28 April 2013

Florence Mall, Florence, KY

An extant asset

Cincinnati has always been a favorite of mine. It's got that older, midwestern charm while having a bit of a southern influence. And years of working for both Mesaba Airlines (as Northwest Airlink) and Delta Air Lines have meant that I flew through and stayed in the area quite a bit.

Cincinnati's airport isn't contiguous to the city nor is even located in the same state. It's just across the Ohio River in Northern Kentucky, just to the north of the suburb of Florence. When landing into Cincinnati/Northern Kentucky International Airport, we'd fly right over the bedroom community. But two things really stuck out as we descended toward short final. One was the rather large horse racing track. The other was the the Florence Mall.

Florence Mall Mallmanac ca. 2000. View the full PDF version here.

Whenever I had the pleasure of staying in the Cincinnati area it was for business, so I never got the chance to step foot inside the building. But I did drive by it a few times. It looked like your basic seventies double deck facility built on one-time exurban land directly under the final approach to CVG (the airport.) It wasn't remarkable or memorable in any way, but seemed rather popular. Best part, I was able to get my hands on one of their mallmanacs.

Florence Mall as of this writing.

Florence Mall opened in 1976, but throughout it's history, it's own popularity has both been sustained and overshadowed by that of the Florence Water Tower (Florence Y'all) located between the mall and the interstate. It seems not to have had much in the way of expansions throughout the years, and looks to have been left with a rather bland anchor lineup of Sears, JCPenney and Macy's x2. But it chugs on, doing a better job of surviving than the airport it sits next to and one of the airlines that I used to work for.

Florence Mall website

Phipps Plaza, Atlanta, GA

An Extant Asset

26 December 2021
13 March 2002

Atlanta, the de facto capital of the South, is quite the surprising place. Sure, there's as much Scarlet O'Hara and NASCAR as everyone expects, but there's also the world's busiest airport, the deep south's only heavy rail subway system, a vibrant gay scene and Phipps Plaza.

Phipps Plaza Mallmanac ca. 2003. View the full PDF version here.

Located in the fashionable Buckhead district to the north of downtown, Phipps Plaza is perhaps overshadowed by the pure scope and size of its neighbor, Lenox Square. I myself always preferred Lenox simply because just walking into the warm wooden and marble confines of Phipps always made me feel so poor. And this place had a Saks, a Lord and Taylor, and (in my opinion) the most uppity of them all, Parisian.

L- Lord and Taylor and the mall's main entrance facing Peachtree Road. R- Saks Fifth Avenue, the mall's oldet extant anchor.

When working for Delta Air Lines, I was no longer a poor college student, so I regularly flew (for free) from Huntsville to Atlanta, hopped on MARTA, and rode the Gold Line up to Buckhead just to do some shopping. When living in a place like Huntsville, Alabama where Macy's is considered upmarket, it was nice to browse stores like Kenneth Cole and Armani.

L- Parisian mall entrance. R- The Center Court steps.

Phipps Plaza opened in 1969 as Atlanta's first double-tiered mall. It was your basic sixties dumbell shaped center with competeing anchors at each end. It opened just over a decade after its nearby sister mall, aiming to complement the more mid market Lennox by offering a much more upscale selection of stores and prices. A third level and anchor were added in 1992, and the mall retains that footprint to this day.

Phipps Plaza as of this writing.

It seems that Phipps Plaza remains the standard for luxury shopping in the south. Whenever other centers open in nearby cities offering just a sampling of the upper market stores that Phipps has, such as The Mall at Green Hills in Nashville or Parkway Place in Huntsville, the locals tend to nickname those places something to the tune of Little or Mini Phipps.

Phipps Plaza from the air. (Source)

Nordstrom took over the Lord and Taylor store when the latter retailer retrenched into the Northeast, while Belk took over the Parisian space with a buyout of the entire chain. Belk, in order to appease both the mall's owners and patrons, opened the new store as a flagship after complaints of their store's being too middle brow for the center. As they say, money talks. And the way it is now, it seems that Phipps will have a lot to say for many more years.


-26 December 2021

Phipps Plaza lease plan ca. 2011. View the full PDF version here.

-13 March 2022

Phipps Plaza lease plan ca. 2021. View the full PDF version here.

Phipps Plaza's official website

20 April 2013

The Crossroads of San Antonio, San Antonio, TX

An extant asset

The abundance of indoor shopping malls on San Antonio's 410 Loop has always amazed me. Between the airport on the northside and my sister's home on Lackland Air Force Base, I must have counted five or so that we whizzed past. But this is one that I didn't even notice.

On our way back to the airport after one of my many trips to the Alamo City, we decided to stop somewhere a little different for a bite to eat. We turned off of the superhighway and into the parking lot of yet another mall. There was this huge, plain block of a Montgomery Ward staring at me that was attached to a smallish, nondescript shopping mall. We took a quick look inside the mall's dark and empty corridors, and I was actually rather impressed by one unique feature of the mall- the two level amphitheater and gardens integrated onto the northwest side of the mall.

There wasn't much else to see inside the old place, and even fewer places to eat, so we drove to an outlot and there I first ate at what has since become one of my favorite eat/play places- Dave and Buster's. (How the hell can Seattle not have one??)

The Crossroads of San Antonio Mallmanac ca. 2000. View the full PDF version here.

I really never was able to find much about the history of the mall. It is now called the Wonderland of the Americas, a hyperbolic monicker if I ever heard one. It's described as a fiesta of fun for the family or something like that, but I'd be willing to bet it's more like a siesta of disappointment. At least Dave and Buster's is still around.

Wonderland of the Americas website

Saint Louis Centre, Saint Louis, MO

A dead mall

Mention the phrase "The Saint Louis Centre" to a lot of people in this beautiful city, and you will get a lot of opinions. Mostly negative. They'll call it a waste, an example of poor design and planning and a dividing wall downtown. The only thing they won't call it is a success.

Saint Louis Centre ca. 1999. View the full PDF version here.

I first noticed the Saint Louis Centre on my first day trip to the Gateway City in late 1999. I had taken the Metro from the airport into town and got off at the Convention Center station. I rose to street level, looked behind me, and there it was.

L- One of the streetside entrances. R- Inside, under the atrium.

I wasn't very impressed by the dated entrance design, but I was rather impressed with the inside. The first level had a few shops but was mainly used to access the second to fourth levels, where the real action was.

With much fanfare, the Saint Louis Centre opened in the mid-eighties in the hopes of drawing more people downtown. It was four levels of stores, many new to the area, in a bright and clean environment under large barrel skylights, flooding the mall with natural night. There were two ready made anchors as it was built between existing downtown department stores Dillards and Famous-Barr, which were connected to the Saint Louis Centre by skywalks. There was a diverse and vibrant food court on the fourth level. All signs pointed to greatness not just for the mall, but for a city whose downtown really was in need of rejuvenation. But the mall was never really successful. I visited again in 2001 and noticed that many stores had closed and that foot traffic had dwindled. A lot of the national chains had left and were replaced with local stores peddling tacky Saint Louis memorabilia.

Looking down from the bright ceiling to the darkened bowels.

On this trip I also discovered another downtown destination, Saint Louis Union Station. The city's old railroad station and shed was converted into a retail and entertainment facility complete with a lake and a Hyatt Hotel. Granted, there were tacky Saint Louis souveniers there, but there were also tourists to buy them. It was everything that the Saint Louis Centre wanted to be.

Scenes from a forgotten mall.

Then I visited for what I knew would be the last time in 2003, when these pictures were taken. The mall was still clean, white and flooded with light, but also very dead. The nearby convention center and dome were never sparkling successes, but the mall was a downright failure.

Dillard's had since shut down its downtown store and the venerable Famous-Barr was an uninviting and unkept mess. The food court was almost completely empty as downtown workers who didn't want to make the four level trek up to the top past empty, forgotten storefronts for an off-brand taco made alternate lunch plans. It seemed that the white elephant had fallen. And many in the city cheered. But why did it fail when other vertical malls such as Chicago's Water Tower Place and Seattle's Pacific Place flourish?


First, the design was not conducive to attracting pedestrian traffic inside. On Sixth Street, there were only one of those gaudy glass entrances on each end. In the middle was an impervious wall. The side facing Seventh Avenue was nothing more than four stories of concrete resembling something out of the eastern bloc. Here, the entrances were small and camouflaged into the urban landscape. Many residents felt that it and its skywalks also created a psychological wall, dividing downtown Saint Louis in half. There was a lot of resentment because of this, and recent news that developers were wanting to tear down the skywalk to the old Dillard's was met with cheers.

A developer has purchased the old Dillard's building and hopes to convert it to a boutique hotel and small shops, the kind of development downtown needs. And, recently, the mall was auctioned after Haywood Whichard, grim reaper of malls, defaulted on payments. In 2006, the mall was closed and by 2009, the adjoining office tower was 85% vacant. So, what happens here on out is anyone's guess, though many seem hopeful that soon the wall downtown will come down. All that I do know is that on my last visit, I knew the mall was a goner. I'm glad I took the pictures. Soon, that may be all that remains of the Saint Louis Centre.

Wikipedia on Saint Louis Centre

Deadmalls.com on Saint Louis Centre

Eastland Mall, Evansville, IN

An extant asset

26 December 2021

Evansville, Indiana is where our family is based. My father was born there, and our yearly family reunion is held there as well. It is a quintessentially Midwestern city, small, compact and based around a fading industrial base. It's got plenty of charming grit for a city its size.

I first visited Evansville in 1993 on my eighteenth birthday to tour a college in the area. I arrived into the Evansville Regional Airport on an American Eagle 19 seat Jetstream from Nashville (after a choppy ride through clouds the whole way, I haven't felt as close to death since) to see a darkened terminal and a ramp covered in snow. A representative from the college was supposed to meet me there, but the place was abandoned. They had been told that all flights into EVV had been cancelled, so they didn't send anybody to get me. Our flight, an arrival around 9 pm, was the first one to make it in that day. The college put me up in an area hotel nearby, where I slept rather restlessly. I awoke hungry and tired, and when a college representative arrived to pick me up, it seemed that a trip to the city's largest mall was in order.

Eastland Mall Mallmanac ca. 1993. View the full PDF version here.

Eastland was pretty unremarkable, drab and beige on the outside with little color to reflect off of the freshly fallen snow. The food court sat under a glass enclosure at an angle to the rest of the mall, which was pretty much a straight hallway with four anchors at various points. The most exciting part was that there was a Hess's anchor. I hadn't seen a Hess's since I left Virgina Beach three years earlier, and their nameplate was one of my favorites.

Eastland Mall Mallmanac ca. 2004. View the full PDF version here.

Eastland Mall had opened in 1982 on Green River Road, marking a shift in the city's retail corridor north from Washington Square, located just a short distance south on the same thoroughfare. General Growth opened the mall, but through the years, Simon and Macerich have had their hands on the place as well. It seems to have held it's own over the years, and remains the dominant shopping center in the Indiana-Kentucky-Illinois Tri-State Area, a term that always makes me think of Mama's Family. (Although it was the sitcom Roseanne whose establishing shots were taken in Evansville.)

L- The Green Springs side of Eastland Mall. R- Famous-Barr on the backside of the center.

The mall had changed a bit the last time I visited Evansville in 2004. They had splashed a bit of color at the main entrance and a few new stores and restaurants had their own signatures on the exterior. However, the footprint was still the same. Hess's had become Famous-Barr (now a Dillard's) and deJongs was empty. The interior was redone, but not memorably as I don't remember much of it. Today, however, Lazarus is Macy's and the old deJong's has been converted to mall space.

-UPDATE- Eastland Mall lease plan ca. 2011.  View the full PDF version here.

Eastland Mall's official website

Cherry Creek Center, Cherry Creek, CO

An extant asset

This is one of those mallmanacs for a shopping mall I’ve never been to, nor will probably ever go to. I was passing through the Denver International Airport in 2000 when I picked up this mall map for the upscale Cherry Creek Center off of one of the many tourist brochure racks underneath the white tents of the main terminal, the same place where I collected the pamphlet for Park Meadows Mall.

Cherry Creek Mallmanac ca. 2000. View the full PDF version here.

A Taubman center, Cherry Creek Center opened its doors in 1990 with anchors May D&F, Saks Fifth Avenue, and Lord & Taylor. Neiman Marcus joined the other anchors and the mall's 160 stores the following year. In 2005, as Lord & Taylor pulled out of all of their locations not in the northeast, their vacant space was enlarged and taken over by Nordstrom in 2007. Even with the closing of Saks Fifth Avenue in 2011, the facility is still regarded as one of Colorado's first rate shopping malls. No future proposals have been made for the former Saks space.

Cherry Creek Center as of this writing.

Cherry Creek Center's official website

Colonial Plaza, Orlando, FL

A dead mall

Orlando, Florida was our first destination upon leaving the blue shores and skies of Hawai’i. Having grown up in such relative isolation, I had a misguided, preconceived notion of what a mall was supposed to be. I thought that they were all either A) huge, open air monstrosities full of overpriced souvenirs and food from around the world or B) really awesome, special and magical places with monorails and fortress-like tiers of parking all around. And Sears, JCPenney and Liberty House had to be the only department stores in the world. Well, except for the open-air part, the first mall I visited in the mainland, Colonial Plaza, shattered all the beliefs that I had held dear for first ten years of my life.

Colonial Plaza Mallmanac ca. 1990. View the full PDF version here.

We were living at our grandparents’ house in the post World War II suburb of Winter Park while my father was TDY in San Diego for the Navy. My grandmother was your typical June Cleaver type in her fifties who, when she wasn’t doing dishes in high heels and pearls, could be found at her local mall. Or, in her case, malls. We were equidistant from three centers- Winter Park Mall, Orlando Fashion Square and Colonial Plaza. But only one of them had her favorite store, Jordan Marsh.

When her old Cadillac first pulled into the excessively huge parking lot surrounding Colonial Plaza, I was quite shocked at what I saw from my place in the back seat. Why does it look so old? Where were the monorails? Why was there only one level? Where the hell is Liberty House?

Colonial Plaza after its 1962 expansion.

Colonial Plaza was Orlando’s first modern shopping center when it opened in 1956 just to the east of downtown Orlando, pre-dating the Disney World population and building boom. It started out as a simple open-air strip center but soon sprouted an enclosed portion attached to the middle of the shopping complex. At the opposite end of the mall was a gleaming new, super high tech, four level mid-mod, plain and flat as the Florida horizon, Jordan Marsh.

The Jordan Marsh had somewhat of a “Thalhimer’s Turret,” though smaller in proportion than the ones that appeared on the element’s namesake stores. It was a drab adobe tone, a color one would expect for the sixties, but not very representative of Florida. In the early seventies, there was another expansion. This one was tacked on to the flanking side of Jordan Marsh, effectively turning Colonial Plaza into what I call a “walk-through” mall. (One where an anchor store has to be traversed in order to reach another portion of the facility.) In the early eighties, another anchor, Ivey’s, was slapped onto the mall’s forward face. This would be the final footprint of the old building.

Colonial Plaza after its eighties expansion.

We never spent much time in the newer mall portion. Usually we just schlepped between my mother’s favorite haunt, Woolworth, and the previously mentioned Jordan Marsh. The interior wasn’t that remarkable in my eyes, as I really don’t remember it that well. The fountains were small, natural light was sparse and there were hardly any places to eat. But they had mall maps, and that was all that mattered to me.

We were in Orlando for less than a year before moving on to Virginia Beach, and at that time the mall was just as busy as ever. When I returned five years later in 1990, it still seemed to be attracting a lot of patrons. The next time I visited Orlando, in 1998, however, it had met its ultimate fate. And, even though I never really appreciated it while it was still around, I was dismayed to see it absent from Orlando’s retail landscape.

Colonial Plaza after its redevelopment. Three small portions of the old facility remain- What is now Marshall's and Floor Decor was formerly Belk Lindsey, while the Barnes and Noble and the Petco, as well as the small building directly behind them, made up the western extreme of the old strip center (Publix at one time.)

Colonial Plaza may not have been noteworthy or spectacular in any way besides its milestone status, but I still think that the worst of malls are far more interesting than the best of power centers. And that’s what they demolished Orlando’s first enclosed shopping center for. What was once the star of central Florida’s retail scene had been recast as a supporting player to its larger neighbor just a couple of blocks to the east.

The mall’s redevelopment involved returning it to its roots as an open-air facility. The Colonial Marketplace opened in the mid-nineties, ushering in a new era of conforming, standardized shopping in the Magic City. In the very least, it seems that the shopping center’s present owners, Weingarten Realty, have rechristened the place with its original moniker. So even though the building itself withered and died in obselescence, at least the name lives on.

Weingarten Realty's page for Colonial Plaza.