Vacant stores. Empty parking lots. Blighted homes.

The city has its share.

White flight & suburban sprawl have taken a substantial toll on American cities. But now those suburban localities that encouraged and benefited from sprawl are starting to feel pain from these same societal trends.

Two news stories from last week prove the point:

  1. Chesterfield purchases of the land under Cloverleaf Mall for redevelopment
  2. Henrico’s proposes “reinvestment” grants for Regency area

Chesterfield’s bill: $7.37 million

Henrico’s: still undetermined.

Last fall, the TD reported on declining sales at older area malls:

The aftermath of the addition [of Short Pump and Stony Point Fashion Park] . . . is still being felt,” said Matthew Ostrower, an analyst with Morgan Stanley who follows the shopping-center industry… Chesterfield Towne Center, Regency Square and Virginia Center Commons saw sales decline, according to tax data compiled by Henrico and Chesterfield counties.

The first malls in Richmond, Azalea, Willow Lawn, and Cloverleaf, were all built right on the city/county line, capturing shoppers from both the newer suburban dwellings and those in the city.

Those days are mostly gone.

And so are some of those malls: Deadmalls.com has entries on two defunct Henrico malls, Azalea and Eastgate (now operating as the struggling Fairfield Commons Mall). Their Cloverleaf entry needs updating to reflect the new situation.

Short Pump, Watkins Center, West Creek- these shopping and employment center developments are built nowhere near the city line.

But their distance from the city center also means that those areas developed earlier in the counties’ history are being neglected by shoppers and employers.

So it’s no longer simply the city center with troubling retail vacancy rates or neglected and crime-ridden neighborhoods.

It would be funny if it weren’t so depressing.

*For a dated, but still relevant, statistically-based analysis of these trends, see the 2003 Bacon’s Rebellion article “Inflection Point.”

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