Located 25 miles south of Lexington in south central Kentucky, Richmond is a small city with 31,000 residents. Home to Eastern Kentucky University, Richmond has grown a lot recently. In the past two decades, Richmond has added over 10,000 residents, increasing its population by over 30 percent.
This massive growth spurt has been a boon to the city, and should have also been a boost for Richmond’s only enclosed mall, Richmond Mall. Except it hasn’t worked out that way. Located southeast of downtown Richmond along the Eastern Bypass, Richmond’s only mall can be summed up in one word: sad.
Richmond Mall opened in September 1988, a relative latecomer to the regional scene, as nearby Lexington’s three regional malls opened in the 1960s and 1970s. Set up like a simple dumbbell, Richmond Mall is pretty minimalist and functional in design.
Richmond Mall enjoyed success for two decades, despite the eventual dominance of nearby Lexington’s Fayette Mall, the largest and one of the best malls in the state of Kentucky. Local competition eventually did Richmond Mall in, with the opening of nearby Richmond Centre in 2008.
Richmond Centre is a much larger, open-air center consisting of over 800,000 square feet of restaurants and shopping. Anchored by Belk, JCPenney, and Meijer, Richmond Centre features other popular stores and restaurants such as Panera, Childrens Place, Culver’s, Chik-fil-a, Michaels, TJ Maxx, Petsmart, and Logan’s Roadhouse restaurant. A Home Depot opened in the center but has since closed. Most of Richmond Centre is set up like a typical Power Center, but the central buildings retain a semblance of an open-air mall corridor. A tiny semblance.
Sadly, and predictably, Richmond Centre caused a mass exodus at Richmond Mall. The two shopping centers are only two miles apart, both located along Eastern Bypass south of downtown. In addition to being more than twice as large and brand new, Richmond Centre is located directly along I-75, whereas Richmond Mall is a couple miles away.
Also, when Richmond Centre opened, it poached JCPenney, Goody’s Family Clothing, and Hastings entertainment directly from Richmond Mall. According to a Kentucky.com article published in November 2010, Richmond Mall was 98% leased when Richmond Centre opened in 2008. Just two years later, the mall was less than 50 percent occupied.
In November 2010, Richmond Mall defaulted on its loan and was auctioned. According to the same Kentucky.com article, the foreclosure came as a result of a lien placed on the property, which was owned by Richmond Mall Associates and does business as Bush Realty. The lien, which was sought by U.S. Bank, is valued at $16.4 million. The former owners of the mall wanted to sell the mall because they do not specialize in redevelopment.
Today, Richmond Mall has very few stores open. Most of the operating stores are on the mall’s west side. The food court remains completely empty. Aside from Sears, the eastern half of the mall is almost completely dead.
It’s shocking what a difference a couple years can make. I visited Richmond Mall for the first time in November 2011. I came in the eastern end of the mall, which is the more vacant half of the mall. When I left, I noticed a young man on a bike riding through the mall who exited the same door I did. I’m kind of sad I didn’t see the mall before it died in 2008. Feel free to leave your comments.