Brookdale Center; Brooklyn Center, Minnesota

Located in Brooklyn Center, an inner-ring suburb 10 miles northwest of Minneapolis, Brookdale Center is a behemoth of a mall living on borrowed time.  Opened in 1962, Brookdale debuted to a new, sprawling post-war building boom which eventually levelled off as the area became built out.  Over time, many original residents serving the mall’s purpose moved up and out to newer and better suburbs, and were slowly replaced by those with a different socioeconomic status.  Today, Brookdale is in serious decline, existing as as an ever-dwindling collection of stores inside the husk of a super-regional mall on the precipice of closure.

In the early part of the 20th century, Brooklyn Center was a far different place.  It incorporated in 1911 to stave off annexation from neighboring Minneapolis, in order to remain remain the rural, farming community it had been since pioneer days.

Fast forward a few decades.  After World War Two, masses of returning GIs and their growing families needed housing, so large neighborhoods of single-family housing were built quickly and cheaply.  Brooklyn Center and other formerly rural communities close to Minneapolis were no longer able to resist development, and became built out over a relatively short span.

With the suburban housing boom and post-war automobile culture came shopping centers.  Long before the Twin Cities had the Mall of America, which opened in 1992, they had the ‘Dales’ - a foursome of enclosed, super-regional malls that were developed by Minneapolis-based Dayton’s department store and built between 1956 and 1974.  First came Southdale in 1956, which debuted as one of the first regional malls in the country, and was located in well-to-do southwest suburban Edina.  Next came Brookdale, in northwest suburban Brooklyn Center, which opened in 1962; later came Rosedale in Roseville, between Minneapolis and St. Paul, in 1969; and finally, Ridgedale opened in west-suburban Minnetonka in 1974.

In addition to the ‘Dales’, the Twin Cities also had other regional shopping centers like Apache Plaza, which opened in 1961 in the northeast suburbs of Minneapolis, and Knollwood Mall, which opened in 1955 in west-suburban St. Louis Park.  All of these malls were moderately to extremely successful throughout the years, and all of them exist today in some form or another – redevelopment or otherwise.  Only one – Brookdale – is in dire straits today, following an extended period of decline which began slowly during the 1990s.  Ridgedale and Rosedale are still immensely popular, and despite some recent trouble still remains viable.

Brookdale Center was originally conceived by Dayton’s department store to provide a northern complement to its successful Southdale Center.  Famous mall visionary Victor Gruen, who also created Southdale, was hired to design the mall.  Elements of his influence are still present today in the wide spaces and tall ceilings in the main corridor.  Also, unlike the other ‘dales’, which are all two levels, Brookdale was designed to be one level because it is situated on a former swamp; as such, it has always been the smallest of the four malls.

When Brookdale opened in 1962, it was anchored by a two level, 180,000 square foot Sears and a tw0 level, 50,000 square foot JCPenney (dry goods only at first).  The mall was expanded in 1966-1967 to include Dayton’s and Donaldson’s stores, and JCPenney expanded to a full-service format.  The mall was extremely successful and drew patrons from the entire northern half of the Twin Cities metro, until competition and demographics began to change the game.

In 1972, some competition arrived for Brookdale Center in its north metro trade area.  Northtown Mall opened in Blaine, approximately 10 minutes north of Brookdale.  However, this wasn’t a huge blow for Brookdale, as Northtown is across the river and serves a mostly different set of suburbs (Coon Rapids, Blaine, Anoka, Fridley).  In fact, Brookdale even remained viable into the 1990s, as numerous other malls and even the humungous Mall of America opened across town in 1992.  The late 90s weren’t as kind to Brookdale, though, as it battled a 30 percent vacancy rate and a foreclosure in 1996.

Not long after Brookdale began its first spiral of decline, the mall was renovated, expanded, and temporarily saved, beginning in 2001 with a driven commitment by Talisman Corporation, its new owner.  The 2001-2002 renovation replaced and modernized the flooring and general decor of the indoor corridors, which had not seen a significant renovation in decades.  In addition, several popular national brands were wooed to the mall, including Old Navy, Gap, American Eagle, and Hot Topic, and the mall was given a weird new logo.  At one point in late 2003, Brookdale rebounded to a 95 percent occupancy rate and had all four anchor stores filled.  The expansion involved tearing down the northwest wing of the mall and replacing it with a brand new, slighty larger wing containing a new food court and a Barnes and Noble store.

Several anchor changes have taken place at Brookdale through the decades.  There were barely any major changes from the 1960s until 1987, when north anchor Donaldson’s was sold to Carson Pirie Scott of Chicago and operated as a Carson’s until 1995.  The Carson’s purchase in Minnesota ultimately turned out to be an unprofitable mistake, so all Carson’s stores except Rochester were sold to the parent of Dayton’s, Dayton-Hudson, who then converted all the stores to its Mervyns division that same year.  Mervyns was a better fit for the space, and lasted until Dayton-Hudson -who in 2000 renamed themselves Target Corporation - sold all of its non-Target stores in 2004.  A group of investors bought Mervyns from Target and immediately began closing all of the Minnesota stores, including the one at Brookdale.  It has been vacant ever since, despite an attempt, in 2007, by Wal-Mart to secure a store there, which was blocked by Sears in a lawsuit.  Sears said they believe their tenant agreement gives them the right to approve the stores there.  The lawsuit soured Wal-Mart, who later said they are no longer interested in pursuing the location.

The east anchor, which opened as Dayton’s in the 1960s, became Marshall Field’s in 2001 when Dayton-Hudson decided to consolidate its brands in Minneapolis (Dayton’s), Chicago (Marshall Field’s), and Detroit (Hudson’s) under one nameplate.  They chose Marshall Field’s because the venerable Chicago store was not only representative of the largest city and number of extant stores among the three brands, but also because of the venerability of the brand.  It all ended up being sort of a moot point a few years later, when Marshall Field’s parent Target Corporation decided to focus on the Target stores and get rid of everything else, selling Marshall Field’s to May Company.  Then, after owning Marshall Field’s less than a year, May became acquired by Federated Department Stores (Macy’s), who rather quickly decided to consolidate all of the May nameplates, including Marshall Field’s, into one unified Macy’s banner in 2006.

After the May acquisition, Macy’s suddenly had hundreds more stores covering 90 percent of the country, and they also inherited some unprofitable stores as well.  Macy’s has gone through several rounds of closures to help eliminate these, and in 2008 they decided to eliminate the store at Brookdale.  It closed in March 2009  and remains empty as of early 2010.

Here’s a shot of the east anchor, Dayton’s, in April 2001:

Here’s the same shot from April 2010:

Here’s a shot near the middle of the mall facing JCPenney in April 2001:

Now take a look at a similar shot from April 2010.  Sad, isn’t it?

Brookdale’s south anchor, which had been JCPenney since the mall opened, operated for over four decades before closing in February 2004 and relocating to a brand new standalone store in Coon Rapids.  However, the anchor wasn’t dead long, replaced in September 2005 by Steve and Barrys, a flash-in-the-pan cheapo clothing anchor that expanded quickly nationwide in the mid- to late- 2000s, often taking dead mall anchors and having no qualms operating in dead or dying malls.  Not surprisingly, Steve and Barrys quickly became insolvent, and closed for good at the end of 2008.  The Brookdale store was shed a few months before the entire chain closed, though, as they attempted to focus on their more profitable stores.  The anchor remains empty as of early 2010.

The western anchor, Sears, has remained the entire time since the mall opened, and currently has no plans to close.  A Kohls Department Store also still operates on the mall’s periphery and is included in the Brookdale complex, but is not part of the mall structure.

In addition to losing three of its four anchor stores over a span of five years, Brookdale has also had to deal with increasing competition in what was left of its trade area – the northwest Twin Cities suburbs – when a large retail district and lifestyle center opened in nearby Maple Grove in 2003.  Lacking a downtown of its own, northwest suburban Maple Grove began growing at a breakneck pace in recent decades, attracting a more affluent base than inner-ring suburbs such as Brooklyn Center and Brooklyn Park.  In order to take advantage of this affluent suburban growth, Maple Grove constructed a new downtown in phases, and the entire development is referred to as Arbor Lakes.  Included in the development is over 6 million square feet of retail space, clustered around a large lifestyle center and a neotraditional Main Street.  Nearly every retail chain and box store in the country is represented in Maple Grove, including those traditionally located in enclosed regional malls.  Located just ten miles from Brookdale, this development more than any other has dwindled Brookdale’s waning viability, essentially nudging it out of having any trade area at all.

Faced with increasing competition, many of the updates Talisman materialized in the early part of the 2000s disintegrated by 2005.  After losing two anchors in – JCPenney and Mervyns – in 2004, Old Navy, American Eagle, Gap, Pac Sun, and many of the other stores brought in by the renovation closed in short order.  Most of the other stores operating at Brookdale are local stores, and the number of national, popular chains has dwindled.  In 2009, shortly after Macy’s jumped ship, Barnes and Noble left as well, creating even more empty space.

In late 2009 and early 2010, the owners of Brookdale Center, Florida-based Brooks Mall Properties, defaulted on their mortgage.  Then, in February 2010, Brookdale was purchased by its mortgage lender in a voluntary foreclosure sale, for $12.5 million.  It’s currently anyone’s guess as to what the new owner plans to do with the site, although rumors from office to residential to a new Vikings stadium have emerged.  I say make the whole thing one huge kitty condo.  One thing is for certain – the mall has almost no viability in its current state, especially at its current size.  So to all you dead mall or Victor Gruen fans – you better get to this one soon before it’s too late and the doors are closed for good.

Brookdale’s website still exists, but is over a year out of date – indicating both Steve and Barrys and Macy’s as being open, as well as numerous in-line stores which have also closed.  The mall advertises having 70 retailers, but only about 30 remain open as of early 2010.  Brookdale also put up a new pylon a couple years ago along Highway 100, featuring the dumb logo which is moderately illegible against the big bird-yellow background, and features a smattering of stores that have since departed.  You know your mall is in trouble when a local cell phone store shows up on the pylon.  Just sayin’.

I’ve visted Brookdale many times, beginning as a little kid in the 90s, and have witnessed the roller coaster death spiral first hand.  Even then, I remember Brookdale being a ‘lesser’ alternative to the malls in the southern and western suburbs.  But I also thought that it was so incredibly cool how dated and cavernous the mall was, with amazingly wide and tall corridors.  And who could forget the parking lot locator animals?  I know I parked in the elephant lot at least a couple times.

Also, don’t forget to check out this more in-depth (and hilarious) commentary from dumpystripmalls.com, a blog that highlights - and lampoons – Minnesota retail.  There are also a few vintage shots from Brookdale here – believe it or not, the interior looked essentially the same until the early 2000s.  As an aside, I hope she updates her blog soon!

Feel free to leave your own comments/experiences with Brookdale.  And, if anyone happens to have any pre-renovation pictures I’d love to see them.

UPDATE 4/2010: I visited Brookdale Center in April 2010 and noted the following stores open:

  1. K Fashion
  2. K Fashion Casual
  3. Champs Sports
  4. Wet Seal (who had their own uniformed security guard)
  5. Sears (the only anchor)
  6. GNC
  7. Q Studio (a photographer)
  8. Jackson Hewitt (tax return kiosk outside Sears)
  9. Skyway Jewelers
  10. Payless ShoeSource
  11. Twinstown (athletic/urban wear)
  12. Foot Locker
  13. Harold Pener Man of Fashion (urban wear)
  14. T2 (urban wear)
  15. Chinamax (the only food court stall open)

Most of these stores are located between Sears and the food court wing.  There was only one store in the Mervyn’s wing, and one in the former Macy’s wing.  Also, I noticed now that Macy’s has closed there are distinct Dayton’s labelscars on the building – that’s neat.  Surprisingly, there were at least a couple dozen people walking around the mall when I visited on a weekday afternoon.  One girl was even using the dilapidated, ripped seating in the former Macy’s court to sit and read a book – it’s peaceful down at that end.  Despite all the closures, mall management has not updated any of the directories or signage in a couple years, and a mural in the food court depicts many stores that have long since closed.  They haven’t even taken down little stand-up signs which direct shoppers on a wild goose chase down mostly abandoned wings of the mall to stores that no longer exist.  Sad.

Also, I unfortuately witnessed some trouble when I left the mall via the food court entrance, as both the police and mall security were interrogating some rowdy looking people who were in a van in the parking lot.  Then, as I left the mall, a couple who were walking to the mall were having a heated argument, and a large group of teens were walking abreast in the ring road, completely oblivious to traffic.  Fun times and anarchy abounds at Brookdale!

While all this is undoubtedly very grim, a nugget of hope for Brookdale is possibly on the horizon.  Brookdale popped up in the news in late March 2010, as murmurs of Wal-Mart have emerged once again.  According to KARE 11, the NBC affiliate in the Twin Cities, owners of two stores at Brookdale have recently been approached by Wal-Mart representatives, who asked if they would stay if Wal-Mart came to the mall.  The owner of K Fashions, who has been at the mall 12 years, said he would definitely stay and would welcome Wal-Mart to the mall.  Apparently the option in Sears’ lease regarding anchor approval expires this year, so Sears will no longer be able to veto Wal-Mart, or any other anchor for that matter.  I think if Wal-Mart came to the mall, it could possibly reverse the trend of closing stores and might even save the mall from certain death.  We’ll keep you up to date.

UPDATE 5/6/2010:  Brookdale is officially closed, as of April 26, 2010.  A local film producer wants to buy the mall for studios and a technical school, and possibly reopen a portion to retail.

I recently stumbled upon a set of vintage pre-renovation photos of Brookdale from April 26, 2001 – eerily, exactly 9 years to the day before the mall closed permanently.  Note the original dark tiled flooring, wood paneling, and the presence of all four anchors – including Dayton’s just weeks before it was rebranded Marshall Field’s.

Photos from April 2001:

Photos from April 2009:

Photos from April 2010:

31 Responses to “Brookdale Center; Brooklyn Center, Minnesota”

  1. The animal light posts are awesome.
    http://img.photobucket.com/albums/v251/mkopka/scan/Brookdale/Bunny.jpg

    This is a mall that looked awesome when built, but the renovation just killed all of the charm and class. Why is it that Gruen malls always get stuck with the worst renovations?

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  2. I only heard of this mall after the riot that happened in the mall after the pop group “B-5″ had a show outside of Field’s/Macy’s! It sucked! I never even heard of “B-5″ which i think was a Disney group, kind of hilarious that “Dumpy-Strip Malls” did a piece on this mall.

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    Andy Reply:

    @Ed “Fiesta Red” Field, I distinctly recall being at Macy’s that morning buying a pair of dress pants, when I noticed an ever-growing crowd around the stage not far from the store’s entrance. Headed home and heard sirens responding shortly thereafter — followed by a helicopter. I’m told by witnesses that K9s were also on hand to assist!

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  3. [...] featured an article on Brookdale’s history with architectural notes through February’s purchase by the lender.  As a recent transplant [...]

  4. The logo (the one on the pylon) looks very 1980′s. I swear I had a Trapper Keeper with similar type.

    Stupid question: What’s a “dry goods only” JC Penney? What sort of “wet goods” do they sell?

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  5. Honestly, it’s amazing Crookdale has lasted this long. Drove by there last month, that entire area as viable retail is doomed, locked in by Hwy 100 and that awkward 94/694 interchange, and Bklyn Pk/Ctr becoming no-collar communities with citizens displaced from parts of the Cities that have been “renewed” for better or worse (largely worse).

    And that lifestyle center in Maple Grove is awful. One could choke on the pretense of the grounds and the clientele.

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  6. Brookdale probably couldn’t have had more stacked against it in the past decade:

    -The completion of the new U.S. Highway 10 link across southern Blaine and Mounds View made it that people from Anoka, Coon Rapids, and Blaine could get almost all the way to the Rosedale parking lot without leaving the freeway. A trip to Brookdale involves a trek down light-clogged MN 252.
    -Changing demographics. Brooklyn Center is not a pretty place.
    -The opening of Arbor Lakes in Maple Grove.
    -The conversion of the shuttered Maple Grove KMart into a JCPenney.
    -The construction of Riverdale Village in Coon Rapids, which features JCPenney, Sears, Kohl’s, Costco, and Best Buy and a slew of mall-type stores (American Eagle, Old Navy, etc.)
    -Herberger’s decision to open a store in the shuttered Mervyn’s at Northtown.

    The list goes on. Brookdale is just doomed.

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  7. I took some pretty telling shots of both the interior and exterior yesterday, that is until mall security informed me of their “no photography” policy. I was told they expect the mall to close in 2 months.

    The photo gallery:

    http://www.flickr.com/photos/snaplocally/sets/72157623627865542

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  8. Sad news… Brookdale closed for good yesterday! I guess it was just a matter of time. The mall owners kicked all of the leasees out. Sears, which owns its own building, is the only tennant to remain at the mall.

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  9. Along with Sears, I was told by Champs, that Champs and Foot Locker were not leaving. Does that mean the Mall will reopen with new stores?

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  10. So does that mean that Walmart is coming then?

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  11. “Also, I unfortuately witnessed some trouble when I left the mall via the food court entrance, as both the police and mall security were interrogating some rowdy looking people who were in a van in the parking lot. Then, as I left the mall, a couple who were walking to the mall were having a heated argument, and a large group of teens were walking abreast in the ring road, completely oblivious to traffic. Fun times and anarchy abounds at Brookdale!”

    THIS is the main reason for the demise of Brookdale … not the Maple Grove development. But nobody wanted to see it, and nobody wanted to address it.

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    R.M. Reply:

    @Callie,

    Yep. We stopped going to Brookdale nearly 20 years ago… I’ve been back a few times since then, and each time it got progressively worse; from witnessing police break up what could have been a fight to being offered drugs, Brookdale is certainly not a place I’d go for a pleasant day of shopping! Not to mention that in the last decade or so, it seems to have all been tacky jewelery shops and basketball jerseys.

    I’m probably opening myself up to trouble asking this, but does anyone else here know the mall’s nickname? If you’ve been to Brookdale, you know the one I’m talking about!

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  12. I went to Brookdale the other day to check things out for myself. The doors were unlocked, and Champs and Footlocker were, indeed, open. Absolutely nothing else, not even a kiosk, was open. It was very eerie.

    To all of you who’d like to go to Brookdale one last time, I’d advise you go quick! I can’t imagine the doors will be open for too much longer…

    (P.S: Wikipedia is already categorizing Brookdale as a “defunct” mall!)

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  13. I have lived in this area before the Mall was built and have stopped there on my walks & found so much pleasure there shopping & sightseeing. .I sorely miss
    so many of the stores. Especially Barnes & Noble. I want it to continue in some form. It would surely bring back so much to the city of Brooklyn Center and surrounding areas. I heard a rumor that there is a buyer? does anyone know for sure?

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  14. The reason brookdale closed is because the perception people have that all black people are “thugs” or drug dealers. I worked at the mall for years and shopped there since i was a child, and I have never felt unsafe or scared. Its just pathetic to hear grown adults talking about how the mall is so unsafe and scary. Its a shame that for all of us who still live in the area and dont want to leave have no where to shop anymore. I hope they do something that will re open the mall so we can have someplace to shop at without driving to the awful maple grove or further out.

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    Jeanne M. Reply:

    @jon, rest assured, Jon… the residents of the the “awful” (sic) Maple Grove would appreciate Brookdale to stay open fo you too! It served as a nice buffer!

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    Chuck Reply:

    @Jeanne M., haha – well said Jeanne. Maple Grove doesnt want Brookdale people drifting over there.

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  15. Jon, I agree! As a resident of Maple Grove, I would like to see Brookdale reopen. So you and the rest of the clientelle won’t come out and ruin our area too!

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  16. I was talking about the shoppes at arbor lakes. Its fine in the summer but who wants to walk around outside in the winter. I like to stay warm in the winter, as minnesota is very cold and I feel and outdoor mall is not appropriate for this reigon of the us. Also, What “clientelle” are you refering to? With a coment like that , you pretty much proved my point which I was trying to make in my post. Alot of people dont like the stuck up attitude that people in maple grove have, they think they are better than people who live in the older parts of the city. I like diversity, im not comfortable in the cookie cutter everything has to be perfect illusion that they have over there

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    Chuck Reply:

    @jon, You must not have kids…crime, attitudes, and no morals is not something most people enjoy raising their kids around.

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    Jeanne M. Reply:

    @Chuck, You are right on, Chuck! I guess Jon feels most at home in the ghetto. At least there is no quest for “perfection” there. Jon’s an idiot.

    Arbor Lakes has become a lot more ghetto in months since Brookdale’s closing. Can’t wait for the new Shingle Creek Crossing to open to buffer some of the garbage from coming out to Maple Grove!

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  17. In my opinion it would be great for walmart to move in it would definately bring brooklyn center back to life not to mention the jobs it would create. A walmart would give all levels of income someplace
    to shop.If sears or anyone else dont like it go to maple grove to shop.

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  18. It’s sad to see how Brookdale declined over the years… My Mom and I used to shop there for school clothes practically every year in the ’70′s and ’80′s. We would also go Christmas shopping there on a regular basis. We lived closer to Northtown Mall, but Brookdale had Sears and J C Penney’s, and Northtown didn’t. My Mom worked at the Snyder Drug store that was near Brookdale during the middle 1960′s. Mom remembers that Brookdale was always busy, and that it was once a vibrant and thriving mall. Sad to say, that isn’t the situation anymore…

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  19. It is funny, the website is still running for this mall.

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  20. Say good bye to Brookdale! The mall is toast, Walmart is knocking down the mall except for Sears and the food court and building a new Supercenter and rebranding the center as SHINGLE CREEK CROSSING or something like that… I know is 2.00 AM or something but I am at the hospital, am fine, just got my damn tonsils out (24 years and NOW they betray me? Seriously!) but yeah, the Curator over at Mall Hall of Fames updated Brookdale’s article so, good bye Brookdale! You will be missed!

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  21. For those in denial the mall went into decline when Brooklyn Center went into decline. I also worked in the mall and the shop lifting and violence in the last few years was out of control. You can google for the crime statistics if you want. BC is well above the MN average for violent crime

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  22. Currently, Brookdale Mall is in the process of being razed. The southmost anchor store (last known as a Steve and Barrys) is a number of piles of rubble, the east anchor (Macy’s) is getting worked upon, while the old Mervyns (northmost anchor) appears to be the last anchor to be razed. It does not seem like there have been any dumptrucks ferrying rubble away, but that should be soon.
    There are 19 sites that are supposed to be scattered over the Shingle Creek Crossing, and apparantly not connected to one another. I hope that the businesses that lease space will fit with the needs of the local shoppers, because there is so little operating commercial entities in Brooklyn Center (especially restaurants).

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  23. From article: “Also, I unfortuately witnessed some trouble when I left the mall via the food court entrance, as both the police and mall security were interrogating some rowdy looking people who were in a van in the parking lot. Then, as I left the mall, a couple who were walking to the mall were having a heated argument, and a large group of teens were walking abreast in the ring road, completely oblivious to traffic. Fun times and anarchy abounds at Brookdale!”
    In these few sentences, are the real reasons Brookdale ultimately failed. But nobody wanted to name, much less address the problem/s. What’s to say it will be any different with “Shingle Creek Crossing?”

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  24. I loved going to brookdale mall in like the late 80′s early 90′s. christmas shopping there, makes me cry thinking about the good days there and then what happen to it. do you all remember dj’s clothing store getting cross colors and gibaus. but that place sucked got so bad and ghetto some black guy stoled my grandmas purse right from her cart christmas shopping at mervins california .

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  25. Here is an additional news update regarding the Brookdale Center commercial area.
    The Kohl’s department store, in the northeastern outparcel section of the Brookdale Center site, has closed and moved to a new location.
    It closed on March 1, 2014. Another Kohl’s store has opened in nearby Plymouth in a re-purposed grocery store site, where employees of the Brooklyn Center location had been offered employment. A link to a local news article is below:

    http://www.bizjournals.com/twincities/news/2014/03/07/kohls-closes-brooklyn-center-store.html

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