The Broadway Mall is one of the largest–and perhaps strangest–malls on Long Island. The mall opened in the 1956 on the site of a former boys’ orphanage as the open-air Mid-Island Plaza. The Hicksville area of Long Island was in the middle of a building and population boom at the time, as residents were flocking to the suburbs in great numbers. Some of the largest strictly suburban areas on the entire east coast are located in the vicinity of the center, including archetypal post-war suburbs like Levittown and Hempstead (which, with over 700,000 people, is the second most populous census-designated place in New York State).
The original Mid-Island Plaza consisted of 10 buildings and 8,000 parking spaces. The center’s main anchor, Gertz, was a local store from downtown Jamaica Queens who opened a major outpost in Hicksville to follow the population trends. Gertz’ 5-story, 300,000 square foot store dominated the center’s original design, and its rumored that this store is the tallest suburban department store ever built. At some point the mall also was home to an EJ Korvette’s store. The mall was even structured with an underground tunnel (still in use today) that allowed deliveries to be made directly to the stores underneath the mall. The Mid-Island Plaza was being enclosed in 1968 (and perhaps renamed at the same time?), then renovated again in 1989 and 1995. Gertz Department Stores parent company, Allied, united the Gertz stores under the Stern’s banner in the 1980s before becoming a Macy’s in 2001. The mall’s website offers a bit of its history.
The Broadway Mall is located only a few miles from Roosevelt Field Mall, the largest mall in all of New York state and one of the largest on the entire eastern seaboard. As a result, it has an interesting feel and has an unusual store roster. The center is shaped like an “H”, with Macy’s at one of the junctions. Its other two anchors are a Target (which had been a JCPenney very briefly from 1999 to 2001 or 2002) and an IKEA, making for one of the stranger rosters of anchor stores of any mall in the northeast. Broadway Mall also boasts Steve & Barry’s University Sportswear, H&M, Old Navy, and a movie theatre as junior anchors. I’m not entirely sure what the IKEA or Target stores were initially, but the mall did boast EJ Korvette’s as one of its original anchors. Korvette’s stores tended to have large footprints, so it’s possible that IKEA took this space after the mall’s major redevelopment in 1995.
MallsofAmerica has some really cool photos of the Broadway Mall during its Mid-Island Plaza days, and our photos were all taken in May of 2007. I’ve been to this mall many times since 1999 (until 2004, this IKEA was the closest one to Boston) and it hasn’t changed much in that time, beyond when Target replaced JCPenney at the rear anchor. The imposing, humungous Macy’s store is certainly a highlight here, as is the cavernous center court and the strange way the food court is cantilevered onto a second level. But really, Broadway Mall is most interesting as an example of how a second-tier mall that would normally be crowded out by larger siblings is able to hang on with some less-than-traditional anchor stores and make out just fine.