Jhawk On March 1, 2018 @ 9:41 pm

I’ll tell who’s providing the ‘next generation’ of mom and pop stores: Immigrants.

#23 Comment By Liberty&Virtue On March 1, 2018 @ 10:24 pm

FWIW, I live in a highly developed suburban area and though there are a few strip malls like the one described in the article, this is not at all representative of where I live. Even most of the malls are still hanging on, though I wonder about the demographics of who shops there compared to the say, 1980s or 90s. Point is, the model seems to work pretty well for people around me (of course there are things that may be better)

That said, I completely agree with the absurdity and waste of cheap, crappy chotchkes sold in so many stores–stuff that there is a fairly small demand for but ends up polluting or languishing in land fills.

The first comment asked what’s the conservative response to the abandoned spaces. I’m new to really thinking about these kinds of issues tbh, but I think Strong Towns is a good place to start

#24 Comment By cka2nd On March 5, 2018 @ 5:09 am

The economy has not recovered since the Great Recession, not for the working class, not for a significant portion of the petite bourgeoisie,and not for an even larger cut of the children of both classes. Part of it is Amazon, but more of it is simply less disposable income.

I see it in the shops closing and not being replaced. I see it in the old cars still on the road (four pre-2010 Mercurys in one day!). I see it in the collapse of various collector markets. And it’s not just money in short supply, it’s time, too, as community groups lose volunteers from one generation and can’t attract new, younger ones.

We need smarter urban planning – yes to transport hubs and mixed zoning! – and higher wages and higher marginal tax rates, or the inequality will just get worse. Lords, don’t I sound cheery!

#25 Comment By Dennis Tuchler On March 13, 2018 @ 11:21 pm

All this complaining, mostly justified, calls for more regulation of land use and concomitant corruption, and serious tax reform to remove tax subsidies to high risk operations like land development. Not likely in this political environment.

#26 Comment By Margaret Duffy On March 21, 2018 @ 2:54 am

Funny to see this. I know that things like this are true, but the same is happening in the big cities. I live in Manhattan, on the Upper East Side, one of the wealthiest districts in the entire world, and there isn’t a retail street anywhere in the neighborhood that doesn’t have at least one empty store. Many streets are, in fact, entirely empty. With the exception of three cleaners, a deli and a magazine/tabacco store (all run by immigrqnts), virtually everything else is either a restaurant or a branch of a very high end, and usually foreign, clothing or jewelry store where no one ever seems to actually shop. This area used to be filled with art galleries, antique dealers and stores offering interesting and unique wares. Everything of that nature is now gone, haut couture has triumphed and now even they are closing. It’s the same all over Manhattan, East Side and West Side all you see are empty storefronts. Apparently owners would rather let the space sit idle than lower the rents to whee stores can make enough to survive. Meanwhile, developers are foisting or trying to foist new giant towers with scads more retail on the city. Ridiculous.