Green Tree Mall & River Falls Mall; Clarksville, IN

Green Tree Mall front entrance, 1993. Clarksville, IN

Our friend Jay sent us these cool early-90s photos of a pair of malls in extreme southern Indiana, just outside of Louisville.

These two malls are located in very close proximity to one another off the Lewis & Clark Pkwy. and Greentree Boulevard, just off I-65. Green Tree Mall is the older of the two, opening in 1968, with JCPenney and Sears as anchors. Later a Ben Snyder’s was added as a third anchor, and this store became a Hess’s before later becoming a Dillard’s store, which it is today. Despite a 1980 expansion, the Green Tree Mall was not terribly large, and as a result in 1991 the River Falls Mall opened directly across the street. Originally conceived as a somewhat more youth-oriented and lively center, River Falls Mall was initially anchored by Wal-Mart, Bacon’s (later Dillard’s), All About Sports, and Toys R Us, but also included a substantial entertainment component including a movie theater, food court, and indoor amusement park. After Bacon’s was acquired by Dillard’s, the chain used the two stores to split the departments in two (reminiscent of what we’ve seen with many of the former May chains after the Federated acquisition, except not within the same mall). The Green Tree Mall got the women’s department, while River Falls Mall received the mens and housewares departments.

Because neither mall was huge, they were designed to co-exist somewhat peacefully, despite a large overlap in in-line tenants. However, it was actually River Falls, the newer of the two malls by far, that became the dead mall, beginning to decline by the end of its first decade in existence. Bass Pro Shops entered negotiations with mall owner General Growth Properties to open in the struggling mall in 2002, but the mall went into steep decline during the time when Bass Pro Shops were in the process of locating in the center, culminating in the exit of the Dillard’s from River Falls Mall entirely in 2004. Not long after, both Wal-Mart and the movie theatres exited, and Dick’s Sporting Goods moved to the Wal-Mart space. When Bass Pro Shops finally opened in 2005, they built their store to envelop much of the former mall, and the remainder of this comparatively young mall was big-boxed shortly thereafter, making room for Old Time Pottery and Louisville Athletic Club to open at the mall as anchors. Jay tells us that Bass Pro Shops has retained the mall’s translucent tent-like covering over the center court area, plus the structure of the mall’s former indoor putt-putt area, which is now a bullet-free shooting venue (whatever that means!).

Jay adds that this similarly puzzling cannibalization has happened more than once in the Louisville area, a city where I’ve yet to visit (although it *IS* on my list, eventually):

The development of River Falls Mall was just another example of strange decision-making where malls are concerned in our area. Mall St. Matthews and Oxmoor Center managed (surprisingly) to compete while coexisting very near each other before they came under the same management a few years ago. But the failure within 10 years of Raceland Mall, which opened just down the road from the already-established Bashford Manor Mall in 1975, might have been a good warning for the developers of River Falls. For some reason, it seems we just can’t resist building our new malls mighty close to one that already exists.

Green Tree Mall:

Green Tree Mall front entrance, 1993. Clarksville, IN

Green Tree Mall front entrance, 1993.

Green Tree Mall's JCPenney wing in 1993, facing towards the center court carousel.

Green Tree Mall JCPenney wing in 1993, looking to center court carousel. This shows the interior from the first renovation in the 1980s. According to Jay, the parquet portion of the floor showed wear fairly quickly.

River Falls Mall:

River Falls Mall front entrance, 1992.

River Falls Mall front entrance, 1992

Front entrance interior of the River Falls Mall in 1993. The stairs lead up to the food court.

River Falls Mall front entrance interior, 1993. The stairs went up to the food court.

Second floor amusement area of River Falls Mall in 1993, with the putt putt area in the foreground.

The second-floor amusement area in 1993, with the putt-putt in the immediate background. The food court and front entrance
were to the left, and the cinemas were behind the spot where this photo was taken.

River Falls Mall center court, 1993, facing towards the Wal-Mart wing.

River Falls Mall center court, 1993, looking toward the Wal-Mart wing. The Dillard’s wing is to the left of center court, and the front entrance wing is to the right. Directly above is the amusement area.

(Thanks to Jay for all the pictures and a bunch of the details!)

 

37 Responses to “Green Tree Mall & River Falls Mall; Clarksville, IN”

  1. According to Wikipedia, the very first Texas Roadhouse Restaurant is located at Green Tree Mall. Also, the size of each of the mall’s anchors is as follows:

    *Dillards: 205,996 sq. ft.
    *JCPenney: 119,604 sq. ft.
    *Sears: 105,400 sq. ft.

    As you might have guessed, the Green Tree Mall Dillard’s is now again a full-line department store. Note that after the store was expanded in 2005, it became the biggest one-floor location in the entire chain. (FYI, the largest Dillard’s store of all is located at Scottsdale Fashion Square in Scottsdale, AZ.)

    Here are the sizes of each of the anchors at River Falls Mall:

    *Bass Pro Shops: 264,982 sq. ft.
    *Old Time Pottery: 84,415 sq. ft.
    *Dick’s Sporting Goods: 50,875 sq. ft.
    *Toys “R” Us: 47,458 sq. ft.
    *Louisville Athletic Club: 30,155 sq. ft.

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    Bass Reply:

    @Max, How did you find the size of each store?

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  2. Wow, River Falls looks like it was pretty nice back in the day.

    I have a close friend in Louisville, so I’ve had the opportunity to see both malls now, as well as a few other area malls that are dead or dying. Here are the shots I got of the River Falls Dillard’s in December:

    http://public.fotki.com/failuretothrive/dead_malls/river-falls-mall/

    Other malls in the area worth noting:

    Bashford Manor Mall, Louisville
    http://public.fotki.com/failuretothrive/dead_malls/bashford-manor-mall/

    Now a Super Wal-Mart, a Target, and a bunch of outparcels. The old Dillard’s is still standing, though, and we got pictures of it. Looking at the back of the Wal-Mart, it’s pretty obvious that the store encompassed most of the mall; the rear facade looks like a half-arsed attempt to fill in the old mall entrances.

    Lexington Mall, Lexington
    http://public.fotki.com/failuretothrive/dead_malls/lexington-mall/
    They don’t get much more dead than this mall, which has been boarded up for years and last I checked, is the future site of yet another “lifestyle center.” I happened upon a few older pictures of the mall, as well as some background info (gleaned from both the Internet and my friend’s grandmother, who took a lot of interest in our hobby), and posted them to my LiveJournal community a while back.

    Turfland Mall, Lexington
    http://public.fotki.com/failuretothrive/dead_malls/turfland-mall/
    It’s particularly easy to miss this mall’s demise, as the front (facing the highway and parking lot) is tenanted by large stores with no mall entrance. The enclosed part of the mall is still open for now, but clearly dying. When we went there on Christmas Eve, there were more closed storefronts than open ones, and there was nary a shopper to be found; the security guard saw us taking pictures and didn’t even try to harass or stop us. Despite a fairly recent remodel, this mall’s fortunes are very unlikely to improve without a demalling; according to Lexington Business Journal, even more stores have closed since my pictures were taken.

    Turfland Mall

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  3. I think what surprised me the most was that such a nice and new mall would die so early! I’ve heard of it happening but this seems especially dramatic.

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  4. Didn’t surprise me when I saw the area. There’s a lot of sprawl (and labelscarred husks of department stores that moved into bigger buildings farther out), and the Indiana suburbs are largely working- to middle-class; most of the area’s wealth is across the river on Louisville’s east side. Those who want more upscale retail typically go to Mall St. Matthews or Oxmoor, which are standard-issue superregionals; those who can’t afford it have an overabundance of discount stores to choose from. This means there’s barely enough market for a middle-of-the-road mall like Green Tree, and people in Louisville have enough shopping options that there’s little reason to cross the river (as River Falls’ developer hoped they would). I do find it fascinating that neither Oxmoor nor Mall St. Matthews have suffered a similar fate. Oxmoor did seem to be the John Oates of that duo, but not by much; think Garden State Plaza and Paramus Park on a smaller scale, and you get the idea. One thing that probably helps them is the fact that while they’re adjacent to each other, getting from one to the other can be really ponderous, especially at rush hour. Consequently, people who go to one mall are somewhat encouraged to stay there. Considering the same company manages both malls, I can’t help but wonder if this is intentional.

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  5. It is flat-out amazing that you used Hall & Oates as a way to describe the difference between those malls.

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  6. The only viable theory I have to the survival of Mall St. Matthews & Oxmoor Center (both of which are decently sized mid-upscale malls and have a good deal of inline-store overlap) is that the parents drop their kids off at Mall St. Matthews, then shop themselves at Oxmoor Center (which explains Green Tree & River Falls.) These two malls seem to differ only by the age they cater to (The quirky, colorful Mall St. Matthews with its huge Lerner/Limited stores to the younger crowd, and the more subdued Oxmoor Center with its Von Maur catering to their parents.)

    (And even though Mall St. Matthews is a very healthy mall, I’d recommend making the trip to see it as it still has a “retro modern” feel to it.)

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  7. What was Hou’s at Green Tree? And didn’t Green Tree once have a food court?

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  8. You’re right, alpha. Oxmoor did seem to aim for an older audience, which might be why it seemed a little lackluster in comparison with Mall St. Matthews. Teenagers are so fickle that a mall’s health can be pretty accurately gauged by how popular it is among them (and what type of teenagers it’s popular with; no one wants to go to the “burnout” mall or the “thug” mall).

    Thanks for the compliment, Caldor. Just for that, I dug into my pics from my December trip to Louisville and found this one:

    That’s Green Tree Mall now; other than the floor tiles, it’s still a throwback to ’80s mall sensibilities.

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  9. Oops…

    Try this.

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  10. Bobby, I think you may be referring to the Hess’s department store, which became Dillard’s. Back then, that red Hess’s sign was on the front entrance of the mall, though the store was in the back. There’s no sign there now for Dillard’s

    And, yes, a food court was created from a portion of the old department store that was vacated when the rear Dillard’s wing was added. But the food court didn’t survive for long and was eventually walled off.

    Regarding Oxmoor and Mall St. Matthews, it wasn’t until pretty recently that these two malls came under the same ownership. They managed to compete and survive for about 30 years, with some of the same stores in both. Now that there’s no repetition of stores between them, they’ve had to get more creative to try to fill all the space.

    DayGlo, thanks for the updated Green Tree photo. I’ve gotten pretty shy about mall photography since the ’90s, so I don’t have any current pictures of it.

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  11. Malls built in the 90′s haven’t aged well overall…apparently because they didn’t establish that cult following of older 70′s and 80′s malls that covered more than one generation of mall rats, they tend to fade much faster. Not only that, but the shiny marble floors, glass-drenched, chalky white, stucco, teal blue and pink malls of that era looked like a vast improvement over the dark, dingy 70′s malls but today just look bland and boring as the 70′s trends have come full circle.

    I can think of two malls built in the early 90′s that are struggling badly right now. One of those built in 1991 replaced a mall built in 1975 in Rome, GA and has never even been fully occupied. The other, built in 1990 in Savannah, GA has been on a gradual slide since the early part of this decade after 3/4 anchors closed leaving (once again) the older mall to prosper. Both of these were very clean, modern and attractive in their times and both were supposed to just clean out the older malls.

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  12. The view from the Ruby Tuesday side of this mall looks just like that at Medley Centre (the former Irondequoit Mall) in suburban Rochester, only with a labelscar instead of the Ruby Tuesday sign. Anyone out there, was the aesthetics of the newer malls their downfall, was it location, (and the perception of the area as a high crime area, or was it the over expansion of other area malls that did the malls mentioned above in? I’m kind of curious.

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  13. No way……. they had a small train that went around the fountain? thats a big feat to accomplish.

    Very imaginative, almost fantasy like.

    Wait,a sec thats not a small fountain……it’s an entire man made river!

    That means the train is going over an entire section of water! Amazing!

    Sure it was risky to do that, but the risk was worth it,resulting in a fantastic display.

    Thats whats missing in malls these days the owners don’t take a chance to design something fantastic such as this.

    pink neon is garish but great also,sigh.

    Can somebody please explain what the heck happened during the transition between the 90′s to the 2000′s?

    Did we run out of imagination or did we get all caught up in trying to make things that no one would strongly react to good or bad.

    Modernism, building wise and art wise was about taking risks,about being outside the norm,about making something that gets people’s attention,and making new ideas.

    Not this ridiculous notion of dressing up stuff made to look like traditional architecture, that looks like a childish imitation,or creating something that gets a lackadaisical response as in “eh,its okay” .

    and whats with making these crazy,ridiculous looking buildings,that look like wavy aluminum foil,or some building that looks like it came out a of a really really badly drawn cartoon,or just make no sense at all?

    Yes,Modern Architecture wasn’t pretty,but at least at least,the buildings look like they were designed for a function,they looked sane,and at least they made more freaking sense, compared to these buildings that look like the architect has lost his mind!

    postmodern style is an insult to traditional style.

    sigh I just hate things that look boring or make no sense at all.

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  14. So, what is the state of the “amusement” portion of River Falls? I was there around 2000 and really had fun at the amusement area while waiting for a movie. Has Bass Pro taken up this area? If you go to the movie theater area, can you have fun at the amusement area?

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    Nathan S. Reply:

    @Roger, I don’t know if you already know this or not but the amusement portion of the mall is currently part of bass pro shop. It’s been converted over into some kind of hunting simulator. They kept the fountain but replaced the track with walkways.

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  15. Bass Pro took up everything, including the movie theater space. Most of the layout of the mall was retained, but now it’s all Bass Pro..

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  16. River Falls had trouble keeping stores.
    And they didn’t do a very good job on keeping loiterers away from the front of the store. So most older people did not like to go there having to go through a bunch of intimidating teenagers.
    Green Tree did a better job of that and so it thrived while River Falls emptied out.

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  17. Does anybody here know where to find more older photos (or have any) of this mall? Although I have many pictures of the death, demolition, and conversion, I would like to include several others for a future website on River Falls.

    Too bad this mall died so early. It was the city’s only destination for entertainment and community culture.

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  18. I did find a lease plan for this mall. The floorplan was a bit weird: imagine a dumbbell mall. It had Wal-Mart to the east…and an entrance to the west. A side corridor near Wal-Mart had the Toys R Us, but it had a weird entrance: there was a court with an entrance and the Toys R Us entrance.

    On the west side of the complex, another corridor bisected the main corridor. This was two level. There was the grand entrance (http://www.labelscar.com/wp-content/uploads/2007/05/river-falls-mall-02.jpg) to the Dillard’s. Upstairs, the amusement park featured a mini-railroad, a mini-golf course, an artificial river, remote cars, an arcade, a “Red Baron” attraction (looks like it spun around), a small “Softplay” playground, an a carousel. Sounds fun!

    I’ll make a map someday.

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  19. I was just in Bass Pro Shops today and walked along a wall I hadn’t before and discovered a fully intact movie theatre, next to the indoor “driving” area and an indoor bow and arrow range that is encased in glass. That got me doing a little research on what River Falls used to be, since I don’t remember it, having just moved here in 2007. It’s funny how the front of Bass Pro still looks like the front end of the mall, just a different color and with different signage. I’m not sure what they show in that theatre, but they did leave one there. If I had to guess, I’d say their NASCAR area must have been the ticket counters and concessions area for the theatre.

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  20. I really miss this mall :( it reminds me of my early childhodd and how there was always something to do there. lately I’ve been thinking about it and was hoping to find some pictures so thank you very much!

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  21. I used to have a floor plan of River Falls off Storetrax, but it somehow didn’t end up getting transferred to this computer, and Storetrax took down all the General Growth lease plans they used to have.

    One thing I do remember is that the lease plan showed space for a future anchor on the north side. Was there ever a concrete plan for an anchor there, or was this just expansion space?

    According to a Louisville Business Journal article, the mall was 40% vacant in the mid 1990s and never broke 80% until the Dick’s opened in 1997. All About Sports was only 20,000 square feet, and was apparently expanded for Dick’s.

    Off the top of my head, I can remember that the food court had Subway. There was also, as pictured, a Ruby Tuesday off the front entry. This closed in 1997 and was replaced in 2002 with Babby’s Steakhouse.

    According to a blurb on Google Books, there were once Casual Corner, Fashion Bug, Paul Harris, RadioShack, Waldenbooks and Disc Jockey. The blurb also mentions that Express and Structure were being added in 1997. FootAction USA, a hair salon and a clothing store called B-Ware opened in 1998.

    Finally, here’s a 2003 store listing: http://web.archive.org/web/20030219081612/www.riverfallsmall.com/StoreDirectory.asp

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  22. I have DWG floorplans from the early 2000s (off GGP). I’ll upload them sometime.

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    Bobby P. Reply:

    @Pseudo3D, please do! Do you have any of the DWGs saved off GGP, since they’ve now taken down their lease plans entirely?

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    Pseudo3D Reply:

    Even better: despite the fact that GGP took ‘em down, a selection of slightly older plans can be found on Archive.org. There’s “sub-pages” so you can select different dates:

    http://web.archive.org/web/*/http://www.generalgrowth.com/content/live/data/LeasePlans/*

    I suggest you get ‘em soon, because if an owner puts a robots.txt file in the source, then everything is inaccessible.

    Plans for River Falls, specifically, can be found on this page:
    http://web.archive.org/web/*sr_291nr_10/http://www.generalgrowth.com/content/live/data/LeasePlans/*

    They even have ones for dead malls like Fallbrook Center.

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    Pseudo3D Reply:

    Whoops, seems like Fallbrook is in de-mall form.

    And River Fall’s food court, at one time contained:

    Babby’s (in the upper food court)
    Golden Wok
    Tumbleweed Mexican Cafe
    Steak Escape
    Luca Pizza
    (vacant)
    Subway

    There’s also a box labeled “Penthouse” hanging off near the movie theater. Anyone know what that was?

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    Bobby P. Reply:

    @Pseudo3D, Probably a little mini-level up on top for storage, ventilation, whatever.

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  23. River Falls was an amazing place for a kid to hang out, especially the indoor amusement park, mini golf, and train. But unfortunately it was built in a bad location and never had proper visability from the Interstate, or Indiana 131 (the main road in Clarksville).
    River Falls always struggled with vacancies, even with two incredibly strong anchors for the area, Bacon’s and Wal-Mart. In fact those two anchors alone should have made the place a great success. Bacon’s single-handedly saved Mall St. Matthews when it was on it’s death bed in the late 80s. But I digress…
    It’s hard to explain, but the mall concourse never seemed to have “A” level tenants. The stores that were attracted to River Falls were always the inferior little sibling to the cool stores at that time. For example, in the 90s Suncoast movie store was super popular. I think there was a Suncoast at Green Tree, but at River Falls it was some regional chain (which didn’t last long) with poor selection. It was that way with about every store that opened at River Falls. Not sure why. If they could have attracted a Gap or Abercrombie or something along those lines, the mall would have survived. If they could have gotten a Macy’s as well I think it would have survived. But for whatever reason, they just couldn’t do it.

    FYI Bobby P, the food court also had an Arby’s and Gold Star Chili in it’s heyday.

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    Chris Reply:

    @Kirb,

    I believe the movie store you’re referring to was called “Saturday Matinee” or something similar. It was on the left side of the main hallway coming from Wal-Mart just past Dawahares. Another store that didn’t last very long was an electronics store called VideoConcepts. The food court also had a pizza place and a Tumbleweed restaurant.

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  24. Yeah – it’s amazing how those old Mercantile stores could draw the traffic – before relocating to River Falls, the Southern Indiana Bacon’s store was in a dumpy strip mall on run-down 10th Street in Jeffersonville – yet it packed them in (and kept expanding – it would have taken over the entire Youngstown Shopping Center had River Falls not been built). Seems that a lot of malls have suffered in the way that Dillards squandered all that Mercantile goodwill; those old Mercantile nameplates not only could brings malls back to life (agree with the Mall St. Matthews comment above), but could hold their own as stand-alones and thrive in otherwise dead malls.

    Two notes on River Falls – it always struck me that the grand entrance was more for the entertainment center than for Bacon’s/Dillards, which was a hike down the corridor – Bacons was by far the most substantial anchor space (darker two-story building) and had plenty of parking on its side. I remember the north side entrance – clearly could have supported an additional anchor, but don’t recall any prep work – it pretty much was a normal parking lot over there. Would guess that they were hoping that Federated would bring Lazarus across the river at some point – but on the other hand, as odd as that mall was, I never felt like they really ever developed much of a coherent game plan (other than ‘we have a substantial credit line and we’re not afraid to use it’).

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  25. Does anyone know what ever happened to Dave Wright. He owned the Shell gas station in front of the Greentree Mall back in the 70′s?

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  26. Man, Caldor…thank you for putting this up. I grew up in Louisvillle and went to the River falls mall quite often until I moved in 1997 to San Antonio Texas. I had such great memories of this mall and it really hurts seeing what has happened to it. That upstairs arcade and puttputt course was amazing. Just a shame to see it go. I was really hoping to travel up that way to see it again but it looks I won’t need to now. It sucks

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  27. I recall when River Falls opened around 91 or 92, in the center of the mall they had a raised section, and a robot “replica” of Mark Twain in his white suit that would stand, yet move and talk to the costumers at the mall, there was always a gathering just to watch him.

    Bass Pro has indeed taken over, I recall when the back half of the middle-and to Wal Mart area of the mall was still open and they were building a wall for the Bass Pro..Choctaw Jims was about to move out and you could still access Dicks, pet shop, music store, and Wal Mart itself.

    Toys are Us is still is in business, the entrance to the Mall is blocked. The Anchors sit vacant, and the Wal Mart left and they stripped the front wall of the former store and for the past several years it sits wide open and empty between a Pottery Barn and relocated Dicks..

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  28. Anybody remember when Ernie’s Snack Shack was at Green Tree Mall, was it any good?

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  29. Does anyone remember the pizza place in the food court at river falls mall it was by Arby’s ?

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  30. Two quick notes…

    1. Regal Cinemas opened a 12-screen theatre at River Falls, don’t know when though.

    2. Macerich soled greentree within the last month.

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