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With the new century come two new building types: the dead superstore and the dead mall. The dead mall is a victim of economic chill. But dead out-of-town superstores are something else. They're like old skins shucked off by saurian retailers as they gobble up sites and pursue unending growth.
Julia Christensen's book Big Box Reuse examines the lifecycle of these creatures, the far-reaching transformations they bring about in towns and cities, and the waste structures they leave behind. Her research is valuable and timely - the unexpected bonus is that the story is fascinating and lucidly written. When a big box superstore moves into a city, or (as is more common) appears on its periphery, it gives that city a new economic centre of gravity. The sales tax that it raises means that local authorities bend to its will. The thousands of car journeys that it generates can attract other businesses to set up next door. And the fabric of the city warps around it: freeway exits are built, turning lanes implemented.