A few days back, I posted about the small, forgotten Taunton Mall, stomped into the dust nearly a decade and a half ago by the opening of a new retail mecca on the edge of town. Here it is.
The 1.2 million square-foot Silver City Galleria opened to much fanfare in 1992. Built by the Pyramid Cos. of New York at approximately the same time as two other similar Massachusetts Malls–Independence Mall in Kingston and Berkshire Mall in Lanesboro–all of the malls were aimed at bringing shopping to areas that were experiencing population growth in the state. While the Berkshires grew mainly only due to tourism, Southeastern Massachusetts was growing in leaps and bounds, and Silver City Galleria’s strategic location at the junction of routes 140 and 24 allowed it to pull traffic from as far north as the Boston suburbs as well as the entire “South Coast” region (including Fall River and New Bedford) simultaneously. The original anchors at the two-level mall were Sears, JCPenney, Filene’s, Filene’s Basement, TJMaxx, Bradlees, Lechmere, and Hoyt’s Cinemas. The mall is today owned by General Growth Properties.
Silver City Galleria quickly became the area’s dominant mall, causing a great deal of problems for other malls in this part of Massachusetts, in particular the Westgate Mall in Brockton, the Swansea Mall in Swansea, and the (then-North) Dartmouth Mall in Dartmouth. Notably, it pulled both Sears and Bradlees away from the small Taunton Mall immediately, ending that center’s chapter as a viable retail center instantly. In its early days, the Silver City Galleria was so popular that it created backups onto route 24 and necessitated the construction of a new exit ramp.
The mall sported the kind of clean, bright Californian design scheme that was so popular in the late 1980s and early 1990s, complete with many large palm trees. While at its root the mall simply follows one long, straight path, the architectural focal point of the Galleria is its monstrous, triangular center court. The mall concourse takes a substantial jog through this area, and the sheer volume of open air in this part of the mall is perhaps its most interesting feature. While Silver City Galleria is a modern mall, the sheer size of its center court is a throwback to the era when malls were built to be grand showplaces.
Silver City still wasn’t without its problems. Silver City Galleria was constructed on a relatively remote parcel located on something of a country road on the edge of the city of Taunton, in an area that did not previously have any chain retail whatsoever. As a result, the mall opened in a location that to many felt like the “middle of nowhere,” and it was impossible to shop anywhere else but the mall. Due to the lack of nearby box retail, many would continue to plan their shopping trips to other retail districts instead and it prevented this mall from being as dominant in the area as Attleboro’s Emerald Square Mall, which was also marginally more upscale. Some chain retail did begin to sprout along route 140 west of route 24 beginning in 2000, and now there is a relatively healthy strip nearby, though it isn’t immediately obvious as to where it is from the mall itself.
Most of Silver City Galleria’s problems through the years came through acquisitions and bankruptcies of its anchor tenants. It lost Lechmere when the chain folded in 1997, and the space would not be filled for nearly eight years until Steve & Barry’s took the space. Bradlees, which anchored the space directly above Lechmere, closed in 2001 and was similarly vacant for four years. Filene’s Basement vacated the mall during a massive round of closings several years ago, and as this store was one of their distinctive and gimmicky “basement” stores, thrown in a basement directly under the mall and accessible by an escalator in the center of the mall concourse, it was difficult to fill. Today it’s a Tuesday Morning–the store that brags about how they’re hard-to-find–which seems somewhat apropos. While these old Filene’s Basement stores are commonplace to us New Englanders, folks from elsewhere may find this weird. There’s a shot of it directly below; look closely and you can see a large sign for Tuesday Morning hanging over the escalators to the basement. While the mall recently lost its TJMaxx store (which was unusual in that it was in-line), it also gained an Old Navy store and an H&M store in the early 2000s.
Another major point of interest is the mall’s Lechmere anchor. Because the store was built on the first level of a “stack” of anchors, with Bradlees on top and facing the opposite direction, this Lechmere store was given an abnormally prominent facade. This one makes me a bit sad, because Lechmere was one of my favorite New England retailers and they offered something of a unique spin on the superstore format. A disastrous acquisition by Montgomery Ward did them in; their parent company’s financial troubles caused the entire chain to fold in 1997. Steve & Barry’s has left the exterior of their store virtually unchanged from the way it looked when Lechmere occupied it:
Silver City Galleria does have some chronic vacancies, mainly in the Filene’s end of the mall, and this has been the case for almost as long as the mall has existed. It seems that given the size of the immediate market (Taunton has a population of about 45,000) and the proximity to many other malls in every direction, Silver City may have been built just a *bit* too large. Since 1992, both Westgate Mall and Dartmouth Mall have undergone renovations and repositionings that have stopped their blood loss to Silver City, and as a result Silver City wasn’t able to steal all of their traffic.