Tucked away on the west side of Columbus on the corner of Broad Street/U.S. 40 and the I-270 belt, Westland Mall has without a doubt seen better days. Opened in 1969 as an outdoor mall, Westland was enclosed in 1982 and has not been renovated since. As such, it has fallen victim to the flight of many-a-store in recent years, especially considering the tight retail competition in the Columbus market.
When it opened, Westland was anchored by Sears, Columbus-based Lazarus, and JCPenney. Only Sears has held its ground; JCPenney closed in 1997 for new digs several miles up the road at The Mall at Tuttle Crossing and Lazarus, which became Macy’s recently, closed earlier this year citing underperforming sales. Other national chain stores have departed in recent years as well, such as The Limited and Express. In addition, the Woolworth’s mini-anchor which closed in 1997 with the rest of the chain was replaced by a Staples which denied mall access. Whoops. Since 2000, many more stores have departed, and on a Columbus Dispatch reporter’s recent visit to the mall the Dollar store was the busiest retailer in the whole place. Whoops again.
So what really happened at Westland? Several sources suggest that tight competition was a major factor in Westland’s demise. Between 1997 and 2001, Columbus saw more large retail destinations open than in any other market, with the opening of two large enclosed malls, The Mall at Tuttle Crossing and Polaris Fashion Place, and one large outdoor center, Easton Town Center. Malls like Westland, and others which have recently failed like Columbus City Center and Northland Mall, all fell victim to this shiny new competition at an alarming rate.
The opening of all three of these new centers also signified a greater shift geographically in the economic prosperity of Columbus, pressing greater emphasis on the large sprawling swath of suburbia north of downtown and leaving the other parts of town struggling. Just by looking at a map of Columbus, it’s easy to see the recent growth has pressed northward at a rate two to three times the rate of other directions. This is where much of the money is in Columbus, and also has much to do with the location of OSU in this direction.
Today, Westland Mall is a ghost town, a retail relic and a living history museum to the ‘dead mall’ phenomenon visible across the entire country. The Broad Street retail strip around it is dated and functional, but the mall has definitely outlived its original stay as the anchor for this side of the trade area. A massive renovation and repurposing will have to take place before it is viable again. The mall’s website indicates they are courting ‘value’ tenants to make Westland into a ‘value-oriented’ mall, and while this may solve the immediate vacancy issue it is really only a stopgap solution as the center continues to age rather ungracefully.
But for now, enjoy the photos and if you’re in the area take a visit to one of the area’s best-preserved dead mall museums while it lasts. It won’t be long before they give up the ghost and try again. The pictures here were taken in March 2004.