Many kiosks in Sunrise Mall’s food court are unoccupied. The mall has lacked a stand-alone restaurant since 2019. (Photo by Debbie Cunningham)

Is it time to say goodbye to the mall?

Plus: support for the mental health of young refugees, the Capital Region company that sent men to the moon, and more

By: Jennifer Fergesen

It wasn’t long ago that the shopping mall was the place to be in suburban America — and one of the only places to go. During the post-war redevelopment boom, car-centric development funneled people away from urban cores and toward new housing tracts that lacked traditional town centers. There, the mall rose from the ashes of Main Street to become the new focal point of the American lifestyle. The first malls were intended to replicate the shop-lined boulevards of old European cities, but climate-controlled and designed for maximum profitability. 

Today, as an increasing number of shoppers prefer to make their purchases online — especially after getting used to it during the pandemic — many once-thriving malls are foundering. The lifestyle they represent is also becoming less popular as developers recognize a growing preference for walkable, mixed-use neighborhoods that aren’t dominated by parking lots. In the Capital Region, one so-called “ghost mall” site instead became a casino. Another mall that may be heading in that direction is attempting to reincarnate itself as a mixed-use site with housing, a food hall, and links to public transportation and bicycle infrastructure. Learn more about these plans in this week’s featured print story, “The Rise and Fall of the Mall.” 

Of course, there are still malls drawing crowds in the Capital Region, with open-air “lifestyle centers” especially popular. The Fountains at Roseville, for example, is “designed in the style of a European main street,” says General Manager Michelle Carillo. As a follow-up to his print story, contributor Ed Fletcher spoke to Carillo and leaders at other successful local malls to learn how they’re adapting to changing retail trends. The full web exclusive is available now.

Here’s the rest of the Capital Region Rundown: Schools and nonprofits in the Capital Region are working to support the mental health of young refugees from Afghanistan; a Sacramento-based musician with roots in Ethiopia incorporates classical violin into her folk-rock compositions; and the backstory on a company formerly based in Sacramento County that helped send men to the moon. 

Recommendations from our editors:

In this section we editors share what we’re reading, listening to, watching or even eating. Here’s what we’re consuming this week:

Judy: Looks like there might be another Gold Rush going on in California, nearly 175 years after the original one in 1849. The New York Times and others are reporting “The mother lode of winter storms has sent water blasting through rock crevices and rivers in the Sierra Nevada, leading to more glittering discoveries by prospectors.” So head on over to Coloma, grab a pan and start looking for some unearthed treasure! “After California’s Heavy Rains, Gold Seekers Are Giddy

Jennifer: I think the best food writing uses food as a hook to get people to think about people and corners of the world they’d otherwise overlook — while still paying attention to what’s on the plate. The article “A Shepherd, a Cook, a Palace Chef: Making Food With Less Under the Taliban” from the New York Times’ Kabul Dispatch does that perfectly. It starts with the last box lunch prepared by the former head chef of the deposed Afghan president — fritters, salad and steamed broccoli — and goes on to explain how the Taliban and international sanctions both threaten the Afghan food supply. Despite the story’s global scope, it still takes the time to quote a shepherd’s favorite recipe for dried mutton: “in a soup thick with chickpeas, alliums, tomatoes and root vegetables, enlivened by ground ginger, turmeric and coriander.” 

Dakota: I recently visited the U.S. Capitol for the first time, and, while I’ve never been much into politics, observing the House floor got me in the democratic spirit and left me with some practical questions like, How much do our congressmembers make? About $174,000 annually, according to Indeed. That’s a lot, but not as much as I expected. Additionally, most members are now choosing to live in their home state, a shift that has profoundly changed Capitol Hill, the article “Congress doesn’t live here anymore” explains. So, how do members afford to spend half their time in the very pricey city of Washington, D.C.? Well, many actually sleep in their offices — a controversial lifestyle choice that some decry as a misappropriation of taxpayer dollars. Others live in group homes or apartments. Perhaps the most famous example is the dingey rowhouse in which three congressmen have cohabitated for more than 30 years. They made a TV show about it called “Alpha House.” This article, “The real ‘Alpha House’: Yes, this is where some Senators actually live,” doesn’t skip the grimy details, like the pile of underwear in the living room. Capitol life isn’t as glamorous as I thought.

Odds and Ends

This week, we’re happy to welcome new Assistant Editor Dakota Morlan to the Comstock’s team! Dakota is an award-winning journalist and former editor at the Calaveras Enterprise, a newsweekly in the Mother Lode region. You may recognize her byline from several Comstock’s print and web features, including last month’s “Women Who Represent” on young women breaking into politics in the Capital Region. Read more of her work at, and follow her on Twitter @DakotaNMorlan.

We’ve extended our deadline for Young Professionals nominations to Friday, April 28. Please take a few minutes to nominate a mover and shaker age 40 or under who inspires you. 

Don’t forget to subscribe to the magazine to stay up to date on the region’s business trends, and follow us on Instagram, Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn for daily stories and extras. 

Recommended For You

Malls Adapt to Changing Retail Patterns

We invited the managers of some of the most successful shopping centers in our region for insight on how they managed during the pandemic, but more importantly how they stay relevant in a digital world. 

Apr 25, 2023 Ed Fletcher

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