Mall or Main Street?: Latina/o Oriented Retail Placemaking in Suburban Atlanta

Authors: John Arroyo*, MIT
Topics: Ethnicity and Race, Cultural Geography, Planning Geography
Keywords: Urban Geography, Latina/o Studies, Migration, Urban Design
Session Type: Paper
Day: 4/10/2018
Start / End Time: 12:40 PM / 2:20 PM
Room: Studio 8, Marriott, 2nd Floor
Presentation File: No File Uploaded


While it may seem that traditional shopping malls are dying, immigrant communities are reviving distressed retail spaces as critical sites for adaptation. Nowhere is this phenomenon more acute than in small cities in the metropolitan periphery, where abandoned commercial centers sprawl for miles on end. At the same time, Latina/os are bypassing historic ethnic enclaves to settle in suburban areas – especially in the U.S. South – where their seismic population increase is rapidly reshaping the built environment. Developers have capitalized on cultural preferences by constructing generic Latina/o-themed malls – with varying levels of success. How do Latina/o interpretations of the suburban public realm and private life affect how they reshape commercial centers in recent high-growth peripheral gateways? This paper focuses on four Latino malls in greater Atlanta: Plaza Fiesta, Santa Fe Mall, Plaza Las Americas, and Plaza Latina. The qualitative study draws upon new interpretations of the spatial ideals proposed by Latino Urbanism scholars (Arreola 2004; Davis 2000; Diaz and Torres 2012) as well as the normative “fit” dimensions offered by Kevin Lynch’s Good City Form (1981). Findings will contribute to human geography and urban design policy literature by analyzing how suburban retail aesthetics in the New Latino South affect immigrant agency.

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