The Stupidity of a Billion Dollars for Tri-County Mall: Its bad behavior that killed the shopping complex, money can’t fix that

A Billion Dollars for Tri-County Mall

Believe me, I want Springdale, Ohio, to succeed. My idea of going into the big city when I was a kid was going to the Tri-County Mall and the surrounding areas. They had everything there, and I have always loved it. When I was first married, the Forest Fair Mall opened just down the highway at Forest Park, and it had all kinds of exotic stores and places to eat, along with a movie theater. I thought I was in heaven. I raised my family in these malls, and I would love to see them stay alive. But I think the city council of Springdale is smoking crack if they think voting to spend a billion dollars on refurbishing the Tri-County Mall into a mixed-use development is going to work. It’s enormously stupid and is doomed to fail, and they should not do it. Instead, they need to understand why those malls failed, why all those stores and restaurants left, and make changes to their communities. Because if you don’t change the behavior of a community, throwing money at it won’t improve a thing. Instead, money is made in all economic activity because of behavior. Behavior is not changed by money. Behavior makes money. Bad behavior destroys money. 

From Springdale’s point of view and that of Forest Park, they blame Liberty Center’s success a few more miles north along I-75 for their demise. That state-of-the-art mixed-use community is a real treasure, and it’s where I go these days when I want to go out on the town. I love Liberty Center. It’s great to go see a movie. Eat at a nice restaurant. It has a traditional mall environment, and it also houses an outside mall area that feels like a downtown kind of atmosphere. But you know what it doesn’t have, thugs walking around with their pants half down acting like they will beat up all the customers. Liberty Center is privately managed to get rid of scum bags and losers when they threaten the positive shopping experience of the guests, and they do. They don’t put up with gangs of kids hanging out at Liberty Center, which is why the shopping area is doing well. That is also what destroyed Forest Fair Mall and Tri-County Mall. It wasn’t the change in box store status that came with online retail shopping. It was more that moms found it easier to shop for things from their living rooms rather than go to these malls where young people hang out and misbehave, dropping F-Bombs as they walk by and acting like they might be raped at any moment.  

This isn’t a racist thing; as much as progressives would like to make it so, it’s a behavior issue. When I was young, Tri-County and Forest Park were considered great places to live. Fairfield, which was just next to Forest Park, was voted in Playboy magazine to have some of the most beautiful girls in the country. I went to church in Fairfield. I dated lots of girls from Fairfield and Springdale. I used to be a driver for some of the old Cincinnati Bengals players after they retired, and they lived in Forest Park. I would take them home to their wives in their nice Forest Park homes. Those cities were family-friendly and full of economic prosperity. But as liberal politicians moved into their city councils and mayor positions, they brought many progressive ideas, which we all talk about now. But I was pointing all this out 20 years ago, and the writing for the decline was on the wall. The more liberalism moved into Springdale and the Tri-County area in general, the more that families moved out, north into Liberty Township, West Chester, and Mason. The smart money is left to get away from the bad behavior of progressive politics. And that same story could be said in just about every city that has seen its wealth leave, dropping the value of their communities to derelicts, government addicts, and substance abusers. People do not enjoy being around lousy behavior, and when they see it, they avoid it with other options. That is what killed Tri-County Mall and much of the retail in that area. The local government failed to protect their families by allowing bad behavior to move in and take power with some woke view of the world from a progressive perspective. 

Putting a billion dollars into the same bad behavior will not succeed in Tri-County. Case in point in Over-The-Rhine in downtown Cincinnati where Vine Street repurposed itself to give the illusion of a safe space. The problem is, the surrounding areas are still hives of gang activity and bad conduct up and down Liberty Street and around Findley Market. Instead of crime happening on those streets, gangs like the Glacier Gang follow millennials back to their homes in the suburbs of Sycamore Township and Mason and rob them there. It’s not something they are talking about on the news because they are afraid that people might stop going to downtown Cincinnati for a night out, but it’s a real problem that always stifles economic growth. Bad behavior kills the making of money. 

Oh, I’m sure people reading this who are in denial will say that such judgments are “racist” or are coming from the mind of “white supremacy.” Well, I’m none of those things. I would tell anybody who wants to know to interview any mom-type outside of the I-275 loop and ask them what they think of Tri-County. They’ll say openly that they don’t want to get robbed, raped, or groped because many moms over the last decade who have shopped at Tri-County Mall have been harassed in some way by gangs of youth who didn’t respect the shopping experience. Was getting raped an exaggeration on the part of the moms? Maybe, but it’s how they felt while going to the mall, so they instead turned to online shopping to avoid the threat altogether. Then once Liberty Center opened, they went there instead or made the drive over to Kenwood. With that said, Liberty Center has its own problems. It needs a government bailout as we speak because it’s not hitting the targets it needs to financially. Much of that is due to the changing market of box stores compared to online shopping. It’s a challenging environment these days under perfect conditions. But then-Governor DeWine of Ohio shut down the state economically, which hurt Liberty Center immensely. They still haven’t opened their playground there over liability concerns. The government often gets in the way of positive economic growth, which is undoubtedly the case at Liberty Center. 

To show how stupid government can be, just think of the Springdale City Council, knowing all I have said here but refusing to admit to themselves because of their progressive politics that somehow a billion dollars of investment will change anything. Who in their right mind will invest in a restaurant or store in this new complex knowing that the people who will be giving them money will likely bring trouble with them? And who is going to live in these new apartments? People who don’t care about getting their cars broken into? Or harassed as they are walking down the sidewalk with a gang of kids playing rap music out of the trunk of their car and selling pot out of the front seat? No, you can’t put lipstick on a pig and pretend it’s a flower. It’s still a pig, and until the government puts value on good behavior in their society, they will always see a loss of revenue 100% of the time. It’s a fundamental law of economic activity which progressives choose to ignore. But it certainly doesn’t make it any less relevant. 

Rich Hoffman

Click to buy The Gunfighter’s Guide to Business

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