Greyfield / Suburban Retrofit
Today, the same low-density housing tastes that started spilling middle-class residents from "the city" in the 1920s are now shifting markets between suburbs. This creates a cycle of obsolescence in many older suburbs, told by the shuttered malls and crumbling parking lots left behind. According to a study by the Congress for the New Urbanism, these greyfields – so called for their expanses of faded blacktop – composed 19 percent of the nation's 2,000 regional shopping malls in 2001. Often vast and centrally located, such sites leave conspicuous voids in a community's economy and architecture. While once emblems of growth, these malls are now fiscal millstones swinging heavily from the necks of municipal administrators and business owners.
Although greyfields signify economic decay, they also provide redevelopment opportunities at a scale that enables dramatic change and a clean slate for the greater community. The wrongs of former mall design (large commercial islands in a sea of parking lots) may be erased, so more versatile, pedestrian-and-transit-focused developments can take their place. Often, greyfields are already sited near major streets and transit routes, making them ideal for innovative town centers and mixed-use developments.
In this report, the term greyfield is defined as a failing retail center that offers an opportunity for redevelopment. Unlike brownfields which are contaminated, greyfields are not. Greyfields are often declining malls or big-box power centers, but the term has been used to describe smaller retail strip centers.