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.

No comments:

Post a Comment