We’ve recently blogged about the Mystic Mall and Assembly Square Mall in Boston’s inner northern suburbs. There’s a third mall that completes this particular mini-trade area: Medford’s Meadow Glen Mall.
Of the three, Meadow Glen is by far the nicest and is the only one that remains open as an enclosed shopping mall. It is not, however, much larger than the others. Situated in a high-visibility location on Route 16 just east of the Mystic River and I-93, it’s at the western end of the Wellington Circle retail district. At about 400,000 square feet, the mall is a simple dumbell-style shopping mall anchored by Kohl’s and Marshall’s. Constructed in 1979 on the site of a former drive-in theatre, the center features a food court and lots of neon that’s indicative of its vintage. The different zones of the parking lot are even named after old movie stars as a nod to the site’s history as a drive-in theatre.
When Assembly Square Mall was still open, the two malls enjoyed a symbiotic relationship. Assembly Square hosted Kmart and Jordan Marsh and Meadow Glen Mall hosted Bradlees and Marshalls, and each also had about 40 other stores and a food court. Realistically, Meadow Glen’s initial setback came with the death of its sister mall–because Assembly Square failed, the Wellington Circle area lost its cache as a shopping destination. So while Meadow Glen Mall still had some first-tier mall tenants like Express, the other half of the puzzle (retailers like The Gap) were no longer around because of the failures at Assembly Square. This meant that shoppers seeking a one-stop destination went to larger nearby malls in Burlington, Cambridge, Saugus, or Peabody.
This would change in 2000, when the 600,000 square foot big box-style Gateway Center opened in Everett, about a mile to the east. The center quickly became the center of retail activity in the area, and even duplicated several stores (Old Navy, Bath and Body Works, Famous Footwear) from Meadow Glen Mall. Then, in 2001, the entire Bradlees chain folded, causing the mall to lose its principal anchor.
The space would remain vacant for about a year before Kohl’s opened a store in the Bradlees space. During that time, the mall would lose some tenants, including the aforementioned Express as well as the Old Navy store (one of Massachusetts’ first). Still, the mall remained mostly leased, and (apart from a few shifts, such as the swift arrival and departure of Pay/Half in the Old Navy space) the arrival of Kohl’s was a stabilizing force.
Today, the mall remains mostly leased and is a pleasant smaller mall and an ideal example of what I often term “soccer mom malls;” convenience-oriented, slightly off-price, mid sized centers. I honestly don’t know why these centers aren’t more successful in dense suburbia because they put stores that require a large number of monthly visits in an environment that’s less time consuming than a larger enclosed mall, but which also provides pedestrian space and room for smaller, in-line retailers. In the past few years, retail has exploded around the Wellington Circle area, with the opening of the mixed-use Station Landing development and the re-opening of Assembly Square Mall as Assembly Square Marketplace, but demographic changes in the area and increased competition from other nearby centers have caused some slides in the quality of stores (Adam’s Furniture, a local store that has long occupied the former Kmart at the Mystic Mall, has moved into the former Old Navy space.) Because malls of this size and type are having a lot of difficulty, I hope to see it continue to thrive (and pull out of its current minor malaise), especially since its the lone remaining enclosed mall in its trade area.
Also, check out this vintage-ish photo of the old pylon!
Prangeway: Check out these pictures I took on August 24, 2001. A major difference is the announcement of Kohl’s coming to the mall. This was one of Kohl’s major expansions, taking over many former Caldor and Bradlees stores in the northeast United States.