Science Fair Project Encyclopedia
Southdale, officially known as Southdale Center, was the first fully-enclosed and completely climate-controlled shopping mall in the United States. It was opened for public use on October 8, 1956, in the Minneapolis, Minnesota suburb of Edina. As of 2005, the original Southdale building, as well as additions to this building were still in use. Three similarly named shopping centers were also opened in the Twin Cities area: Brookdale Center (opened 1962) in Brooklyn Park, Rosedale Center (opened 1969) in Roseville, and Ridgedale Center (opened 1973) in Minnetonka.
Southdale was the brainchild of Victor Gruen, a Austrian immigrant to the United States. It was never his intention to design an icon of capitalism. Gruen was a European style socialist; he hated the suburban lifestyle of fifties American, and wanted to design a building that would bring people together into a community, by providing a meeting place that American towns lacked. They would come together to shop, and stay to talk, drink coffee and socialise. He modelled the design of Southdale on the arcades of European cities, although his original version was never achieved. Gruen also saw the mall as the centre of a community. When he first drew up the plans for Southdale, he placed the shopping center at the heart of a tidy 463 acre (1.9 km²) development, complete with apartment buildings, houses, schools, a medical center, a park, and a lake. Southdale was not a suburban alternative to downtown Minneapolis. It was the Minneapolis downtown you would get if you started over and corrected all the mistakes that were made the first time around. Gruen planned for an atmosphere of leisure, excitement, and intimacy was created. To achieve this he placed works of art, decorative lighting , fountains, tropical plants , and flowers throughout the mall.
Groundbreaking for Southdale took place on October 29, 1954. 800 construction workers were needed to construct the 4-story 800,000 ft² (74,000 m²) center, complete with 5,200 parking spaces and 72 spaces for tenants. The mall was originally developed by the Dayton Company, owners of Dayton's department store in Minneapolis and predecessor to the Target Corporation.
It was envisioned that Southdale would become the central gathering place not only for the residents of the city of Edina, but also for the greater Twin Cities area. Southdale was designed from the viewpoint of the future. The creators of Southdale understood that in the future, consumers would demand convenience and variety. To this end, Southdale was designed to provide many useful services all under one roof. These services included everything from a Post Office, to a grocery store, to an up-scale apparel store .
When Southdale opened, it became a gathering place for area residents, just as was envisioned. Over the years, Southdale hosted gem, boat and fine art shows, as well as served as host for charity and community events. Southdale was even the host-site for an episode of the Truth or Consequences game show. However the full scale of his plan was never realized. There were no parks or schools or apartment buildings - just that big box in a sea of parking. Nor, with a few exceptions, did anyone else plan the shopping mall as the centerpiece of a tidy, dense, multi-use development.
Southdale was the site for many firsts in the shopping mall arena. Besides being completely enclosed and climate-controlled, Southdale was also the first United States shopping mall to feature two competing department stores under the same roof, as well as the first to feature original works of art hanging on the walls.
While one may expect to find an old and worn-down shopping mall, this is not the case with Southdale. The original Southdale building is still in use, and is as vibrant as ever. Additions to the original construction have brought the total area of the shopping mall to 1.6 million ft² (150,000 m²).
In 2002, Southdale Center took on a new look with the completion of two projects: Trendz On Top, an area for the young and fashion savvy shopper, and The District on France, a combination retail, entertainment, and dining experience.
- Official Southdale Website
- Explore Minnesota: Southdale Shopping Center
- The New Yorker on Gruen and Southdale
The Mall of America, located in nearby Bloomington, is said to be the largest shopping mall in the USA. To an extent, the construction of the Mall of America was an impetus for the expansion and remodeling of Southdale Center, as there was considerable fear that the newer mall would kill off the older mall.
The claim that Southdale is, in fact, the first fully enclosed shopping center has been disputed, leading to the use of the adjectives “modern” and “climate-controlled” to qualify the statement.
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