Did you see the eerie slideshow Gawker promoted this week of dead American mall White Flint's food court? The original post came from a blog called Duck Pie, and the author points out that back in the late '70s when it was new and pretty, this now-doomed shopping center in North Bethesda, MD, was a glamorous consumer paradise hosting black tie events that were attended by the likes of Donna Karan and Elizabeth Taylor. Right. That was the '70s.
As a representative of a nonprofit involved with future redevelopment of the land and surrounding area told The Washington Post in December, White Flint is not likely to survive 2014. Some of the comments on the posts at Duck Pie and Gawker are sad. Sure, I imagine many people have fond memories of family moments, teenage escapism or shockingly inexpensive servings of sweet teriyaki chicken and "NY-style" pizza slices, which those of us who spent part/all of our childhoods in small towns where nothing like that previously existed thought was amazing. Now look how well Sbarro is doing these days.
Sorry, but I'm not crying for a dead mall being torn down. I'm actually envious of the residents of North Bethesda who happen to live near White Flint and have likely prayed for a targeted and purposeful tornado to touch down on a certain plot of land and go quietly into the night, faintly whispering through its whirlwind, "You're welcome."
Here in East Point, GA, we're not likely to see any such blessings soon when it comes to the horrible eyesore that has become Greenbriar Mall. But yes, I admit I'd love to see Greenbriar go away and be replaced with something that pays final respects to this relic of the past while moving progressively towards a stronger and more vibrant community. Bring on the wrecking ball. Tear it down.
Officially in the city limits of Atlanta, Greenbriar was also a big deal when it opened, and has a background story that probably come as a surprise to many. From Wikipedia:
Greenbriar Center opened in August/September 1965 as Atlanta's third totally enclosed mall, after Columbia Mall, in 1964, and North Dekalb Center, in July 1965. The design of the mall was like many of the early malls in Atlanta with an anchor store on each end and an enclosed concourse. The complex opened with Rich's on the east end and JCPenney on the west. It was the second-largest suburban Rich's when it first opened.
Today, this depressed shopping destination is the brick and mortar representation a bloated, beached whale, or a dinosaur that can't live but just won't die. Not that they deserve to be dead, but there's an evolutionary reason they're extinct, even if we haven't quite figured out the ultimate cause. In Greenbriar's case, was it the northward suburban flight of many white residents as this faux-hope-selling 2009 AJC article suggests?
So many questions, man. And like Sway, I ain't got the answers. But I do know that as of right now, the only reason to visit Greenbriar Mall is if you want Chick-Fil-A right now--and who other than a vegetarian doesn't, especially on Sunday--but you live in or close enough to the /Ben Hill area that going to the Cleveland Ave. or Camp Creek Pkwy locations doesn't make sense.
To their credit, Chick-Fil-A just does not change. The nuggets, fries, chicken sandwiches and everything else in the company's original location does not skimp on quality. It speaks to the African-American franchised restaurant operator's sense of community and corporate responsibility that he maintains the famously high standards of CFA (have you ever been to a "bad" Chick-Fil-A?). I also imagine the quality is due to CFA's legendary attention to everything that carries its brand, and the fact that this one's the first and therefore of sentimental value to its still-living nonagenarian founder S. Truett Cathy. Don't forget that the company headquarters is located in College Park. That's a short ride for the bosses if they ever want to see how things are going.
But Macy's? I barely even want to talk about the condition in which the Greenbriar location of this supposedly iconic department store finds itself today. You know how you get those Macy's gift cards from family members around Christmas? I took one to the Greenbriar post a few years ago, expecting the same quality commitment that Chick-Fil-A has to the mall's customers. After all, a dollar from any source spends the same, and should be respected as such. Without even trying to remember how poorly stocked and embarrassingly limited the selection was, I'll just say don't ever waste your time going there to purchase anything. And I don't mind saying that there's no excuse for this. So knowing that I could come across as a heartless and insensitive jerk to anyone that happens to work there, and with all due respect to the employees of the Greenbriar Macy's, I expect--or perhaps hope and wish--that it will be shut down soon. Because if the Greenbriar Macy's goes, so goes the mall. And if the mall goes, so goes the secured space that all of the stereotypical stores that have turned Greenbriar into an economic swamp in this changing area of town.
Greenbriar sits between two upwardly mobile, primarily African-American areas of town--the neighborhoods accessible from I-285 exits Camp Creek and Cascade. More than a few black millionaires live on either side of Greenbriar Mall. The money is there. They will patronize businesses that respect the power of their collective dollar--the same power held by dollars exchanged for goods and services by other races. Actually, did you know that African-American buying power is expected to reach $1.1 trillion in 2015? Trust me, I know some of it will be spent on trivial things (like all money from all people), but it won't all be gold chains, sneakers, airbrushed fingernail designs, hair extensions and all the other crap sold at 2841 Greenbriar Pkwy that is not made by Chick-Fil-A.
If Greenbriar is destined to remain as it is for another decade or longer, there is one scenario I'd love to see come to fruition. Chick-Fil-A, being nostalgic for the place where their very first location was built, and in a display of respect and gratitute towards the nearby community it serves, decides to sponsor the entire mall. It's not as unreasonable as it sounds in the era of sports venues leasing naming rights to major corporations. But let's not expect that. Let's just expect a crappy mall to hang around and hold back a community that could benefit greatly from its removal and replacement. Let's get used to a large, ugly place that once had potential but is now a chain around the neighborhood's neck. And let's not forget, those chains are probably hollow and fake, but that doesn't make them any easier to break.
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