The Missing Malls of Mountain View (Or, Where I’ve Been)

Historic photo of San Antonio Center Sears in Mountain View, California

The mailbag arrived the other day, stuffed with a bunch of (very touching, I assure you) notes expressing some grave concern about my whereabouts. I figured that I might as well come clean.

Many of you noticed that I haven’t been around as much, and that poor ol’ Labelscar just hasn’t had quite as much content as it used to. In a nutshell, the reason is a very big personal and professional change for me that I’m very slowly adjusting to. A very exciting career opportunity presented itself, and this exciting opportunity actually whisked me 3,200 miles across the country to the San Francisco Bay Area. That’s right, good ol’ Caldor is a New England boy no more–at least not for the moment.

While this has–quite understandably–taken up much of my time, I also see this as an opportunity to develop even more content. Labelscar has leaned heavily on the midwest and northeast largely because that’s where its authors reside. I have quite a bit in the can from the northeast (though, sadly, I do not have photos of *every* mall or antiquated retailer, which I would like) but now that I’m here in a brand new area, I can begin to bag some stuff from a whole new region of the United States that had been previously underserved. I hope you enjoy it, and I hope that all the logistics involved with my recent switcheroo don’t completely bury me in other concerns.

One of the more interesting bits of this shift is that I’m staying–temporarily–with a friend who lives in Mountain View, California. In addition to being the home of Google (which is not where I work, in case you were wondering) and a part of Silicon Valley, Mountain View is also home to a total of three ghost malls! Sadly, all three of these were redeveloped over a decade ago, and very few remnants of any of them exist. But thankfully a local citizen who created a very comprehensive guide to this pretty South Bay suburb managed to document these three malls in great detail (along with photos of each), and I strongly encourage you to check it out!

Old Mill Mall, Mountain View, California, 1977

Old Mill Mall, Mountain View, California, 1977

I live right in the neighborhood where these three malls are located, and I was completely unaware of two of them. The Mayfield Mall building (just north of Central Expressway, east of San Antonio Road) even still exists, but it was converted to an office building (which itself has been abandoned) so long ago that it’s unrecognizable. The Old Mill Mall was demolished long before I arrived and no trace of it remains–today it is the condo complex that runs along Pacchetti Way. The San Antonio Center, which was the largest of the three, has the largest amount of artifacts, mainly in the intact Sears and Mervyn’s stores, as well as small pieces of the original outdoor mall. That crazy old pylon remains too, thank goodness. Unfortunately the rest of the center today is a pretty graceless big box center; a large patch of concrete with a few dozen box stores, strip malls, and restaurant pads scattered willy-nilly around its patch of land.

Read about the missing malls of mountain view–you won’t be sorry!

31 Responses to “The Missing Malls of Mountain View (Or, Where I’ve Been)”

  1. http://www.tndwest.com Devotes a page to San Antonio shopping center & how it was redeveloped into a new urban neighborhood. The property is 18 acres with condos, townhouses & single family homes, they’re with in walking distance of all of the restaurants, shops & major retailers in the area, including 4 supermarkets Safeway, Albertsons, a spanish marketo & even trader Joes. Plus there is a CalTrain stop, but no baby bullit express at this location. The site is at California Street & Showers Drive, near Central Expressway.

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  2. This is great! Now, we can get malls from more parts of the United States. Personally, what I observed before was that there was heavy concentration of malls being covered in New York, Connecticut, Massachusetts, New Jersey, and other New England states…then south of Maryland and west of New York, it only lightly touched on centers, most of which were sick (or dead). Being from Texas, I was saddened that of the eight malls posted, they were either dated, sick, or dead. The comments were sparse. Everything about New England, though, the comments TOOK OFF (even if it was off-topic banter). With your new location, I hope that we can see more malls in the West Coast, like Oregon, Washington, California, Nevada, New Mexico, Colorado, Arizona, and Texas. In particular, I’d really appreciate more photos and information on Mall 205 (the mall is virtually empty now) and Phoenix Spectrum Mall (the name is Christown Spectrum Mall, JCPenney is back but some of the mall is gone, and I’d like to see Wal-Mart Supercenter’s exterior entrance).

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  3. If you come down to Southern California, I can show you dead malls down here! We have many still standing (one is being converted to Offices, one is now a school complex, another few have been big boxed, including the wonderful Eastland, where the mall was just divided into stores, the old mall can be seen still in the stores!). Its definitely a great new mall area down here.

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  4. Thanks for the update! Good luck in your new endeavors!

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  5. Good hear from you again, Jason. Most of the dead retail community seem to be very busy this time of year (is it the cold? is it working/schooling more hours?).

    Now that you and Ross seem to be within the same hemisphere, you’ve still got a contact right here in New England if you ever need someone to check up on something. Here’s to hoping when you’ve got downtime, you’ll be uncovering some gems — California is known to have many, many preserved retail relics out there.

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  6. I miss typed in my earlier post. The old mill mall sight is were the housing complex was built, ajaisent to San Antonio center. It’s known as The Crossings at Mountain View, and it’s very expencive housing, but an easy walk to everything.

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  7. Darn, I was hoping it was something absolutely new that I never clicked on before, instead it was something I immediately recognized and I have already read before, RATS darn me for scouring ever nook and cranny of the internet so fast and before everybody else on here.

    Well, good luck on your search for retail relics in California I’m sure theres a boatload of them out there.

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  8. Wow, still an interesting read even if I saw it before, good stuff!

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  9. Hey guys, no problem. My blog has been growing weeds lately myself as I’m having a difficult transition from college to work. That’s exciting that you got to make a cross-country fresh start. I am hoping to do that here eventually myself. And yes I agree that even though there is some cool stuff in New England and Midwest, it is has very unbalanced coverage vs. the rest of America (deadmalls.com included). The South is virtually ignored photo-wise and the west is covered even worse with only California really covered in any depth at all. I’m sure those of you have seen the wonders of Cinderella City and less so with Villa Italia in Colorado know that some really amazing malls were put in places with fewer malls…probably as a way of boosting their cities beyond the more populous parts of the country. For me, I do have more content for my blogsite, but I am suffering from writers block lately on top of a lot of personal stress.

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  10. I lived in San Jose from 1976-1978 (pre-Vallco and Sunnyvale Town Center) and remember going to Mayfield Mall (it was unique in that it was carpeted!) and San Antonio Center, but I have no recollection at all of The Old Mill.

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  11. Technically, as it incorrectly states in the Missing Malls of Mountain View, Valley Fair is OLDER than Mayfield. Valley Fair has two 50s-era department stores linked together by a massive mall concourse.

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  12. Kind of semi-related:

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dkYZ6rbPU2M

    I laughed, hard.

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  13. I did to!

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  14. Nice video, AceJay. Don’t know how I would react if a random musical broke out at one of our NJ malls…who knows, maybe security would break it up. Would be interesting none the less.

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  15. Hey, dinner theater!

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  16. welcome to california! the old mill used to be a pretty rad place, right before they tore it down, it housed a discount theater. wish there were more of those around!
    looks like vallco (or whatever they’re calling it these days) is back on the upswing, but for a long while it looked like it was the next candidate for a labelscar post. despite the fancy new facade and theaters, there are still more empty stores than full. it may be worth a look-see.
    sunnyvale town center was the same, but much creepier until they tore it down but left the target and macys.

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  17. Speaking of Christown Spectrum/Phoenix Spectrum Mall in Phoenix(albeit I thought that mall was only called Christown Mall), I thought that mall had already been redeveloped into a lifestyle center or something like that. Maybe that still hasn’t happened yet to this day, contrary to what I had thought.

    Glad to see you are back again, Caldor! Not to mention, I greatly enjoyed seeing that page about the former malls of the Mountain View area. Hope you eventually are able to document quite a few California malls for this site, as I imagine that there are a lotta noteworthy malls in that state(and maybe for all I know, you could get around to documenting at least a few Nevada and Oregon malls too, if possible).

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  18. Here’s an article on the Old Mill Mall from Smart Growth Illistrated now The Crossings.

    The Crossings, Mountain View, California

    The Crossings, located in the city of Mountain View, 30 miles south of San Francisco, transformed a failing 1960s auto-oriented mall into a vibrant neighborhood that offers a variety of transportation choices. The 18-acre infill project, developed by TPG Development, demolished the original shopping mall and replaced it with homes, retail shops, and a daycare center, all oriented toward the new San Antonio Avenue Caltrain commuter rail station. San Mateo Transit busses meet each train and connect to nearby communities. Narrow tree-lined streets and sidewalks and small pocket parks all combine to create a walkable and bikeable neighborhood. It takes residents less than five minutes to walk from any of the houses to the stores or to the commuter rail station, and two minutes or less to walk to a park. In order to meet fire department requirements, some of the narrowest streets are defined as private roads and owned by the neighborhood association.

    Construction began in 1994 and was completed a few years later. The development features high-density housing averaging 30 units per net acre, compared to an average overall density of 7 to 10 units per net acre in the rest of the city. Using on-street parking places to meet minimum parking requirements allowed more land to be used for homes, increasing overall density. The residences are diverse and include single-family bungalows, smaller cottages, townhouses, and condominium apartments. Although priced at market rates, the compact design makes the units relatively affordable in the high-cost Silicon Valley real estate market.

    When the original mall failed, the city proposed reclassification of the site from retail to residential. Citizens asked for low densities with open space. Public education programs convinced the community that higher density was appropriate for a transit-oriented site. The developer’s original proposal was for a more auto-oriented, mixed-use development. The city rejected the proposal, and the design firm of Calthorpe Associates was hired to conduct community design meetings, which resulted in their final plan.

    The Crossings is an excellent example of Mountain View’s transit-oriented development plans. In 2002, the American Planning Association gave the city the Outstanding Planning Award for Implementation for its transit-oriented development program that produced communities like The Crossings.

    Children check for mail. Higher density homes at the Crossings made home ownership relatively affordable in high-priced Silicon Valley. This allowed middle class families to move into the area and avoid long commutes.
    Larger Picture
    Narrow streets, on-street parking, street trees, and curb bulb-outs all combine to create a comfortable walking environment.
    Larger Picture

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  19. Did MVNick’s pages die with AOL Hometown? :(

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    Caldor Reply:

    @apm, it would seem so. :-(

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    Jonah Norason Reply:

    @Caldor, It’s been a while since its been down.

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    Jonah Norason Reply:

    But really glad you fixed the link! Some of the links to MallsofAmerica could be fixed to go to my mirror-ish blog that I set up…

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    Caldor Reply:

    @Jonah Norason, Where is that located?

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    Jonah Norason Reply:

    @Caldor, it’s at http://retailaddictionblog.blogspot.com/

    It’s not nearly complete but retains some of the design features and saved the comments. On some, I updated the post a bit….
    http://retailaddictionblog.blogspot.com/2009/05/bambergers-entrance.html

    …and some I did not reformat it.
    http://retailaddictionblog.blogspot.com/2009/05/moa-mirror-easter-bunny-at-monmouth.html

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  20. Man, I can remember spending pretty much every night in 1976 skateboarding on that banked monument out in front of the videogame place at San Antonio Shopping Center

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    Jonathan Berman Reply:

    @Tim Hoctor, I remember that video game place!!! You were probably a little older, I used to hang out there around the mid ’80s.

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    Tim Hoctor Reply:

    @Jonathan Berman, – yeah, when I was a kid, it was called Twilight Zone. I probably spent my entire freshman year hanging out there at night and skateboarding at that monument:-)

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  21. I grew up in Los Altos and Mountain View and snuck into my first R rated movie at Old Mill, and have so many memories from there… there was a great Thriftys by that Sears with cheap icecream, i loved the square scoops! Thanks for the pics, been looking for one of Old Mill for YEARS!

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  22. that video place was not the “twilight zone” it was the TIME ZONE aka the crime zone.

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  23. Very sad news: the San Antonio Shopping Center (and the Sears) is no more: last summer Sears closed (when its lease ran out) and was subsequently demolished, along with other stores, for a “mixed-use complex”. The last vestiges of the outdoor mall are gone.

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  24. Nice article. I used to frequent all three of those malls. I used to go with my mother when she shopped at the Mayfield and San Antonio. I remember very well when Old Mill opened and my friends and I went to the movies there for a $1.25. It was the first time we went to a theater that had multiple theaters. We stood in line outside for three hours when Star wars opened in 1977.
    I left Mtn View in 1979, but the malls play a big part in my memory of the place.

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