Effective Planning Can Make a World of Change
No matter where a person lives or where they travel to, there is bound to be some form of a shopping center nearby. The human race cannot seem to exist without shopping centers. In the essay “Shopping Towns USA” the
authors Victor Gruen and Larry Smith inform the reader about the history of shopping centers and how they have evolved throughout history. They also introduce various reasons for the existence of shopping centers ranging from the obvious of people needing a place to purchase goods and services to the extreme of them just being there for cultural purposes. The authors believe that effective planning can make or break a shopping center and have a great effect on the town that surrounds it. They also make it clear that they feel that shopping centers also meet the needs of society. I for the most part agree with the author’s ideas.
The authors start this essay by introducing the history of how shopping centers began. “Buying and selling is as old as mankind.”(273) They said. They bring up the fact that prehistoric people bartered for what they needed with what they had a surplus of. Such as trading excess meat or an animal for a necklace or item of similar value for what they needed. This bartering has evolved into the modern purchasing process where goods are gathered in a store and then paid for with coins or paper that has been given a value. The essay then progresses into where shopping centers began to originate. The shopping centers in medieval times were the center of the city. Not only in a geographic manner, but everything that happened in the city whether it be religious, commercial or cultural took place in the Market Square as it was called. Gruen and Smith also mention how the industrial revolution affected the evolution of shopping towns.
The largest effect was the construction of factories that made cities a “crazy quilt of packed humanity”(274) and led to people moving away from the city into suburban areas. This movement created a greater need for private transportation and the increasing need for the automobile. The automobile ruined shopping towns that revolved around the railway station as the central point because people no longer were forced into that area, they were capable of going directly where they needed to go. The essay also incorporates how stores began building on the sides of roads and this lead to the parking problems created and also the solutions of parking areas behind the stores, as well as the construction of super highways and freeways to accommodate the ever-increasing flow of traffic. The essay concludes with the authors mentioning the various needs of society that are fulfilled by shopping centers. They meet the needs of people of all age groups, races, religions and social backgrounds.
When Gruen and Smith wrote this essay it appears to have been written to inform the reader of not only an overview of shopping centers and towns, but also a look at what they believe the centers and towns purposes are. Their main focus seems to be that shopping centers have a “need for farsighted, comprehensive planning”(277) and that shopping centers can fill a void in human life by “affording opportunities for social life and recreation in a protected pedestrian environment, by incorporating civic and educational facilities”(277). The authors make it clear that they believe planning is the most effective part to the success of shopping centers. They also make it clear that they believe shopping centers are a vital part to society, not only for their goods.
I too believe that shopping centers require much planning and work ahead of time for them to be successful. They are not something that can be made successful in a week or even just a month. If there is not enough planning there can be many consequences. When shopping centers first started one major problem was traffic and parking which is still a prevalent problem in present times. As Gruen and Smith point out “Business grew and so did automobile traffic. Consequently, serious traffic congestion appeared on the highways, so serious that drivers began to avoid them by using alternate routes.”(276). This traffic problem created a loss of sales and customers at shopping centers along highways because people would not want to deal with the traffic so they would take an alternate route and consequently shop somewhere else. If proper planning would have been administered and traffic considered the stores possibly could have been more successful. The authors use line in their essay that I found to be extremely strong and supportive of their view for planning.
“Planning is needed not only to bring order, stability, and meaning to chaotic suburbia; it is necessary in order to establish a strong logical framework within which individual merchandising enterprises can flourish and provide crystallization points for suburbia’s community life.”(277).
This quote really expresses how effective planing not only affects the shopping center as a whole but can also have a vital impact on the individual stores located within it. The authors also bring up the point of some business people saying that comprehensive planing is “regarded as an interference with individual initiative and free enterprise.”(277). I disagree with this because even if it did interfere, without the right planning these business would most likely not be successful and end up dead. The authors really focused on how they felt shopping centers can fill needs of society. When discussing certain shopping centers the authors say “In such centers, pedestrian areas are filed with teeming life not only during normal shopping hours, but on Sundays and holidays when people window-shop, promenade, relax in the garden courts, view exhibits and patronize the restaurants.”(277). I would strongly agree with that statement because there are many people that go to malls or shopping centers just to relax or get away from home. As far as holidays some people don’t have a place to go with family so the shopping centers provide a place for them to go and be with other people.
No matter what happens, I believe shopping centers and malls will be around forever. With or without the necessary planning there will be shopping centers that fail and ones that prosper. This will give society the place it needs to fulfill its everyday needs, whether people realize its there for that reason and not just a place to purchase goods and services. I personally am a person that sees the mall as a place to just purchase things; I never really get a feeling of it fulfilling any other needs for me. I’m not a person that goes there to just hang out and never have been, but it may fulfill other peoples needs in society or maybe I just don’t realize it fulfilling my own.
Gruen, Victor and Larry Smith. “Shopping Towns USA”
Writing and Reading Across the Curriculum Brief Edition. Ed. Laurence Barons
And Leonard Rosen. New York: Pearson Longman, 2007. 273-78.