What I really love about the malls as opposed to shopping downtown is that you can pull right up close to the stores, almost always find a free parking spot—especially if you go to malls furthest from the downtown core—get into the store, do your shopping and out again.
This article about malls from City Journal is pretty good.
In 1952, Austrian architect Victor Gruen dreamed of building the perfect downtown on an immense plot of windswept prairie grass, just south of Minneapolis. Residents would walk through mixed-use developments, flush with greenery and eateries. Public spaces would flourish amidst the amenities of urban life, from apartments to townhouses and clinics to schools. Gruen’s paradise never materialized. Instead of fashionable promenades and village greens, the city of Edina, Minnesota got the Gruen-designed Southdale Center—the original shopping mall.
Southdale Center was revolutionary for its time. It was a two-storied monument to shopping in a single-story world. Shoppers walked in air-conditioned bliss from one anchor tenant to the next past ten acres of glistening shop fronts. In the middle of the complex sat Gruen’s verdant town square. Sunlight poured through the skylight onto a garden court of sculpted magnolias, koi ponds, and hanging ferns. Shoppers relaxed with their loot and downed meals from the food court. Then, just as quickly as they came, shoppers walked out to their cars and drove away.
In 2004, The New Yorker’s Malcolm Gladwell reflected on just what Southdale meant to shoppers:
Until then, most shopping centers had been what architects like to call “extroverted,” meaning that store windows and entrances faced both the parking area and the interior pedestrian walkways. Southdale was introverted: the exterior walls were blank, and all the activity was focused on the inside. Suburban shopping centers had always been in the open, with stores connected by outdoor passageways.
These elements should seem familiar to us today, since they were copied across America. “The shopping center is one of the few new building types created in our times,” Gruen stated in his 1964 book, The Heart of Our Cities.
Southdale Center opened on October 8, 1956, at a cost of $20 million, or what would be roughly $174 million today. (By contrast, the nearby Mall of America cost over $1 billion.) Forty thousand visitors visited on its first day. By all accounts, they were amazed. “The splashiest center in the U.S.,” declared Life. “Part of the American way” and an “imaginative distillation of what makes downtown magnetic,” sang others.
Retrieved July 19, 2015 from http://www.city-journal.org/2015/eon0716mh.html