Rolling Acres Mall is a sad, forgotten behemoth of a mall located in the southwest corner of Akron, Ohio. Due largely to renovations at other Akron-area malls, the nationwide trend away from enclosed dinosaur malls, and possibly the region’s downfall as a whole, Rolling Acres Mall has fallen on some very hard times recently.
Rolling Acres Mall opened with huge fanfare in August of 1975. During the grand opening, Sears opened with 21 other stores in its court on the north end of the mall. Before long, JCPenney and Montgomery Ward followed suit and opened their anchor stores onto the mall. Around this time, the mall featured typical mod 70s decor, a funky yellow “bubble elevator”, and a large aquarium in front of Wards. Sunken seating areas on the upper level would later be removed to give a more open feel to the center. It sounded like a great place to be, and it was. It quickly became the dominant center in Akron, which also boasted two previously-existing malls: Summit Mall and Chapel Hill Mall.
In 1978, a major expansion of the mall took place, adding a food court, in-line mall space on a new lower level at the south end of the mall, and O’Neil’s department store.
The mid 1980s saw continued success of Rolling Acres Mall through more popular national chains, and space in the mall was premium. Montgomery Ward closed, but it was replaced by Higbee’s which eventually became Dillards (and remains today). Also during this time the mall’s decor was updated, replacing some of the mod 70s colors with the pink and teal colors popular during the mid-1980s. The food court was renamed Picnic Place and remodeled with a vague Victorian-era look, which looks odd amid the rest of the mall’s design. It remains today.
During the late 80s and 1990s, a changing national retail landscape combined with extensive renovations and repositioning at other centers around Akron sealed the mall’s fate into the sad state it is today. Stores that once flanked Rolling Acres like Merry Go Round, County Seat, Petrie’s, and Chess King all folded at the national level, leaving holes at Rolling Acres. In 1997, Summit Mall in the now-booming retail area around northwest Akron got an extensive remodel and repositioned itself to receive the popular stores that would replace the ones that closed at Rolling Acres. It was around this time that the area around Rolling Acres experienced decline as well. Across the street are several dead plazas including one that was a Child World location. It was also around this time that JCPenney became JCPenney outlet, and Rolling Acres received its final addition: a Target store connected to a new, small wing off the food court in 1995.
Today, the mall’s condition is pretty bleak. Although the mall isn’t completely dead, I’d say it’s running with less than half a tank. In 2006, Target left the mall and opened in a new strip center 7 miles to the west in Wadsworth. The rest of the anchors remain; however, time will tell if Macy’s will keep the store during the conversion from Kaufmann’s, or for very long thereafter. As with many dead malls, a fan base has developed around the mall and its current condition. In fact, someone even created and maintains a myspace page as well as a fan site for the mall. This is, of course, not to be confused with the mall’s official website. All the pictures posted below are mine and were taken during the summer of 2005. As always, please leave comments about updates and/or corrections; they’re much appreciated.
UPDATE 1/28/07: The sale of the former Dillard’s and Target locations are underway. An auction will be held to sell the former 125,000 square-foot Dillard’s store on February 7, and the 98,000 square-foot former Target store will be purchased by Akron Commercial Development LLC by the end of this week. The Akron Beacon Journal reports that although speculation has emerged concerning the conversion of Rolling Acres Mall to a mixed-use hybridized retail/office center, these former anchors will be retail.
UPDATE 6/25/08: I just went to Rolling Acres on Sunday and it’s in really sad shape. All the info Mary has provided (in the comments) is accurate. None of the escalators are operating, so you have to take stairs between the lower and upper levels. Both JCPenney Outlet and Sears are open and have access into the mall during business hours (though JCPenney only opens to the upper level). The fountains are off, and the mall directories are at least a couple years out of date, though they indicate Macy’s as an anchor. Macy’s came to the mall in September 2006 when they ate Kaufmann’s, and then closed in February 2008. There are numerous issues with the degradation of the flooring, as many of the tiles have chipped off and have just been left as is. The ceiling has numerous leaks, as well as many spots on the floor beneath them. I thought this place was in bad shape when I first came here 3 years ago, but man, it’s incredible that the mall is even still open in this condition. Keep us posted on the deathwatch!
UPDATE 3/31/12: The Rolling Acres Mall is now closed permanently. The mall itself died with a whimper in October 2008 when the power company cut off electricity due to non-payment. Sears and the JCPenney Outlet Store continued to operate while the interior of the mall was sealed and left to rot. Three years later, in 2011, Sears and JCPenney Outlet both left the mall entirely, leaving the center 100% abandoned.