The long-ailing Billerica Mall in Billerica, Massachusetts seems destined to be facing the wrecking ball soon.
This classic dead mall has been in roughly the same condition since 1999, which is when we at Labelscar first visited it. Built sometime in the early 1970s as part of a quartet of malls constructed around the Boston area, it was–initially–nearly identical to the other three. Of those, only one–the appropriately-named Woburn Mall in Woburn, Massachusetts–is still operating, and it was renovated pretty extensively in 2004. Weymouth’s Harbourlight Mall was demolished in 2000 and Chelsea’s Mystic Mall was unexpectedly shuttered in 2002, and sits mostly unchanged today. None of these malls were terribly entertaining. Each was designed as a community-oriented center with about 250,000 square feet of selling space. In all cases, they had a Market Basket grocery store that had an exterior entrance only, and most (if not all) of the malls were originally built with Kmart as the opposing anchor. Billerica is the only one that’s hung on to Kmart, which is the chief reason anyone enters the mall itself anymore. Beyond a newsstand, a formalwear shop, a Papa Ginos restaurant, and a golf training school (which–OMG–so visibly occupies a former Deb Shops location), there’s nothing but shuttered storefronts. And boy, does the Billerica Mall ever have some great shuttered storefronts!–Just look at our pictures, which were all taken in April 2005. I particularly like the “gnashing teeth” facade on that one storefront. The entire parcel is shaped like an “L,” with the mall extending between Kmart and Burlington Coat Factory (which sealed its entrance in late 2005), and an outdoor plaza extending from Burlington Coat Factory to Market Basket.
Rumor has it that the enclosed portion of this long-dead mall will soon be demolished to make room for a Home Depot to sandwich itself between the two anchors. (You can see a site plan if you want, but I warn you that it’s a PDF!) While it’s always sad to see a mall go–especially a gem like this right in my own backyard–it’s hard to feel much sympathy for a property that’s been blighted for close to a decade, if not more. The Billerica Mall is located on route 3a, pretty far off of major highways, and is not located in a major retail area. It was clearly built just to serve residents of Billerica and nearby Burlington, Tewksbury, and Lowell. Labelscar would’ve loved to see it be successful as an enclosed mall again, but it would require some major cosmetic upgrades and repositioning as a leisurely convenience-oriented mall, with a lot of the kinds of stores that appeal to soccer moms (love ya, TJX!). That wide center court would’ve made a nice place for a Starbucks or a similar coffee shop, too, and it would’ve really made for a cool gathering place in this large and sprawling blue collar suburb. Unfortunately, the Billerica Mall seems destined to go the way that many other enclosed malls have gone in the past few years.