07 January 2015

Refurbs – 7 January 2015 Updates

Well, now that Christmas 2014 has passed, 2015 is here and, surprise surprise, so am I. 2014 was a crazy year for me, so I didn’t have a whole lot of time to devote to this project, but 2015 looks to be a much more stable year. Therefore, I’ll be more able to devote the necessary resources to The Mallmanac. As always, I thank everyone for taking the time to comment and contribute to this endeavor. Of course, I can’t possibly know everything about all of these places, so those other nuggets of information that you the readers contribute can only paint a more complete picture.

The focus of The Mallmanac will continue to be the layouts of these structures along with a few photos and some anecdotal tidbits. Unfortunately, I only have a finite amount of those eponymous mallmanacs that I’ve collected over the decades. So to keep the material fresh, I’m reaching into my own digital archives and am pulling up information on new places that I have downloaded over the years. Although I have no real connection to these facilities, I have always thought that they stood out in certain ways that deserve at least a mention. These will be shown under the new category Mart Gallery.

In addition, expect more of those rambling posts on everything mall related, something that I really love. I will also be adding aerial shots and updated directories to many of my older posts. I’ll list these changes and additions on the Updates page. In the meantime, here is some of the latest on some malls that have already been featured.

-Ala Moana Center, Honolulu, HI
Well, Ala Moana’s last extant major department store has left the 56 year old property. Sears closed in 2013 but is slated to be replaced by Hawai’i’s first Bloomingdales. Sears’ tri-level home took up over 341,000 square feet of space, but the new entrant will only use about 170,000 of those. General Growth Properties, Ala Moana’s owners, have stated that the balance of the space will be used in a “re-imagining” of the entire Ewa side of the world’s largest open-air retail facility. Sears joins JCPenney and the iconic Liberty House as former names no longer gracing the facades of the complex located just across the Ala Wai canal from Waikiki as it continues to make an upscale climb from its more humble, middle-market beginnings.

-Bridge Street Towne Center, Huntsville, AL
Belk’s new flagship store has opened. Meh. The west lagoon exists only in our memories and the eponymous Bridge now crosses the water just a few feet from where the latter abruptly ends. I wish the architects would have incorporated some kind of canal or creek running parallel to the new major tenant to keep at least a little of the water element on the west side. And, in my opinion, I find the façade of the new Belk to be strikingly hideous and disposable. I understand that it follows the company’s newly modernized template, but it contrasts sharply with the traditional, Disney-Worldish faux-Venetian elements of the rest of the mall. Brazenly contemporary, I don’t think this new look will age well and is sure to be dated in a short time. Overall, when one considers that this store simply moved from a nearby location, I see this as a net loss for Huntsville’s retain scene. I actually think the bigger news was the opening of Alabama’s first H&M at Bridge Street. Now, how about a Nordstrom? They know how to keep it simple. I can dream, right?

-Decatur Mall, Decatur, AL
The Mall of Multiple Monikers has seen its line-up of anchors reduced again. Both Sears and the JCPenney Outlet (one of my favorite stores back in the area) have drawn their curtains for the final time. This has left Belk as the only full line department store remaining not only in the mall, but in the entire city. A Bed Bath and Beyond has been added to the former Dillard’s space on the north end of the mall alongside Electronics Express, but the only hope I see for the former River Oaks Center is to downsize. By removing the newer, but now vacant, buildings once housing Sears and JCPenney as well as their adjoining corridors, perhaps the metro’s only regional, enclosed retail complex south of the Tennessee River will soldier on.

-The Gallery at Military Circle, Norfolk, VA
Not long after Sears’ truncated tenure was ended at the inner-ring complex, the last anchor to debut with the rest of Military Circle at its 1970 opening is calling it quits. JCPenney, billed as the retailer’s largest location within the region, shuttered in 2014. Its iconic, oversized porticos with huge, dangling cylindrical light fixtures precariously suspended behind yellow tinted glass have long been gone, now the entire store is just another memory. Macy’s stands as the sole remaining anchor at the declining center, which seems to be going the way of regional peers Newmarket North and Tower Malls.

-Lynnhaven Mall, Virginia Beach, VA
Ode to The Atrium and The Upper Level
[Queue the violin…]
So, my dearest friend Lynnhaven,
One of the Malls of My Youth,
I’d scream and I’d shout at what’s happened,
But that would be quite uncouth.
Oh, my old friend Lynnhaven,
I don’t even recognize you now,
Your black tinted atrium and upstairs food court,
Have both taken their final bow.
When the 90s first got their hands on you,
They broke your copper and wood-toned heart,
And you were whitewashed devoid of all character,
But that was only the start.
Those delectable aromas that greeted us,
As we ascended to your upper floor,
Have been shut down, forgotten, left darkened,
To be enjoyed by your patrons no more.
That glorious, dark glass main entrance,
Has receded to the crotch of the mall,
No more East Coast Kites basking in the sun,
Just a common, disposable wall.
No more browsing the cassettes up at Mother’s,
Or making Aladdin’s a zoo.
No more fries will be dropped from the food court,
Farewell, the Lynnhaven I knew.

[Opera Clap Now]
Yup, my two favorite Lynnhaven features- the dark and brooding main entrance atrium and the spacious, yet perhaps oversized, upper level and its food court, have been unceremoniously removed. In addition, the structure that originally housed Miller & Rhoads but left vacant after Lord & Taylor left the market has been demolished to make way for a, wait for it, outdoor lifestyle element. But what has been inflicted upon the interior of the place that really shaped my idea of what a classic mall should be is criminal. Lynnhaven has been modernized to the nearly comical. I shook my dadgum head when I first saw the conceptualizations, then facepalmed when I finally allowed myself to look at the actual results. I can’t stand the thought of any of those images residing on my blog, so if you’d like to see for yourself, go here. Oy.

-Madison Square, Huntsville, AL
Even though all character has been radically removed from Lynnhaven Mall’s soul, at least it remains a viable retail entity. Conversely, even though the exterior at least still looks much the same as it did when it opened in 1984, Madison Square continues its downward spiral. Belk has vacated their space, which originally opened as a Parisian, for Bridge Street. Dillard’s maintains one level of their former full line store as a clearance center, while Sears and JCPenney are still clinging to life. Not promising. I’m expecting to read any day now that Dillard’s is pulling up stakes for some fancy and highfalutin exurban lifestyle center in Limestone County (with plenty of incentives, of course.) And we are all well aware of the crumbling foundations on which the venerable names JCPenney and Sears are built. However, with their Decatur locations now closed, that leaves these two as the only ones available between Florence and Chattanooga. So, I’m keeping my fingers crossed for the old blonde, but my knuckles are getting tired...

-Northgate Mall, Chattanooga, TN
The wondrously groovy Starship Penney’s with its rounded corners and dark brown brick façade has closed. The nearly 50 year old location was a victim of the troubled retailer’s round of 2014 closings. There were only two of these Starship Penney’s designs that I knew of, and now the one at Coliseum Mall has been demolished while this one stands empty. Does anyone know of any other JCPenney stores that employed these design elements?

Northgate and Coliseum Malls’ respective examples of their Starship Penny’s.

-Regency Square Florence Mall, Florence, AL
Regency Square no longer exists. Oh, it’s still packing them in as the only significant retail draw between Huntsville and Memphis. But Hull Storey, its owners, have taken it upon themselves to rechristen the successful, mid-market facility with the obvious, generic and unoriginal Florence Mall. This represents another in a long line of changes that Hull Storey has made to other small town facilities from more creative and descriptive names to the [Small Town Name]+Mall formula. They have previously changed Shady Brook Mall to Columbia (Tennessee) Mall, Piedmont Mall to Danville (Virginia) Mall and Village Mall to Auburn (Alabama) Mall. At least they consistently hold on to the “Mall” part without adopting the stale “Towne Centre” phrase.

-Southgate Mall, Muscle Shoals, AL
Though I can’t seem to find much information on the internet, it seems that SouthGate, which has dropped the “Mall” for “Shopping Center,” has closed off its interior. I’ll post more information as I find it. Sad news, indeed.

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