Thursday, May 27, 2010

The Shoppes at River Crossing: Macon, GA

"Lifestyle Centers" are not something I like to cover on this blog.  Yes, they are retail "now" and pertinent, but I absolutely despise them.  The reason I despise them is partly due to the fact they are killing the malls, but I hate them more for the fact that they do not provide a real destination either.  In these places, there is no covered walkway to protect you from the elements, no plaza area to actually hang out and meet people and no central focal points.  I can't even photograph these places well because all they are is a strip mall with the two sides turned to face each other.  Of course, these places are the latest trend but why can't we just build a nice open air mall instead?  The possibilities are endless for an awesome open-air mall but we get this instead complete with the elegant "e".

Belk has a two level store with plentiful back parking, but no mall attached to it.  This would be the mall entrance in a mall.  The design looks kinda nice, but it is another stucco creation.

One thing for sure is the yuppie crowd of Macon digs this place.  On my visit, it was crowded as it could be, but I could see right away what makes these places a disaster.  The lifestyle center is precisely why downtown was replaced by the mall to start with.  Parking is impossible with pedestrians and children darting out in front of you at every turn.  The pedestrian-unfriendly design makes traffic like musical chairs with cars circling constantly fighting for the parking place in front of their store of choice.  The only decent parking to be found is at the department stores, but unlike the malls if you leave that store you are out in the cars, traffic and elements if you wish to actually browse the stores.  Places like this also lack the history, architecture or charm of downtown as well.  Why was this done to us?

I think Dillard's invented stucco, though, considering how nearly every store they have has it.  At least this newer design looks classy compared to the hideous design on the Macon Mall store. 

Peering around a corner of the "mall".  I can't sunbathe here?  You're serious?  Well it's too hot to do anything else here!

In my personal opinion, the success of River Crossing is that it is the anti-Macon Mall in a better side of town.  It is new, fresh and you are far less likely to get mugged.  If Macon Mall had been built in this side of town, this place would never have existed.  Design wise, however, I cannot say much for it.  To me, it just looks likes like a typical upscale strip mall, but unlike another lifestyle center I am yet to cover, there is no focal point such as a gazebo, elaborate fountain or outdoor plaza.  It is all so very plain, really.  The high points, though, are the department stores.  Dillard's was nice and so was Belk.  Both stores are two levels, which shows that they are definitely serious for the long term.  However, Belk maintains its store at Macon Mall while Dillard's did not hesitate to abandon its store there.  Other anchor tenants include Dick's Sporting Goods, Barnes & Noble and your obligatory chain restaurants.

A view along the "mall".  Yay, let's go for a stroll so we can get run over today and struck by lightning mid-June!  Oh, never mind...I've circled three @%#!ing times trying to get a parking place in front of Chico's!

Just drop me off here at Barnes & Noble while you keep fighting for a parking place.  At least in here I have air-conditioning and something to see since I have no mall to browse in.

In all, instead of building this place they could have just fixed downtown.  It would be nice if Belk had reclaimed its original location, a new Dillard's opened in an old building and upscale shops lined up on Broadway.  If people want downtown back, then bring downtown back.  If people want a strip mall, then just build a strip mall.  Downtown has character, this place has faux-traditional architecture mixed with stucco.  Even five years ago, this place would have been an enclosed mall.  I might cut them some slack if they at least built a small open-air mall wing in a future expansion.  Nevertheless, I can definitely say that those looking for a complete mall-like shopping experience have found it.  It has nice stores, and it looks fresh and clean but I must say it is pretty boring and will be less than pleasant when the August sauna arrives.


  1. Evans A CriswellMay 27, 2010 at 7:32 AM

    The only outdoor mall I've encountered that does not have cars going all through it is Bridge Street in Huntsville. It does have more of a sense of community as a result since the stores facing each other are much closer together (as they would be in an enclosed mall) with no cars driving through. However, there's absolutely nothing to protect from the rain there. Remember when old strip malls used to have a covered walkway in front of the stores for the length of the center so you could walk the length of the thing if it were raining? What a concept!

    I'm finding myself shopping much less in other cities now that everything is outside in the heat and cold and most of these new centers are strip malls or an arrangement like the one you feature here. "The Avenue" in Murfreesboro lacks any sense of community since the two rows of stores are facing each other but are far apart with parking and cars driving through it, creating a huge barrier between them. Even worse is "Providence" at Mt. Juliet, TN. I was at one store and thought, "I'll just walk over the Best Buy". Nope, I found a busy 4-lane drive with cars through the center to be a barrier I didn't want to deal with and left and haven't returned.

  2. Eastern Shore Centre in suburban Spanish Fort, Al is a good example of a decent lifestyle center. In it, the focal point is a nice village common with an interactive splash fountain as its centerpiece. This common is then surrounded by restaurants and a perimeter of moderate to high end stores.

  3. I prefer shopping at the Galleria in Centerville or the individual stores versus what I call "The Snobs at River Crossing". Simply put, nothing attracts me there as a middle-class person. Sadly what keeps kids from hanging around is what makes it inconvenient and unattractive: the lack of a common area.

    Macon does have a "yuppie" population but it alone is shrinking too much to help this center. The Shoppes may have to downscale. The center was supposed to attract people from below Clayton County onwards. I doubt it will happen. The next retailing hot spot will be GA96 and US41 in Houston County. Georgia Theater opened a facility nearby.

  4. "In all, instead of building this place they could have just fixed downtown."

    Thank you. I kept saying the same thing when they were building this eyesore.

    My question is: what happens in 20 years when the "next big thing" makes this huge development a wasteland?

  5. Thank you! I have been saying the exact same thing. I'm from Macon but now live near the Mall of GA. When I'm in Macon visiting and my mom or sister try to talk me into going to The Shoppes, I decline. I've been there a couple of times but it is uncontrolled madness trying to park. What a horrible concept, also who likes to shop in the heat, rain, and cold? I think I have been spoiled with the MOG.
    I miss the old Macon Mall and all it's former glory...sad what shopping has become in Macon.