Interesting review in the latest Atlantic on the history, operations, and future of the shopping mall. This point goes far to explain urban sprawl and the failure of a lot of local economic renewal efforts.
The problem, Underhill argues, is that there's rot in the mall's very DNA. Mall owners, far from being merchants who want to creatively engage our acquisitive urges, are simply real-estate developers trying to maximize every rental dollar, mostly by minimizing their overhead. Which is not a good thing. To begin with, the resulting architecture is a horror ("A big wall with a little mouse hole" is the way one top mall designer describes it). And now these blank, lifeless exteriors are gradually decaying, with an almost Michael Jackson-like weirdness.