A Web site run by Peter Balckbird and Brian Florence, both
of Queensbury, keep an eye on dead and dying shopping malls across
the country. A clickable map leads viewers to malls in each
Local man's Web site tracks fallen
Fascination with ailing shopping centers goes
By JOHN GEREAU
QUEENSBURY -- Peter Blackbird was 10 years old when his curiosity
about malls was born.
The year was 1991, and Blackbird spent
part of his summer break with his family on vacation in Maine. While
he was there, Blackbird said his family stopped by a large, enclosed
Two years later, when the family returned to
the same vacation spot, the nearby mall had become "a ghost town,"
Blackbird said -- a vacant reminder of what is becoming a trend
among the nation's older shopping malls.
So Blackbird, now
21, began chronicling the story of similar aging malls to ensure
that their place in history doesn't die along with the mammoth
concrete buildings they once occupied.
Several years later,
Blackbird teamed with a high school buddy and self-taught computer
whiz, Brian Florence, 24, and the two friends launched a Web site
A search of the Internet uncovered
nothing else like it on the Web, Blackbird said.
wanted to catalogue some of these malls, so there is a history of
their existence before they vanish for good," Blackbird
Today, the two Queensbury residents schedule vacations
around visiting financially struggling malls. Armed with digital
cameras, Blackbird and Florence use every opportunity they get to
take road trips to record the dying shopping meccas.
time we get the time and money, we hit the road," Blackbird said.
"I spend more time at it than I'm willing to
Florence said both he and Blackbird at one time
worked in retail, and while each is now pursuing a different career,
they remain committed to deadmalls.com, which they update a minimum
of two to four times a year.
Blackbird and Florence check out their Web site at
Blackbird's home Friday afternoon
"This is really the
brainchild of Pete. It was his hobby and I just kind of embraced
it," Florence said.
Although neither Blackbird nor Florence
has had any formal education in business or retail analysis, each
speaks about the topic with the fluency of a market
Blackbird was even quoted in a recent Associated
Press story about floundering shopping malls after his Web site
caught the attention of the national news media (see story, Page
He told the reporter that smaller malls are slowly
giving way to so-called "big-box" discount retailers and new giant,
open-air shopping malls that offer consumers easier access and an
often carnival-like atmosphere with lots of things for the family to
Adding to the problem is a glut of retail space, much of
which was built during an economic boom in the 1970s and early '80s
and no longer serves the needs of today's buying
"Twenty years ago, they built too many malls, to a
fault," Blackbird said.
"They built 20 when they should have
Not all of the projections on deadmalls.com are
pessimistic about the mall's fate. Many of the critiques on the Web
site -- such as that of Aviation Mall in Queensbury -- are designed
to give avid shoppers a road map of what to expect when they reach a
destination, Blackbird and Florence said.
Aviation Mall in Queensbury is highlighted as one of 22 malls
throughout New York, but the write-up on the local mall is upbeat
and Blackbird's prognosis for the mall is positive. But he said the
expansion plan of a few years ago at Aviation Mall was too
"They already have a slew of retail space that
they struggle to keep filled," he said.
"We just don't have
the population base here to support a Crossgates-like mall in