Hey kiddos. I’m sorry about the lack of new verbiage around here lately, but one of us is traveling (not me) and the other has been severely overworked (sadly, I must raise my hand). If you’re interested in paying me a living wage to drive around, take pictures of malls, and research their history, please submit your proposals using the comment feature. Please, no recruiters. No phone calls about this job. EOE.
It’s about 20 degrees here in New England, so I’m going to augment my “laziness” with another trip faraway to the warmer American South. Here is a gripping set of photos of New Orleans’ Lake Forest Plaza Mall, accompanied by some historical information, all courtesy of our friend John Espiau, who gave us a nice retrospective of Houston’s Almeda Mall a few weeks back. Lake Forest Plaza was an already-dying mall that was killed off completely due to Hurricane Katrina in September of 2005, and as such its death and current state are both a bit unique, and even more dramatic than usual. John tells the rest:
Lake Forest Plaza (The Plaza) in New Orleans was opened in 1974 in the rapidly growing east side of town. The original anchors were Maison Blanche, D.H. Holmes, and Sears. The mall featured a diamond shape design and huge ceilings. In 1985 a Mervyn’s anchor was added. This mall also featured the only ice-skating rink in the New Orleans area. In the 1970′s and early 1980′s this mall rivaled the other two powerhouse malls in the area Lakeside and Oakwood. Then the oil bust happened in 1986 and the New Orleans area started to decline especially in New Orleans east where The Plaza is located. In 1989 the mall completed a renovation that was expected to freshen up the dark design inside of the mall. This actually hurt sales even more because they removed the ice rink and installed a food court. Crime in New Orleans east was also getting out of hand, further decreasing traffic. D.H. Holmes also became Dillard’s when the company sold out in 1989. In 1993 Sears closed up their location at the mall. By 1996 the mall was in a deep decline and Dillard’s closed without any warning. The same week Mervyn’s started a closing sale despite pleas from the mayor Marc Morial to stay. In 1999 Maison Blanche became Dillard’s after they sold out and by this time the mall was barely 50% occupied. Service Merchandise next to The Plaza closed as well in 1999. A new cinema was opened outside the mall in 2003 called The Grand. The mall struggled on losing most of the corporate chains and by 2005 only about 30 inline stores remained. Hurricane Katrina in 2005 inundated the property with 7 feet of standing water for weeks and ruined the entire mall. The mall also sustained a good bit of wind damage. One year after the hurricane the property is being partially demolished to make way for a new Lowe’s. The plan is to demolish the entire mall and redevelop the property as a mixed use development with the Lowe’s and The Grand Cinema as anchors. Dillard’s has not announced if it will ever return to the site, and with only 20% of the pre-Katrina population back in the area Dillard’s would not want to return anytime soon. This mall was on its way out before Katrina and demolition is the only current solution to bring this property back to life. The redevelopment of The Plaza will be interesting to see and much needed to a community in need of businesses.