Guest Editorial: RIP Metrocenter

By Recker McDowell —

Metrocenter Mall is closing. The north Phoenix mall opened in 1973, once included an ice rink and was one of the film locations for Keanu Reeves’ Bill and Ted’s Excellent Adventure.

Metrocenter will close later this month. It joins Fiesta Mall in Mesa on the list of zombie malls. There are and have been redevelopment plans for both malls.

There are broader lessons to be learned from the demise of Metrocenter for other parts of town. Nothing lasts forever and there is need to evolve or risk extinction.

Both Metrocenter and Fiesta Mall saw similar paths. The Valley kept growing beyond their locations with freeways and more development. That brought Arrowhead Towne Center to the growing West Valley and Superstition Springs Mall and Chandler Fashion Center to the East Valley.

Their neighborhoods went through some economic changes and transitions. But it should be pointed there are restaurants and coffee shops (including In-N-Out Burger and Dutch Bros Coffee) that are still open and doing well around those dinosaur malls.

The lesson for other developments and other parts of town (even the most popular and successful now) is that they must evolve, innovate and be creative.

We know what is popular in 1980 or even 2000 is not necessarily viable and competitive in 2020. Just ask newspapers, department stores, hair bands and shopping malls.

The same holds true for what works now, even in the most popular and ‘cool’ parts of town.

And that could be accelerated by COVID-19 and the other upheavals of 2020. Workspaces, restaurants, sports and all kinds of other places and spaces are changing short and long-term. They are changing not just in north Phoenix off Interstate 17. They are poised across the region.

All this provides opportunity and challenges to architects, designers, developers, employers, and communities. The ones that are innovative, creative and change with the tides of time will survive and thrive.

We should embrace the creative, innovative and the new ways of thinking and new ways of working.

The ones that stay stuck in past business models and past of ways of thinking will in end up getting left in the past.