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Suburban Shopping Malls as Spaces for Community Health and Human Flourishing: An Aotearoa New Zealand Case Study

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As urbanization continues to increase, the focus of urban development needs to shift to the suburban if we are to create cities that offer places to flourish.

Suburbanites are increasingly seeking greater opportunities for place attachment, community cohesion and identity. This paper examines the role of semi-public spaces (in this case shopping malls) in Aotearoa suburbs. It evaluates two declining malls in Wellington – Johnsonville and Wainuiomata. Interviews and focus groups found these malls play an important role as spaces for social engagement in ad-hoc but significant ways. Despite this, the community felt unable to participate in design decisions as the malls are privately owned. ‘Public’ and community spaces can sit in private hands if there are ongoing mechanisms in place to ensure the local community continues to have a say in design decisions. If we chose to instead deal with spaces by values rather than ownership, urban development may change radically.

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