We are a commune of inquiring, skeptical, politically centrist, capitalist, anglophile, traditionalist New England Yankee humans, humanoids, and animals with many interests beyond and above politics. Each of us has had a high-school education (or GED), but all had ADD so didn't pay attention very well, especially the dogs. Each one of us does "try my best to be just like I am," and none of us enjoys working for others, including for Maggie, from whom we receive neither a nickel nor a dime. Freedom from nags, cranks, government, do-gooders, control-freaks and idiots is all that we ask for.
Most writers have written disparagingly about shopping malls. It is easy to do. People like to say that they would prefer the old (now, half-abandoned) Main St. with its old, familiar, family-owned shops - but would they really?
I have seen plenty of towns with thriving downtowns with no malls nearby. Lucky towns. The shopping streets of cities, too, are basically shopping malls without a roof.
I grew up in the country, 40 minutes from any 'urban' area. That 'urban' area, after living in NYC, would best be classified as a small town today. About 5 square blocks of stores. Larger than my downtown in suburban NYC, but smaller than several nearby small towns.
When I was growing up we loved driving to the 'urban' area for movies and shopping. In 1974, a mall opened! With a theater and food court! A theater with 4 screens (5 years later, that was 8). The mall was a destination when I was in High School. "Where should we go?" "Let's see who is at the mall." After I graduated from college, malls became less a social outlet and merely functional.
The approach to my current home is a length of road that is about 10 miles of strip malls. Ugly as sin, but useful on a Saturday afternoon. There are 2 malls within 20 minutes of the house. One upscale, one downscale. Both have certain benefits, depending on what I'm in need of. I prefer visiting the upscale one, though I can't afford much there. Brookstone and Bose are fun stores to browse in, though.
Oddly, there are no bookstores in either of those malls, but there are 3 along the 10 miles of strip malls. They are always crowded, even in the day of the e-reader.
Our downtown hasn't suffered. Oh sure, the downtown store owners complain all the time about the malls and the death of the small store. I kind've chuckle. There is always traffic downtown, and most of the small stores have survived. It's the chains that cycle in and out of our downtown area. I don't think that means people are shopping in locally owned stores more than in chains, it probably means the owners of the space know that as chains start to become successful they can jack up the rents. The locals know each other, so they tend to be less aggressive in raising rates. Why do that when you know Abercrombie & Fitch is willing to pay double in that space you are currently renting to The Gap?
That's capitalism. It's fun if you're willing to think about it a little.
In the cities I have worked in over the past 25 years it is primarily a "vibrant" community that has moved slowly into a mall neighborhood that generally results in the malls closing or descending into a chaotic shopping experience. It then becomes necessary to find other shopping venues.
I can think of a local mall, which fits your story. Government often ends up occupying dead real estate- it did with this once lively mall. Though in the case of this mall, the neighborhood didn't change much at all. What changed was the people going to the mall. Shoppers go all over the city, not just to a particular neighborhood. But the demise didn't come only from loud, pushy teenagers. There was overbuilding in retail within 5 miles of the mall.
Not far away is more successful example of using a dead mall. This dead mall had no racial/vibrant component at all in its demise. Rather that a lot of retail moved out to a newly completed freeway. Most of the mall got torn down. After the teardown, construction resulted in a big box retailer- which would not have fit into the old mall- and a number of establishments- mostly restaurants. As the neighborhood is doing fine, the new stores have nearby customers.
The mix in the mall depends very much upon the owner. the mall nearest us has a rather eclectic mix, and some really cool shops. The really "successful" malls tend to host national or international brands.
BTW, have you looked at how many chiropractors, dentists, and veterinarians are in smaller strip malls? That's where they can lease space. The old "High Street" is appealing, but there's no spots available.
Paris is another city which boasts a number of these covered shopping arcades. I've stumbled across a couple in my visits there have found them delightful. Perfect when it's rainy or a bit raw out, making regular street browsing a bit of a pain. There was even a version wedged into a corridor at the Paris flea markets in Saint Ouen.
We have one traditional shopping mall in SF near the San Francisco State campus. I try to avoid going at all costs but the few stores I frequent are there in one space rather than having to get on the streetcar and shlepp all the way into Union Square and fight the bridge and tunnel crowd. It truly is the lesser of two evils.
The Milan pic is interesting. Having lived in Japan for a while, it looks familiar in a way - almost every town there has a similar market street, called a shopping arcade. Sometimes it's only a few blocks of a small street, but they have the covered street, the stalls, the shops, and during business hours they are always bustling.
I've spent many a pleasant afternoon in the huge shopping arcades in Osaka and Kyoto.