I was reading this weekend about the extraordinary $500 million redevelopment project of Monmouth Mall in Eatontown, NJ. This is a joint venture between Kushner Companies and Brookfield's Rouse Properties. They will transform a suburban mall into an open-air "shopping village". In short, urbanize suburbia. It's quite brilliant!
It is, however, the realization of a vision expressed 50 years ago by Mr. James Rouse. In reference to the planning for Columbia, MD, in the mid-1960's, Mr. Rouse is quoted as saying that this model city "should be a garden for growing people." (Smithsonian Magazine, 2014) Indeed, that is the very essence of a village; and as true of a statement then as it is now.
At least two generations have grown up in suburban villages like Eatontown, NJ, across the US. This is part of nearly everyone's life experience. It certainly is mine. I was an active participant in the generation of mall rats. Now our suburbs are simply growing older as the younger one's have left for work and lifestyle's in the city. And so goes the shopping mall.
Mr. Rouse's vision was to provide a civic anchor to suburban places where people would live and work. And, where making a profit was a primary objective to building sustainable cities.
We are paying witness to our villages, suburbs, and the economics of place being flipped upside down. Monmouth Mall is but a metaphor for a time that is passing when the village monetized shopping malls. Now places like Monmouth Mall are the economic gardens to monetizing our villages for the next generations of people.