If Las Vegas isn’t in the midst of a retail resurgence, it sure seems like it. We’re not talking about the Strip, where tourists steadily flock to the Fashion Show and the Miracle Mile Shops, although both of those are engaged in major revamps right now. No, we’re focused on the Valley’s “regional shopping centers”—the malls of Las Vegas.
Downtown Summerlin opened in October, bringing 1.6 million square-feet of somewhat high-end shopping and dining in an environment that combines a walkable faux-urban experience with a big-box suburban center we’re used to. Henderson’s Galleria at Sunset is expanding, adding new restaurants and shops to a recently renovated experience. Town Square on Las Vegas Boulevard south of the Strip is still more of a locals’ destination than a tourist trip, and even the east side’s Boulevard Mall—once struggling with heavy debt and the loss of key anchor tenants—is rebuilding with new owners and an ambitious, unconventional strategy.
And yet one mall, my mall, seems to be exempt from this excitement. I grew up at the Meadows Mall, just off Highway 95 at Valley View Boulevard. Friday nights were for meeting up with friends and struggling to decide whether our few dollars should be spent on the latest CD or pumped into arcade games. We surveyed sneakers at Foot Locker and tried to talk our parents into bringing us back to buy them on Saturday. We talked to girls for the first time. We hid from the summer sun in air-conditioned splendor and feasted on corn dogs, cherry lemonade and greasy pizza.
Today’s teenagers, mush-brained from texting and Tweeting, will probably never wax nostalgic about their malls, and they’re likely as unimpressed by the nearly 40-year-old Meadows today as most of us are. It simply can’t hang with Downtown Summerlin’s luxurious offerings—when the fancy new spot opened a giant Dillard’s; the same store at Meadows was converted into a clearance outlet.
And yet the Meadows doesn’t feel like one of the “dead malls” The New York Times reported on earlier this year, the dozens of traditional, enclosed shopping centers that have closed in the past five years or are on the brink of disappearing. The Meadows is almost fully occupied ... by stores, if not shoppers. Unlike its previously mentioned peers, it hasn’t been renovated in a decade. But it’s still centrally located and still surrounded by a lot of residents.
Grown-up me can’t find a reason to revisit the Meadows Mall. I buy my own shoes now, and the Foot Locker at Downtown Summerlin is really nice. But it might be nicer to see my old stomping grounds come back to life. If the Boulevard can do it, the Meadows can, too.