24 March 2024

Kingsway Mall, Edmonton, AB

 An extant asset

The first mall that I ever visited in Canada was Edmonton City Centre Mall, a downtown vertical that had definitely seen better days.  Secondly, I experienced the famed West Edmonton Mall, the largest of its kind in North America with a metric tonne of shops, restaurants and attractions.  Those first two destinations were remarkable in their own rights, but it wasn’t until my third where I got to appreciate the average, everyday suburban style mall that most Canadians frequent.

1 & 2- Kingsway Mall main entrance.  3 to 5- The former Zeller’s anchor.  6- HomeSense, Marshall’s and Hudson’s Bay.

Kingsway Mall, located just to the north of downtown, really exemplifies the difference in enclosed shopping centers north of the border from the those to the south.  Unlike its US counterparts, it is not surrounded by acres of an asphalt wasteland but is rather much more compact.  Double tiered throughout, there is some surface parking in the forepart but most spaces are located in a large parking deck flanking the full length of the facility.

Kingsway Mall Mallmanac ca 2018.  View the full PDF version here.

I have a preference for these more compact retail centers.  They tend to be quite a bit more pedestrian friendly and accessible to most.  In fact, there are two Edmonton Light Rail Transit stops at either end of Kingsway Mall that just are a short stroll away.  I really wish more in the US were built the same way, but then where would Amazon build their freakishly large distribution centers without the vastly expansive graves of the average American shopping Mall?

1- The Edmonton skyline rises behind Kingsway Mall.  2- Hudson’s Bay’s old school dark glass adorned entrances.  3 & 4- The Hudson’s Bay from the rear of the mall.  5- The lower level mall entrance for Hudson’s Bay.  6- The anchor’s upper level entrance.

As far as the façade, the single feature that I loved the most was the eighties-fabulous, accessorized with sooty colored glass entranceways of the anchor Hudson’s Bay.  Its fresh coat of white paint elsewhere contrasts sharply with these dated adornments and combined together were my favorite features of the entire complex.  The balance of the outside was rather formulaic as far as shopping malls today are concerned both north and south of the border; it was mainly made up of motley styles determined by each big box store with direct access to the car park.

1- The interior just beyond the main entrance.  2 to 8- Scenes around Kingsway Mall’s upper level.

The interior décor also pretty much followed the average western style shopping complex template; nothing too unique or memorable stood out.  It was dressed up in neutrals all throughout.  But what I like best about Kingsway and other similar malls in Canada such as nearby Southgate Centre is the labyrinthine nature of their layouts.  Rather than straight forward barbells, Ls and crosses, they twist and turn and loop with unexpected corridors past every curve.

Kingsway Mall Mallmanac ca 2024.  View the full PDF version here.

Kingsway Garden Mall opened in 1976 with Hudson’s Bay and Zellers as the original anchors.  Decked out in dark earthy tones of brick, tile and wood, it also utilized greenery to the utmost, proudly  justifying the Garden in their name.  In 2009, Kingsway saw its first major renovation when the interior was brightened up and the vegetation was expunged.  It was at this occasion when the word Garden was appropriately dropped from the name.

1- The lushness of Kingsway Garden Mall not long after opening.  2- The dungeon like food court of the original mall.  3 to 4- The dark, moody interior of Kingsway in the eighties.  5- Zeller’s mall entrance.  6- The Bay’s exterior pre-whitewash.  (Source for all)

In 2013, Zeller’s was taken over by Target Canada with the latter opening their doors in 2014.  Target’s tenure in the great white north was fleeting and they themselves departed a just year later.  What was originally Zeller’s was subsequently subdivided into space for junior anchors and now houses Home Sense, Dollarama, H&M and Marshall’s.  More churn came in 2018 when Sears Canada exited the country entirely.  A Wal Mart took over the space in 2022.

1 to 7- Scenes of the lower level concourse.  8- Kingsway Mall’s food court.

Besides the anchors, Kingsway offers a diverse selection of retailers that much reflects the multiple backgrounds of the city’s residents.  The food options alone include Shumka Ukrainian Foods,  Osmow's Mediterranean Cuisine and, one of the best in my biased opinion, Philippine based Jollibee.  If I were a resident of the city, even as much as I love the West Edmonton Mall, Kingsway would definitely be my preferred destination for everyday shopping.

UPDATED- Regency Square, Florence AL

New mallmanacs, photos and words have been added to the post for the Regency Square in Florence, AL.

UPDATED- Decatur Mall, Decatur, AL

New mallmanacs, photos and words have been added to the post for the Decatur Mall in Decatur, AL.

17 March 2024

Saint Louis Galleria, Richmond Heights, MO

 An extant asset

I've patronized this retail facility only once among my many travels to Saint Louis, one of my favorite cities in the United States. When working for the airlines, I flew in quite often, but with the Saint Louis Galleria being more than a short distance from the city's light rail line at the time, I only got to walk through its corridors on my initial trek to the Gateway City in 1996.

1- One of the mall entrances on the older, northern section of the Saint Louis Galleria.  2- The Cheesecake Factory and mall entrance next to Dillard’s.  3- The mall’s northern section with the roofline visible.  4- Dillard’s.  5- Nordstrom where Lord & Taylor used to be.  6- Dillard’s from Nordstrom.

I was at work when I got the call late one Saturday evening. It was my best friend asking me for a favor. His girlfriend, who was going to Saint Louis University at the time, was having some sort of crisis and he had to fetch her right away. That night. And he wanted me to come along. I was 21 at the time and spontaneity was the order of the day; how could I refuse? In just a few hours, we were driving across the darkest stretch of interstate I've ever seen in rural Kentucky.

Saint Louis Galleria Mallmanac ca 1996. View the full PDF version here.

It was cold and rainy as we crossed the bridge from Illinois to Missouri. The top of the arch was obscured by a thin layer of stratus, but it was magnificent on first sight, nonetheless. It wasn't long before the two young lovers were in each other’s much relieved arms. But what to do at that point? There was always the mall.

1- Macy’s.  2- The mall entrance on Saint Louis Galleria’s southern section.  3 to 6- Nordstrom.

The mall was quite a sight. It seemed to stretch forever down South Brentwood Boulevard, under the looming shadow of a mid-century modern 70's era suburban skyscraper located right across the thoroughfare. I can't recall the specific elements of the interior, just that it was very upscale. I loved the Mark Shale store, though with my being a poor college student at the time, I could hardly afford anything in there. We got a bite to eat, browsed the shops, then dragged our tired selves back to the car for a long drive back to Alabama.

Saint Louis lease plan ca 2011. View the full PDF version here.

The Saint Louis Galleria opened in 1984 on the grounds of the former Westroads shopping center. It debuted with Dillard's and Mark Shale as anchors. In subsequent years, Famous Barr and Lord and Taylor were added, and the Galleria had established itself as the upscale retail destination of Saint Louis. It was quite healthy and robust on my one and only visit, and it seems the almost two decades since then have only brought continuing prosperity to the center.

The Saint Louis Galleria atrium, the original southern terminus of the mall.  The last four shots are of the bottom level food court.

I always regretted not pulling out my camera on my one and only previous visit to the Saint Louis Galleria.  Of course, back then I had no idea that one day I would write a blog about malls.  But in 2024 when I made my latest visit to the sprawling complex in Richmond Heights, I had to pay the place a visit.  And I was delighted to see that not much has really changed about the Galleria in the ensuing two decades.

Scenes of the older northern concourse.

By now, the Saint Louis Metrolink had been extended via the blue line to Richmond Heights and points west and south.  It was a chilly Saturday morning when I took that first train ride to the upscale retail destination, and I knew that I was close when I could see the mid-century modern skyscraper clad in black glass appear on the horizon.

Scenes in the main concourse.

Just a short walk across South Brentwood and I found myself in the shadow of the large monolith for the first time in almost thirty years.  The most noticeable change, besides the entrance adornments which had been updated, probably more than once, since my previous visit, was the Nordstrom which was built in the place of Lord and Taylor.  The red roofline running the length of the facility remained unchanged and gave me some hope that maybe the rest of the mall hadn’t been gray-scaped of all personality.

The old school fountain in the newer southern end of the Saint Louis Galleria.

Some people would say that it is dated.  Others would say tacky.  But what I walked into was a corridor that hadn’t been updated since my previous visit.  The amber colored tiles still lay beneath my feet.  The extensive water feature still flowed in the Galleria’s center court.  And the ceilings underneath that distinctive red roofline, although a little dirty, still displayed the funky, geometric skylights that I fell in love with years ago.

Saint Louis Mallmanac ca 2024. View the full PDF version here.

Located not far from Plaza Frontenac, Saint Louis Galleria and its neighbor are the retail anchors of Saint Louis County’s old money communities.  Though not as upscale as Plaza Frontenac, the Galleria still hosts heavy hitters such as The Apple Store, Johnston & Murphy, Michael Kors, and Tommy Bahama.  Even on my visit just at opening time, the complex was filling up fast with weekend consumers ready to spend.

The unique ceiling treatments of the Saint Louis Galleria.

I expect the Saint Louis Galleria to continue doing well.  And although in market peers such as Northwest Plaza, Crestwood Plaza, and Saint Louis Centre have fallen by the wayside while others struggle, I feel confident that the Saint Louis Galleria will still be around for my next visit.