City Center, R.I.P.

The Columbus city government announced recently that the City Center Mall would be torn down and, someday, replaced by a park. The Mall, which is located just south of Capitol Square in the heart of downtown Columbus, opened in the late 1980s to great fanfare. It is a three-level, fully enclosed mall that was supposed to be the cornerstone of a downtown renaissance. For a short period of time it was successful as a “destination shopping experience” with many high end stores. I remember going to the Mall during the holiday season in one of those early years, to see the Academy lower school choir perform to a multitude of happy shoppers.

Then, the Mall began a long, inexorable decline, to the point where the vast majority of the stores were vacant and those few that were occupied for the most part featured cut-rate goods. Ultimately, the City took control of the Mall and concluded that the only solution was to knock it to the ground.

In 20 years, the City Center Mall went from being a highly touted example of the “right way” to do downtown development to an eyesore that is generally regarded as a huge, unfortunate blunder. The speed of its demise has been amazing, even in our fast-paced modern world. The wheel turns, and often the conventional wisdom is revealed to not be wisdom at all.

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