The Randoms: Best Downtown Mall That Seems To Be The Subject Of A New Hand-Wringing Think Piece Every Week
If there’s one thing Milwaukee is good at, it’s patting itself on the back. Open a local paper or click on a local website, and you’re bound to run into dozens of “Best of” and “Best of the best” awards. The Randoms do the same thing, but without all the tedious popularity-voting and web-browser cookie-clearing. Instead, we simply create arbitrary categories and single out one noteworthy local institution every Friday afternoon. Who will win for Best Riverwest Club With 20 Letters In Its Name? Best Bay View Restaurant On The East Side Of KK? Find out as we hand out awards to every man, woman, child, bar, and farm-to-table restaurant in Milwaukee.
Best Downtown Mall That Seems To Be The Subject Of A New Hand-Wringing Think Piece Every Week: The Shops Of Grand Avenue
If you’re a regular reader of Milwaukee-centric publications, you’ve undoubtedly come across a piece or two dealing with The Shops Of Grand Avenue—or simply the Grand Ave., if you’re nasty. It seems a week can’t go by without yet another writer penning yet another rhetorical “think piece” asking what can be done to save the beleaguered downtown mall. Does the Grand Ave. need more retail? Does it need more “creative space?” Should it be torn down altogether? Does the future of downtown—and of Milwaukee itself—depend on the fate of that recently closed pen shop? How many times can the phrase “breathe new life” be used? Seriously, the only thing that gets Milwaukee writers (and readers) more hot and bothered is a mention in Cat Fancy’s annual “Top 10 purr-fect cities” list.
So what is it about the Grand Ave. that drives normally sane Milwaukee citizens into such a Rocky Rococo-fueled tizzy? It’s not the exterior: As recently discussed on Milwaukee’s No. 1 cultural talk show, The Disclaimer, the mall’s street-level presence is fine, with both anchor stores (T.J. Maxx and Boston Store) sporting bright, reasonably busy window displays. It can’t be the mall’s food court, which is downright hopping during the noon hour. Could it be that the glut of Grand Ave. think pieces are simply placeholders for disgruntled commenters to spout off their semi-informed opinions on the mall? Could it be that just typing the words “Grand Ave.” leads to a sharp uptick in unique page views? We would never, ever suggest such a thing.
Yes, the 31-year-old mall is a problem for downtown Milwaukee. It’s practically a tomb before and after lunch, and recent attempts to transform it into a creative hub of innovation or whatever have mostly fizzled. The heady days of Old Navy, the Gap, Suncoast Video, that used game and DVD store, and the International Clown Hall Of Fame (!) are long gone, and when you consider that nearly every other mall in the country is slowly slipping into obsolescence, things don’t look very rosy for the troubled downtown behemoth. Still, the mall isn’t downtown’s only problem. Urban Milwaukee’s most recent Grand Ave. think piece correctly points out that there are plenty of other issues with Wisconsin Avenue, and discusses a downtown task force that has called for more development, more green space, and more sidewalk cafes on Milwaukee’s main artery. Whether or not these lofty goals will ever be realized is another story, but hey, the story has 45 comments.
So, congratulations, Shops Of Grand Avenue, on being named Best Downtown Mall That Seems To Be The Subject Of A New Hand-Wringing Think Piece Every Week! (In case you’re wondering, The A.V. Club has run nine stories over the years with “Grand Avenue” in the headline.) You may be the largest black hole on Wisconsin Avenue, but you have a Culver’s, and that’s good enough for us.