Suburban malls may be a dying breed, but in cities from New York to Hong Kong, new malls are thriving by seamlessly blending into the urban fabric
We didnt expect to see stores, says Yulia, as her husband browses for shoes in one of the shops lining the Oculus, the new focus of New Yorks World Trade Center.
Visiting from Ukraine and on their way to the 9/11 memorial, they were beckoned by the Oculuss unusual architecture: from the outside, the Santiago Calatrava-designed ribbed structure reminds you of a bird or a dinosaur skeleton; inside, it is teaming with tourists taking pictures with selfie sticks.
But the Oculus, named after the eyelike opening at the apex that lets in light, is more than a piece of striking architecture. It exists as a mall, with more than a hundred stores, and as a hub connecting office buildings in Brookfield Place and One World Trade Center with 11 subway lines and Path trains, serving 50,000 commuters every day. Thats a lot of eyeballs on shopfronts.
The mall company Westfield, of course, hopes that the tourists and transit users will stray to the stores. The New New York Place to Be, reads the malls tagline. Shop. Eat. Drink. Play. All under one magnificent roof.
Oculus was Westfields $1.4bn bet that New York, a city known for its love of the street, could also have a successful mall. And judging from the crowds, it counters the narrative that the mall is dead, like those thousands of empty suburban malls dotting the American landscape, ghostboxes decaying on cracked asphalt parking lots.
A Mormon businessman is buying up land to build master-planned towns from scratch, based on the church founders idea for a plat of Zion
The roads through rural Vermont wind past rolling forested hills and quaint small towns, including South Royalton used as the quintessential New England village in the opening sequence of the TV series Gilmore Girls.
A short drive away, the Tunbridge Worlds Fair has run almost continuously since 1867, with games, contests for best pig or pumpkin, and displays of old-time printing presses and candle making.
And not far from there, one stop on the areas low-key tourist trail dotted with maple syrup farms, pottery workshops and picturesque covered bridges, is the birthplace of Joseph Smith, founder of the Mormon church.
The site now hosts a museum, run by the church and staffed by cheerful missionaries. Outside, a giant granite obelisk rises towards the sky. Calming music flows from speakers located high up in the trees. It is a peaceful place, designed to inspire reflection.
But, over the last year, it has also found itself at the centre of a controversy. In front of many houses and shops, signs exclaim: Save our communities. Stop NewVistas.
NewVistas is the name of an unusual, indeed, one-of-a-kind project led by a Mormon businessman named David Hall to build new, master-planned towns from scratch inspired by notes written by Joseph Smith himself in 1833.
Hall says these designs, which described how ideal Mormon settlements should be laid out and were drafted almost 200 years ago, offer answers to modern-day challenges of sustainable living. And to make it happen, he has been buying land lots of it.
The first goal is to build a NewVista community near Smiths birthplace in Vermont, which would be home to about 20,000 people. The next step: to build more. Ultimately, Halls vision describes a new city of connected communities, with a total population of up to one million.
The fantastic story first came to light last spring, thanks to the careful eye and diligent research of a librarian in the small town of Sharon, who uncovered a series of local land purchases that she traced to the businessman and his plans.
Reflecting on that time, Nicole Antal, 30, says shed found it all hard to believe particularly the scale.
The Mormon church owns vast tracts of US land, and now envisages a huge new city on its Deseret Ranch but at what cost?
Everything about the Deseret cattle and citrus ranch, in central Florida, is massive. The property itself occupies 290,000 acres of land more than nine times the size of San Francisco and almost 20 times the size of Manhattan. It is one of the largest ranches in the country, held by the one of the biggest landowners in the state: the Mormon church.
On an overcast weekday afternoon, Mormon missionaries give tours of the vast estate. Fields, orange trees and grazing animals stretch as far as the eye can see. While central Florida may be best known for Disney World, the ranch roughly an hours drive away is nearly 10 times bigger. It is home to a jaw-dropping 40,000 cows and has grown oranges for millions of glasses of juice.
Now there are ambitious, far-reaching plans to transform much of this land into an entirely new city, home to as many as 500,000 people by 2080. Deseret has said that while nothing will be built here for decades, its plans are necessary because urban growth in the area is inevitable and the alternative is piecemeal development. A slide from a 2014 presentation explains: We think in terms of generations.
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