One of the less-ballyhooed Christmas traditions was the daylong search for a parking spot at the local mall. Shoppers cruised parking lots like it was a cold-weather Mad Max, scouring the landscape in virtual spiked shoulder pads doing whatever had to be done to survive the shopping apocalypse. Now, shopping malls are a different kind of apocalyptic landscape, where barren lots lead to eerie concourses full of empty storefronts and long-drawn shutters. Even during the holiday rush, strangely empty malls sit as a testament to a bygone era as the frenetic craze of holiday shopping is now mostly limited to Amazon fulfillment centers.
Though people no longer congregate en masse at malls, they do on Reddit, where there is a hilarious sub thread devoted to dead shopping malls. This Christmas, members posted pictures and reminiscences from their favorite dead malls. Though some malls are merely on their last legs, the images are both nostalgic and sad. But they do remind us that even when an industry seems to be booming, it’s never all that far from complete desolation.
Westside Pavilion — Los Angeles, California
Though not dead yet, this mall on Westwood and Pico Boulevard on LA’s Westside lost its last anchor tenant — Macy’s — in March. This after the Nordstrom left for nearby Westfield Century City mall last year. The developer is planning to turn the entire thing into office space by 2021 though the Westside Tavern and Landmark Theatres move house will stay open.
Mall 205 — Portland, Oregon
This Hazelwood-area mall has two huge anchor tenants — Home Depot and Target — that still draw masses of people on the weekends, about six of which find their way inside the actual mall. Not that you can blame them with little inside other than a Famous Footwear; a Bed, Bath and Beyond; and a DMV. The land it sits on housed a sanitarium over 100 years ago, which might explain part of why the vast, empty hallways make you feel a little nuts.
Charlestowne Mall — St. Charles, Illinois
This Chicago-area mall was once a landmark hangout for suburban teenagers, but it closed its interior section for good in late 2017. A few anchor stores were still open via exterior entrances, but Carson’s department store closed earlier this year, sending the mall one step closer to the grave. Charlestowne is slated to be demolished and replaced with apartments and townhomes.
Westgate Mall — Madison, Wisconsin
Pretty much all that’s left of this one-time shopping hub is a T.J. Maxx, which is riding out its 15-year lease until the mall is razed and redeveloped. The Hy-Vee grocery store on the south end owns most of the property and is rumored to be waiting out the remaining leases, so it can turn the property into something else.
Pittsburgh Mills — Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania
Once upon a time, this mid-2000s mills mall was envisioned as a shopping center of the future with an IMAX, glow-in-the-dark golf, and trendy bowling alley. Flash forward to 2017 and the mall was sold at a foreclosure auction for $100, earning it a dubious distinction as the “Hundred Dollar Mall.” Though its actual value is still somewhere between $10 -$30 million, depending who you ask, its handful of tenants aren’t keeping it afloat. No plans for demolition have hit quite yet, but Morgan Stanley — the company who bought it for $100 — has no plans to invest.
Forest Fair Village — Fairfield, Ohio
The one-time Cincinnati Mall, then Cincinnati Mills Mall, has been through more name changes, ownership changes, and bankruptcies than a minor league baseball team. The poor place never stood a chance, erected between two other huge malls at Tri-County and Northgate, in a mostly blue-collar area. Currently, the 90-acre site has just a handful of tenants, none of which seem to be thriving. The space has been for sale for 2017 for a cool $50 million but hasn’t found many takers.
Myrtle Beach Mall — Myrtle Beach, South Carolina
Since this mall sits far from the touristy parts of Myrtle Beach, its success was never quite what developers had hoped when it opened in 1986. Currently, the only real traffic it gets is at the anchor Bass Pro Shop though it also has a Belk, JCPenney, and movie theater. The mall was purchased in 2014, and the new owners have not announced any plans to demolish it, instead opting for improvements to attract new business. Those plans were outlined in 2014 with little action taken as of yet.
Chambersburg Mall — Chambersburg, Pennsylvania
The fact that this mall has just over 30 businesses listed in its directory and lost its biggest tenant in JCPenny last year hasn’t gotten Chambersburg out of the holiday spirit. The folks headed to the Chinese massage center and the Marine Corps Recruiting Office — probably a big overlap — can still enjoy the holidays as Christmas music eerily echoes through the empty mall. That said, the Chambersburg Mall is rumored to be the location of a new casino in the next few years, which will give all those perspective Marines another vice to enjoy after their massages.
University Mall — Nacogdoches, Texas
University Mall in Nacogdoches, Texas. I transferred to the Bath and Body Works here (one of four stores in the place) from a busy Dallas mall after I started college in the area a few years ago. That job didn’t last long. The place is also not air conditioned, which is terrible for East Texas. from r/deadmalls
A great way to drive any business into the ground in East Texas is to leave it without air conditioning. That’s exactly what owners of this mall near Stephen F. Austin State University did, presumably in hopes of killing it to build something else. Students drive half an hour to shop rather than go here, and currently, just Belk remains as an anchor tenant in this sweatbox. Perhaps by the end of the decade, owners will finally realize their dream.
Century III Mall — Mifflin, Pennsylvania
This mall in suburban Pittsburgh inspires so much nostalgia it even has its own Facebook group, where old-timers post photos from shopping seasons gone by. Now even some roads leading to the mall are closed, and it boasts only 14 tenants on its website, the most successful of which is a comic book store. The mall recently averted another scheduled sheriff’s sale in early December, but its future is only possible as long as the courts don’t order another one.
Cum Park Plaza — Burlington, North Carolina
How did absolutely no one, at some point, in this mall’s the development process stand up and say “Um… maaaaaaybe we should consider a different name?’ This outdoor mall in North Carolina sealed its fate as a giggle-worthy, unintended search-result punchline before it even opened its doors. Now, it sits as an abandoned relic with nothing to contribute but a ridiculous street-facing sign.
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