The only mall on the east side of the Toledo area, the 800,000 square-foot Woodville Mall opened in 1969 as a result of a population boom in the area. Located about a mile east of I-280 off Woodville Road in Northville, Woodville Mall is anchored by The Andersons, Elder Beerman and Sears. In addition to the anchors, there is space for about 100 stores; however, presently less than 20 stores are open for business.
What went wrong? Just as with Southwyck Mall across town, Woodville fell victim to poor management, changing demographics, and competition. The main retail area in the Toledo area is currently clustered across town surrounding Franklin Park Mall on the northwest side. In addition, two outdoor centers with retail space totalling over 1.5 million square-feet are emerging in southwest suburban Perrysburg and Maumee. The area surrounding Woodville mall is holding its own, but is not currently experiencing major growth. Many of the retail areas surrounding the mall are over 20 years old and are not aging gracefully. This includes Woodville Mall itself.
Considering Woodville’s last renovation was in 1987 by then-owner and mall giant Simon Property Group, the mall is almost 20 years out of date and it shows. The floor throughout the mall consists of relatively well-kept yet out of date tiles in the center of each relatively wide hallway. However, along the edges of each hallway on either side of the tile is a horrendously tattered, faded dark green carpet. In many areas, the carpet is worn completely bare or ripped. This can’t be enticing shoppers, and is probably indicative of the current owners lack of commitment to keep the enclosed mall viable. Other design features of the mall including dead storefronts of wildly varying conditions (including a very old wooden facade with a Orange Julius labelscar!) and sparsely decorated interior spaces. There are a few planters and palm trees, but much of the open area of the mall feels too empty and almost deserted, especially with the lack of kiosks that most malls seem to have in spades these days. Toward the west end of the mall, the Food Court is also interesting with its bright 80s decor, yet it too is sadly mostly empty these days. In many ways the condition of Woodville could be considered comparable with that of Southwyck; however, Woodville has retained all 3 of its anchors while space in the mall has suffered, and somewhat of the opposite is true for Southwyck.
The absolute best design feature of Woodville Mall is its center court. The walls surrounding the warehouse-style high ceilings have been painted in shades of periwinkle and light blue with a stippling technique to mimic the sky. Furthering the sky illusion, several large “clouds” hang from the ceiling suspended in mid air. Back on the ground, there are all these rows of inappropriate-looking, tall, purple bars with white latticework on top. I have no idea what they are. There is also an elevated gazebo made with the same purple bars and it has a white latticework roof. At least I could figure out what that was. In addition to all that, there are all these random white tables and chairs strewn about on the ground that don’t seem to be used, but I suppose it’s better than having nothing there at all.
As with many enclosed malls which have rapidly gone downhill, it wasn’t this bad until recently. In September 2005, Simon Property Group of Indianapolis sold the failing mall to two California businessmen, Jack Kashani and Sammy Kahen for $2.5 million. The pair also purchased the beleagured, large North Towne Square/Lakeside Center on Toledo’s north side, which was, if you can even imagine, the worst of them all in terms of occupancy with only a few stores open. Not surprisingly, they shuttered that mall in February 2005.
So, what’s next for Woodville Mall? In October 2005, the Toledo Blade reported the new owners hired Krone Group LLC, a retail consultant from Cleveland, to hammer out plans for revitalization. The plans initially included some lofty goals, and a long-range plan to retenant the existing mall while bringing in additional new office space, an indoor ice rink, a new movie theatre, residential units, and even constructing new access roads to the north. Not surprisingly, none of this materialized, and in June 2006 the owners released a more vague, scaled-back plan to the Northwood town council. They said they were studying several options, but most likely would be tearing down the nearly empty mall except for the three anchor spaces which remain economically viable. As of November 2006, several months have gone by with more stagnant inaction on the project, leaving us to wonder what – if anything – will actually take place on the site.
When the annoucement was made that the owners were likely razing the mall, many locals expressed their opposition. Most of the people interviewed by both the Toledo Blade and on the blog Toledotalk.com preferred the enclosed mall to an outdoor development, especially considering 2 outdoor centers are emerging in Maumee and Perrysburg as well as the eventual redevelopment of Southwyck. Holy Toledo, what a mess. I took all the pictures featured here in July 2006. As usual, comments are appreciated.