In April 2021, ReImagine Turtle Creek Watershed and Airshed Communities (TCWAC) hosted an essay contest asking high schoolers to share their ideas on how they would make the Monroeville Mall more economically, socially, and environmentally sustainable and inclusive of youth. A panel of judges, consisting of community leaders ranging from a Gateway School District Board Member to University of Pittsburgh Urban Studies Professors, chose three winning essays to receive cash prizes adding up to $1000. This contest builds upon a ReImagine TCWAC initiative that aims to revitalize the mall into a community hub for sustainability and innovation.

To celebrate our talented and inspiring essayists, TCWAC is holding ReImagine the Monroeville Mall Showcase this July for winners of the contest to read their submissions to the community. This event will create space for Monroeville residents to think about how the mall is a vital economic asset in our region. How can we, as a community of mall patrons, ensure that this asset is sustained?

The event will include several speakers, refreshments, and community members. We will follow all CDC guidelines for outdoor events.

 Speakers • Food • Community 

 July 21, 5-7 pm 

 Monroeville Mall parking lot (upper level Macy's entrance) 

The ReImagine the Monroeville Mall Essay Contest was open to high school juniors and seniors in Allegheny and Westmoreland Counties, with support from Protect PT, League of Women Voters, and Climate Reality Project.

 

Prizes for the contest include:

First Place ($500) 

Second Place ($350)

Third Place ($150)

 

Winners will be announced in June 2021 and invited to read their essays at a ReImagine the Monroeville Mall Showcase in July.

This contest builds upon a ReImagine TCWAC initiative that aims to revitalize the mall into a community hub for sustainability and innovation. Learn More About the Monroeville EcoMall Project.

Youth Essay Contest

Essay Question

What would you do to change the Monroeville mall into a place that is economically, socially, and environmentally sustainable? How can the Monroeville 'EcoMall' make youth feel welcome, protected, and included?

Background: The Decline of the 20th Century Shopping Mall

In the latter half of the 20th century, mall developers saw the value of downtown areas’ ability to intersect convenience and community and adapted it to trends in rising automobile-centered infrastructure. Malls provided suburban consumers with parking lots and space for congregating in a carefully-designed, consumer-driven retail hub that was remarkable for its time. The mall is also emblematic of the suburban youth culture, creating safe spaces for teenagers to exist, shop, and congregate.  Since their beginning, malls have served as community gathering spaces, but recent shifts to online shopping sparked by the Great Recession in 2008 have brought a decline in the commercial aspect of the mall. Malls that have survived the turnover are investing in making their shopping experiences unique - adding local businesses, art galleries, and opportunities for community engagement. Monroeville Mall is not immune to downward trends for in-person shopping exacerbated by COVID-19 - it filed for Chapter 11 Bankruptcy in November of 2020. 

On top of Monroeville Mall’s economic decline and store closings, its environmental impact is unchecked and its inclusivity is faltering. Its immense energy consumption results in greenhouse gases entering the airshed and the impervious and slanted parking lot causes runoff pollution to enter the Turtle Creek watershed. Being a large complex surrounded by sun-reflecting concrete and little foliage, the mall has a micro heat-island effect resulting in slightly higher temperatures for its property and that of surrounding communities. As it stands today, the Monroeville Mall also encourages increased car traffic leading to car exhaust pollution as well as pollution from single-use plastic from the food court and retailers. Additionally, over the past few years, the Monroeville Mall has made headlines for violent crime, leading to increased restrictions on usage that bars people, particularly youth, out of this community asset.

The Monroeville EcoMall - ReImagine Turtle Creek Watershed and Airshed Communities Plus (TCWAC) is a grass-roots economic and community development initiative in eastern Allegheny and western Westmoreland counties. The Monroeville EcoMall is a project that aims to re-imagine the Monroeville Mall into a community hub for sustainable business and innovation. The ReImagined Monroeville EcoMall will bring economic prosperity to the community, make space for local businesses to thrive, and promote environmental health and education. The project idealization incorporates a redesign of the mall including underused or wasted space – the roof, the parking lot, parts of the interior – to increase energy efficiency and community educational opportunities, while decreasing pollution. The EcoMall will bring about a new renaissance in the Monroeville community and its surrounding suburbs - encouraging sustainable development and lifestyle - while improving the health of the Turtle Creek Valley watershed and airshed.

Monroeville Mall when it first opened in 1969

The mall's infrastructure raises temperatures in surrounding communities, similar to the urban heat island effect in cities.

Monroeville Mall's parking lot is not much different from when Dawn of the Dead came out in 1978. 

Monroeville Mall's ice rink was closed in 1984.

Questions? Contact Annie Deely annie@protectpt.org 724-835-4197