The first modern mall was created in 1956 by Victor Gruen in Edina, Minnesota, called Southdale Shopping Center. It was an enclosed structure with two levels, and it contained competing department stores and specialty shops. The specialty shops became the foundation stores for malls across the country. Southdale Shopping Center and other malls designed by Gruen and James Rouse were climate controlled, and they contained an indoor courtyard, public art exhibitions, places for community events and designated parking.
Gruen's shopping center was inspired by the introduction and popularity of the department store, in conjunction with community shopping centers and strip malls. Aristide Coucicaut opened the Parisian department store Bon Marché in 1852. The first American department stores soon appeared and became popular in the 1870s, including Macy's and Bloomingdale's. As vehicles and motorized transportation became more popular, open air shopping centers began showing up at intersections close to highways or affluent suburban neighborhoods.
With Southdale Shopping Center's success, malls became popular in large cities all over America, and smaller cities followed suit. By the end of the 1950s, malls generated more sales than downtown stores. In the late 1970s, retailers wanted to bring sales back to downtown areas, so renovated historic industrial buildings and skyscrapers became the first vertical malls in urban areas.