Across the country there are over 500 malls, which are dying or dead. Because malls are facing increased competition from mega malls and more recently, e-retailers, new uses must be found for their existing structures and their sites. This proposal for the transformation of the Dedham Mall, Massachusetts, located on a typical commercial strip on Route 1, promotes a hybrid building type, which is part infrastructure, part building, and part landscape. Its design promotes a vital form of community, one in which work, domestic, recreational, and institutional uses compliment shopping. The e-Mall represents new forms of retail merchandising, combining conventional shopping with on-line purchasing, that are housed in the existing and new facilities.
A new concept in the development of retail centers, e-Malls combine the benefits of e-commerce with those of traditional retailing centers. An e-Mall provides an e-retailer with a physical presence in the marketplace to compliment and strengthen its virtual identity. It allows them, through the efficient design of “showrooms” prominently positioned and visible along heavily trafficked spaces, to display their wares to the public in targeted communities. Visitors can peruse or test products that might be viewed online or in the showroom. The goods can be picked up directly from an on-site distribution center, which is adjacent to a warehouse. This distribution center can also be used for local pick-ups of products sold on-line. Through the use of electronic monitoring systems, on-site inventory is coordinated through regional and national distributors at a cost savings compared with current retail models. (Think IKEA meets Amazon.com or Barnes & Nobles Bookstores.)
This proposal presents integrating a matrix of housing/work environments into this evolving community, so that people can choose to work within this community and reduce their dependence on vehicular transportation. An on-site “neighborhood” contributes to the economic vitality of the e-retailers while helping to knit the divide between the eastern and western portions of Dedham.
Finally, this proposal suggests that the current asphalt-dominated mall should be integrated into the rich river-scape of the Charles River Basin, just across the street. Several strategies for enhancing the presence of the landscape are encouraged, including the construction of a new artificial landscape that is built on top of, over, and through buildings and infrastructure in a manner that coordinates and integrates their spatial, ecological, and economic needs and benefits.
Out of this collage of uses, infrastructure, and natural systems, arises a new form of community “” one that evolves over time and is rooted in its past and evocative of its future.