04 May 2024

Oak View Mall, Omaha, NE

 A dead mall

My first visit to Omaha was a long time coming.  I first planned to visit in 2017, but that visit was scuttled by a death in the family.  I tried again earlier in 2024, but extraordinarily bad weather in both Denver and Omaha put those plans to rest.  Finally, on a cool spring day in late April, I had finally made it.

I have to say that I was rather impressed by Omaha.  It reminded me a lot of Nashville in the 1990s, a larger city on the cusp of becoming something major.  Downtown was clean with plenty of green space and food trucks to enjoy.  But, on top of that, I had my malls to visit.

1- The Omaha skyline.  2- Gene Leahy Mall at the Riverfront.  3- Douglas County District Courthouse.  4- The Omaha Building.  5 & 6- Scenes around the Old Market area.

Oak View Mall was almost an afterthought and not even in my original plans to visit.  Built further outside of the city than the Big O’s other retail destinations, I thought it was just your average, healthy but bland suburban shopping mall built in the city’s wealthier suburbs.

Oak View Mall lease plan ca. 2002.  View the full PDF version here.

However, a little more research into what is Omaha’s newest traditional shopping mall showed a bit more distress than I had previously thought.  One of its four anchors was vacant and another was occupied by some local furniture outfit while the inline retail lineup was anything but impressive.  At the very most, I could see that Oak View Mall was dying and definitely needed a visit.

1 & 2- Oak View Mall’s main entrance.  3- The former Younkers store, now Rush Market.  4 & 5- Dillard’s from the front of the mall.  6- Dillard’s and JCPenney at Oak View’s rear.

I arrived at Oak View Mall on a cloudless morning after hopping off of the number 15 bus.  It was 11 in the morning on a Sunday, so we were still an hour away from the stores’ opening.  What stuck out immediately was the circus tent like skylight over the facility’s center.  Seeing this, I was hoping for something memorable.

1- The very nineties exterior of JCPenney.  2- JCPenney and the main rear entrance. 3- The back entrance leading to the food court.  4- Sears and the rear entrance.  5- The now closed Sears front edifice.  6- Signs on the doors of the former Sears direct patrons to their Crossroads Mall store which itself closed in 2019.

I entered on the upper level at the food court.  I’m not sure if the mall has ever seen a full renovation as I immediately found myself in an environment reminiscent of Saved by the Bell.  The neon sign above looked like it hadn’t been turned on in a while and most of the eateries stood vacant while those still open were more of the local, no-name variety.

Oak View Mall lease plan ca. 2011.  View the full PDF version here.

I did appreciate that Oak View hadn’t been completely whitewashed in a post turn of the century renovation, but besides the amber marble tiled floors and layered ceilings of another era, there wasn’t much else to appreciate.  Down either of the main two level concourses I was greeted by rows of darkened spaces.  Oak View Mall may not be dead yet, but it’s definitely not long for this world.

1 & 2- Just inside Oak View Mall’s main entrance.  3- The corridor leading from the entrance to center court.  4- Looking down the Dillard’s wing.  5 & 6- The Younkers concourse looking toward Center court and the mall entrance now displaying the name Rush Market.

Oak View Mall opened in 1991 in Omaha’s southwestern fringes, but within relatively close proximity to the metro area’s largest retail destination, Westroads Mall.  JCPenney, Dillard’s and Younkers were the original anchors with Sears joining the lineup in 1996.

Oak View Mall Mallmanac ca. 2019.  View the full PDF version here.

Oak View Mall performed fairly well, though not as successful as expected, through the late 2010s when both Younkers and Sears exited the mall.  Though the former’s space is now occupied by local furniture store Rush Market, no other tenants have occupied the former Sears.

1- Empty storefronts at Oak View Mall’s center court.  2- Center court.  3- The Dillard’s wing from center court.  4- The Rush Market corridor from center court.  5 & 6- Though both original anchors are still open for business in the Dillard’s wing, a number of inline stores are not.

Kohan purchased the retail facility in 2021 but sold it in 2023 to 4th Dimension, which seems to specialize in attempting to rejuvenate declining shopping malls.  I’m hoping for the best, but the new owners don’t have a very long track record to look back on, which is usually not a good thing.

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

I’d love to see Oak View Mall survive, but even in a market as robust as Omaha it is probably only large enough for one extant mall to survive.  I believe that this will be Westroads.  One day I expect to see Oak View join its peers Southroads and Midlands (both repurposed into business centers) as well as  Crossroads and Mall of the Bluffs (closed and demolished) in the enormous parking lot in the sky.

1- It seems as though the neon Food Court sign is no longer in use.  2- The circus tent-like skylight over Center Court.  3- The upper level JCPenney entrance next to darkened food court stands.  4- The former sears mall entrance on the upper level.  5 & 6- The nearly empty food court and the rear upper level entrance.

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