Elkhart, Indiana is a cozy medium-sized city of about 50,000 people located all the way at the top of Indiana, right in the middle of the state. It’s literally right next to South Bend and a little over 100 miles east of Chicago on the Indiana Toll Road (I-80/90). If you ever played a musical instrument in school, like I did, chances are you have run across the Selmer name. It’s from here, and so are numerous Recreational Vehicle manufacturers. So much so, that Elkhart is known as the RV capital of the world.
If you aren’t yet impressed by now with rows of brass piled side by side with rows of campers, Elkhart probably has something more up your alley. Pierre Moran Mall was not only weirdly named, but one of the most dated relics of a shopping center in the whole area. That is, until it failed, closed and was demolished last year (Spring 2006).
Opened in 1958 as a strip mall, Pierre Moran Mall was enclosed in the 1970s and became Elkhart’s first real mall. In early days, the mall featured a W.T. Grant, then later on Chicago-based Carson Pirie Scott and Indianapolis-based Ayr-Way (Discount store of L.S. Ayres), and most recently it had Kroger, Big Lots, CVS, Target, and a Sears. But by the turn of the century the mall’s age and lack of renovation took its toll, and Target took off for greener pastures south of Elkhart along U.S. 33. Kroger and Sears agreed to stay, but the 416,000 square foot mall had to go. In 2004, this new project got a name: Woodland Crossing. I think The NecroKonicon, which appears to be a lexicon of inside jokes and information relating to this area, says it best: “…as if that will magically make new shoppers flock to the complex to shop with the added convenience of having to walk outside more.” Apparently by demolishing what was there and renaming it, they’ll
trick woo shoppers into coming back. Though, according to the developer’s site plan, the stores aren’t coming in droves. Hmm.
So what really killed this mall? I would argue both competition and lack of support from its management put the nails in the coffin here at Pierre Moran Mall. South Bend, which is the center of the entire Michiana region, is a mere 15 miles away, and there is a huge concentration of every Big Box store imaginable centered around the University Park Mall in Mishawaka. Even though Elkhart and Goshen residents complain and would rather have these stores open locally, the stores’ bottom lines don’t support this. In addition, even local competition aided in sealing Pierre Moran’s fate. Throughout the past decade or so, many of the newer and more popular chain stores have gravitated south along U.S. 33 between Elkhart and Goshen, which is today a huge strip. Elkhart’s Concord Mall, which is a great deal more successful than Pierre Moran ever was, is along this corridor, though it too is very dated and in need of some love. Also, Concord Mall is not far from Pierre Moran; both were on the south side on opposing sides of the U.S. 20 Bypass. Finally, management is somewhat to blame for allowing Pierre Moran to go fallow, with absolutely no renovation or repositioning efforts from when the mall was enclosed in the 1970s to when it was torn down in 2006.
Caldor and I first visited Pierre Moran Mall punchdrunk at the end of a long trip through western Michigan in Fall 1998, though we weren’t able to go in due to the lateness of the hour. I finally returned with digital camera in hand during the Summer of 2001, and snapped these pictures. I did also manage to make it back at least once since, and as soon as I find those pictures I’ll post them as well. I also have a few specific questions for the comments. Who was (is?) Pierre Moran? What was the specific chronology of the anchor roster? And, how do locals feel about the new development? The Internets suggest that people aren’t warming up too quickly.