A Trip to the Mall

Outside Macy's Plaza in Downtown LA.

Outside Macy’s Plaza in Downtown LA.

I hate shopping. Slob that I am, I’ll wait until my clothes are coming apart before I force myself to go out and buy new ones. And when I do finally get to a store, I grab the stuff I need, pay for it and leave as quickly as possible. I just want to get it over with.

So hating shopping like I do, you probably won’t be surprised to hear that I also hate malls. They seem so big and impersonal. But obviously I’m in the minority, because millions of people flock to malls every week, and seem to enjoy the experience. It’s been said, and I know it’s true, that malls have become the social center for communities, replacing parks and town squares. Whether I like it or not, they’ve become an important part of the fabric of American life.

When I do finally break down and go shopping, I usually head for Macy’s Plaza in Downtown. That’s where I went last Saturday night to pick up a couple pairs of pants. The main reason I like this mall is that there’s usually nobody there, and that was the case on Saturday. I breezed in, bought what I needed and breezed out, without having to fight my way through crowds. It was fairly painless.

But obviously, what makes Macy’s Plaza attractive to me is a sign that it’s not really attractive to other people. If nobody’s showing up to shop, stores can’t survive. This mall has been struggling for years. It’s never drawn the kind of crowds you’ll find in Burbank or Sherman Oaks or Santa Monica. There are times when I’ve visited that the place seems more like a ghost town.

So somebody’s trying to change all that. A couple years ago a developer bought the property and they’re pouring millions into a massive makeover. Construction has been going on for months. As I was walking out I stopped a moment to take a look at the work they’re doing in the central court. Here are a couple photos.

Interior court at Macy's Plaza under construction.

Interior court at Macy’s Plaza under construction.

Another shot of the interior court.

Another shot of the interior court.

Apparently this area will be opened up and turned into a public plaza, which is a smart move. This area will offer direct access to the subway as well, which also makes a lot of sense. If you’d like to see some renderings, take a look at this post on Curbed.

What Macy’s Fortress Will Become

Of course, if you’re throwing all this money into an extreme makeover, you’ve also got to throw a lot of money into rebranding the place. And this was the thing that really caught my eye on Saturday night. Apparently once the remodelling is done, the mall will be renamed The Bloc. The campaign they’re using to promote the change is interesting. Check out the temporary barriers that currently line the entrance to the mall.

Construction barrier with a quote from Byron.

Construction barrier with a quote from Byron.

Construction barrier with a quote from Euripides.

Construction barrier with a quote from Euripides.

Construction barrier with a quote from Hafiz.

Construction barrier with a quote from Hafiz.

I can’t remember the last time I went shopping and was greeted by quotes from Thoreau, Euripides and Hafiz. It definitely made me stop and look, but I wonder how these guys would feel about having their work used in a marketing campaign for a mall. On the other hand, it’s definitely better than having the place plastered with massive, garish images of supermodels and food.

And as I was snapping these photos I looked up and saw dozens of origami cranes hanging overhead.

Origami cranes suspended from scaffolding.

Origami cranes suspended from scaffolding.

For the past few years the only cranes I’ve seen in LA have been the massive metal kind that dominate the horizon. It was nice to see the other kind for a change. Something small, graceful and beautiful tucked into a hidden corner of the urban jungle.

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