How many malls do we really need?
America has roughly twice the retail space per-capita than anywhere else on earth. (We don't make stuff anymore, but we sure enjoy buying) Where I used to live in California, there was 6 major-sized malls within 5 miles of each other with countless strip malls and big-box retailers in between. The idea was always that people would come from all over to our city to shop while never considering that every other nearby city would have plenty of their own malls as well.
The fact of the matter is that there is no way we can shop enough to justify this much retail space. Between the time I was born and the time I left, I saw countless acres formerly occupied by manufacturing converted to retail.
And I think @Hates Idiots above nailed a big part of the problem; even light manufacturing frequently garners fierce NIMBY opposition while everyone seems happy with more retail. This is in spite of the fact that most of the jobs created by retail are of the relatively low paying minimum-wage type. Cities are easily sold on them because they are sold on hopes of large sales tax returns, which rarely materialize as promised because of competition with other malls, and barely mitigate the congestion costs of the rest of the city.
A few miles from where I now live sits a recently closed auto plant. Auto manufacturing is leaving the cities and is not coming back. (They're all being built in mostly rural areas down south) There's a big debate over what this property should be redeveloped as. Mixed use, a football stadium, another mall; all kinds of cool sounding stuff. Manufacturing of any kind was never on the list.
Last year, our county was found to be negotiating to backstop a loan to redevelop the property as, you guessed it, retail! This is despite the fact that our part of the county is already experiencing an over 40% vacancy rate for retail properties! Just what we need. Fortunately (to the disappointment of the real estate brokerage community that mostly backs this nonsense) people figured out what was happening and that it was eventually going to be paid through even higher property taxes and put a stop to the madness. Advocates argued that this was to be a great "investment" for the county. If this was to be such a wonderful investment, then why did it need to be backstopped by a taxpayer bond?