Century III Mall; West Mifflin, Pennsylvania

Neatly perched atop a giant slag pile nine miles southeast of downtown Pittsburgh, Century III Mall has an interesting name and an even more interesting history.

Opened in 1979, Century III Mall was the result of a mutually beneficial partnership between regional real estate magnate Edward DeBartolo of Youngstown, Ohio, who wanted to build a giant mall, and the U.S. Steel Corporation, who had a giant mountain of slag marring the landscape south of Pittsburgh that needed a better use.  For those who don’t know, slag is a by-product of steel production, and for many decades the slag from Pittsburgh’s steel mills was transported to this site until it became an otherworldly artificial mountain taller than anyone could have imagined, disaffectionally known as Brown’s Dump.

Before Brown’s Dump could be successfully turned into the retail strip consisting of box stores, restaurants, and the Century III Mall that exist there today, the site needed to be carefully remediated.  This involved sealing and filling the mines with concrete and the cleaning and leveling of surfaces.  One source reported that more concrete was used to seal and fill the mines than was used in the entire mall and all of its adjacent retail structures combined.  There are still surviving ladle cars near the mall, remnants of its former land use.

When Century III opened in 1979, it was apparently one of the largest enclosed malls in the world; and, despite its location, squirreled away in the southeast suburbs of Pittsburgh, it immediately became a super-regional draw.  Century III’s unique name comes from being completed slightly after America’s 1976 Bicentennial, so it was aptly named for the dawn of America’s third century.

Century III opened in two phases.  According to commenter Eric S., Phase I opened in October 1979, with two two-level anchors:  Kaufmann’s and JCPenney.  The second phase opened in March, 1980, and added a two-level Montgomery Ward.  Several months later, in Fall 1980, Sears and Gimbels opened, which were also two level anchors.  After the mall was complete, it had 5 two-level anchors and an awesome floorplan.  The mall is two levels throughout, with a three-level labyrinth of confusing platforms, connections, wall-sized mirrors and walkways at the Sears end.  Architecturally, this end of the mall and the aforementioned features are what makes this mall amazing and unique.

Anchor changes at Century III began in 1986, with the closure of Montgomery Ward.  It was replaced right away by Pittsburgh-based Horne’s, and later became Columbus-based Lazarus in 1994.  Lazarus pulled out after four short years in 1998, and the anchor became a Kaufmann’s Furniture Gallery, which then became Macy’s Furniture Gallery in 2006 until that closed in January 2009.  As of 2010, it’s still sitting vacant.

The second anchor to switch hands was Gimbels, which closed in January 1988 following the folding of the chain.  It sat vacant until 1993, when Marshalls took the upper level, and TJ Maxx took the lower level.  This must have been an interesting pairing, because Marshalls and TJ Maxx are both similarly-themed nameplates owned by the same company, TJX.  I’ve never seen TJ Maxx and Marshalls so closely co-located, let alone one on top of the other.  As explained in the comments, the two stores were owned by different parent companies, so they were indeed different, competing ventures.  Still weird, though, like having Linens ‘n Things and Bed Bath and Beyond stacked on top of each other.  The pairing didn’t last long, though, because the upper level Marshalls closed in 1996 after Marshalls was sold to TJX.  TJ Maxx remained on the lower level until 2003, converting to a TJ Maxx ‘n More in 1998.  The upper level, vacated by Marshalls in 1996, eventually became a Wickes Furniture in 1997, which lasted until 2004 when it closed and reopened as Dick’s Sporting Goods.  The former TJ Maxx on the lower level became Steve and Barrys in 2003, until Steve and Barry’s went broke in 2009.  As of 2010, the lower level anchor remains vacant.

The third anchor change at Century III took place in 2006, with the rebranding of Kaufmann’s to Macy’s.  According to mall-hall-of-fame, this anchor was also the only one that was physically expanded, adding 17,000 square feet of retail space in the 1980s.

Both JCPenney and Sears at Century III have remained open since the initial phases of the mall opened in 1979-1980.  Mall-hall-of-fame has created a graphic illustrating the anchor changes at Century III here.

More recently, however, Century III entered a slow and steady period of decline, which steepened precipitously following competition from new, nearby developments, even despite a cosmetic renovation of the entire mall in 1996.  The Waterfront, an outdoor mall with over 1 million square feet of retail space, including Macy’s and many mid-market mall stores like Abercrombie and Fitch, opened in 1999, and SouthSide Works, an outdoor retail and entertainment district, opened between 2002-2004.  Both of these new outdoor developments opened along the south banks of the Monongahela River, just a few miles north of Century III Mall.

Although The Waterfront and SouthSide Works hampered Century III the most among its competition, other regional competitors also came a-callin’ to decimate Century III’s customer base even further.  Two brand-new enclosed malls opened in the Pittsburgh area in the 2000s:  The Mall at Robinson in Pittsburgh’s western suburbs, in 2001, and Pittsburgh Mills in the northeast suburbs, in 2005.  These two malls continue to have a super-regional draw.

In addition to new malls, the extant malls in the region beefed up their offerings during the same period.  North-suburban Ross Park Mall (a fine name for a mall, if I do say so myself) renovated and solidified its hold on that side of the city, eventually wooing Nordstrom. Monroeville Mall did the same for the east side and affluent suburbs like Penn Hills, home of presidential candidate Rick Santorum, and South Hills Village clinched a hold on the US 19 retail corridor south of the city.  There’s no shortage of retail east or south of Century III either, as there are malls in both Westmoreland and Washington Counties.

All of these other retail centers are also better positioned to serve Pittsburghers, located either on main highways or near affluent population centers, or both.  Anyone who lives or is familiar with the transportation network in the Pittsburgh area knows how difficult getting around the region is, due to intense topography and three large rivers.  There are no linear, flat highways anywhere in Pittsburgh, and getting around without a GPS or a sturdy map is a chore.

Successful retail centers in Pittsburgh have either easy access to freeways, like Mall at Robinson, Pittsburgh Mills, and Monroeville Mall, or placement in a dense population area, like The Waterfront and SouthSide Works.  Ross Park Mall and South Hills Village aren’t on freeways, but are the centers of relatively affluent population areas, and anchors to massive retail strips along US 19 north and south of downtown.  The area around Century III, while on a somewhat major thoroughfare heading southeast from Pittsburgh, is predominantly connected to a region that has seen better days.  The Mon River Valley has been on a downward trajectory for almost the entire time the mall has been around, losing both population and jobs due to the exit of the steel industry, and has struggled to stay afloat economically, despite the nascent recovery in other parts of Pittsburgh.

Considering the mall’s most recent troubles, is its name an ominous harbinger of what’s to come for our nation during its third century?  Perhaps it is a telling warning against the consumptive over-building of our landscape, and also the state of consumerism in general that Century III, like so many other regional malls, has become a deteriorating pock-mark of failure on the landscape in the third century of America.  Or is it, instead, a carefully crafted example of capitalism reflected in the built environment?  The site was, after all, recycled from a previous and not-so-nice use, and it had a good run.  Maybe it’s time for a different use – but what?

Nobody seems to really know what to do with the site.  Furthermore, while on a downward spiral, the mall’s not quite dead enough to seriously begin drafting plans for redevelopment.  I imagine, though, that in a few years the breaking point will emerge and Century III will totally fail, unless proactive intervention helps to bolster the mall.  I fully expect the former, though, and would be very surprised (yet hopeful) for the latter.

On a more personal note, I love Pittsburgh and feel that it’s one of the most underrated cities in the country.  The world class museums, architecture, fine arts, and educational offerings there are on par with many other cities of less ill repute.  There’s a heck of a lot to do in Pittsburgh – more than you can wrap your gum bands around.  Pittsburgh’s real gems, though, are its neighborhoods.  Separated by a rather intense topography, Pittsburgh’s neighborhoods are not only unique and well-defined, but intensely provincial – and people care about them.  I love that Pittsburgh is so rooted in place that even the collapse of the entire steel industry didn’t turn it into a Detroit, or even a Cleveland. Sorry, Cleveland, at least you’re not Detroit. Pittsburghers even have their own regional accent and lexicon, independent from everywhere else.  Sure, there are parts of the city, and the region, that are no doubt worse for wear, but the city still has so many cultural gems and so many neighborhoods that have walkable districts, unique shops and active street life.

They also have Century III Mall, which is an amazing gem as well if you can appreciate such things as shopping malls, and if you’re reading this blog you probably know what I’m talking about.  We visited Century III Mall in March 2004, and again in Summer 2010.  Feel free to leave your own anecdotes and reactions on the comments page.

Century III Mall elsewhere on the web:

2004:

2010:

75 Responses to “Century III Mall; West Mifflin, Pennsylvania”

  1. Yes! I’ve always wanted to see this mall. Back in 2007 when things looked considerably more optimistic, I thought it should be a mix of all types of stores. Now, I just hope they can do something to suck the life out of the Waterfront development.

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  2. It’s spectacularly dated, but in a good way. I love the old Kaufmann’s mall entrance; not so keen on the Macy’s remodel.

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  3. The fountain is awesome!

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  4. There’s a similar TJ Maxx-on-top-of-Marshalls in a former department store (Ohrbach’s) in the Del Amo Fashion Center in Torrance, CA.

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  5. I think the eventual demise of this mall is like a ticking bomb waiting to happen… it hasn’t happened yet, but it will in the forseeable future. Traffic is relatively light even on the weekends. Stores that are filling the vacancies at this time are mainly local and varied… a tattoo shop and a school for troubled youths are among some of the tenants. Also, a small correction, the upper level of the former Gimbel’s is actually occupied by Dick’s Sporting Goods, it’s the lower level (former Steve & Barry’s) that’s currently vacant.

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  6. From what I remember reading some time ago, Metro Pittsburgh is still bleading residents do to the shrinking steel industry there. To be fare, Pittsburgh is & will always be an inportent college town. There’s always a market for retail aimed at students & their families, perhaps Century III should be geared that way.

    One issue being overlooked is that bank & credit card issuer MBIA holds an enormous number of abandend & rundown homes throughout the city. Pittsburgh’s city government wont allow those houses to be moved until it is figgured out who holds both the title & morggage. If the properties could be rehabbed, more people could live in the city & shop in malls like Century III.

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  7. @SEan. Pittsy isn’t a “college town” certainly not to the extent of Philly or Boston. Pitt, Duquesne, and CMU have been there for ever and are not rapidly growing.The steel industry is long gone. Health care and research are the new drivers of the economy. The city has held on to HQs of companies like Heinz and some of its old money. the economy has stabilized but the area isn’t really growing. New retail means some old retail will die off under those conditions (and this is even true in growing cities like Columbus) and this place sounds like a prime candidate for death. Much of the housing stock in the city isn’t exactly a great candidate for being moved–there are beautiful old homes in fairly stable neighborhoods that would cost a fortune to move. There are lots of normal sized homes on hillsides and other odd locations that would be difficult to move. The dominant bank is PNC, which is actually in pretty good shape although the merger with National City has stuck it with a lot of bad mortgages in various other parts of the country.

    The newest mall has some one of a kind stores like REI which could easily become a regional draw like the IKEA near Robinson (which draws from Cleveland and the rest of NE Ohio). I’m surprised the mall in Homestead is doing okay–it’s in an odd, congested area and although it’s near well-off areas like Squirrel Hill, it’s near some fairly marginal ones.

    Pittsy is very different from most cities, because of its topography and the way in which different areas were settled, along with the lack of in-migration. The city started losing population before the Depression and the greater are has been losing it since the 60s. The well-off areas are scattered all over, although South Hills has had the critical mass for shopping. There are well-off areas like Shadyside in the city along with very poor ones. The well off area near the Allegheny River N and E of the city isn’t really close to any mall. There is also scattered poverty, although much of it is in the old industrial zones and factory towns along the Mon River. Again, that disadvantages this mall, because that is the mall’s primary market area.

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    Jackson Reply:

    @Rich, Stop writing “Pittsy” sounds stupid.

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  8. I’ve always been fond of the late 1970s-early 1980s era of malls, and this one is fantastic: The stylized concrete facades; the skylights; the glassy storefronts; the multi-layered walkways and ramps snaking through the angular building. Edward De Bartolo did nice work, didn’t he?

    It’s eerie to see this gargantuan space so empty, and I really wonder what the future will hold for the mall. Is there any chance left of a revival? Barring something unexpected, I’d assume it would just continue its gradual decline for several more years; eventually hitting the tipping point of mass-exodus after the tenant rents dwindle under the break-even point or another anchor leaves. Such a shame for a place that held so much promise 30 years ago…

    Was there a round of Montgomery Ward store closings in 1986? I recall the Wards at the like-vintaged Mercer Mall in Bluefield, West Virginia shut its doors around the same time.

    (As a final note, I’m amazed the Gimbels labelscar is still visible after all these years.)

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    Rich Reply:

    @Andrew T., DeBartolo typically built characterless malls. This one and its contemporary, Randall Park, were exceptions. Trivia note–the father of one of my college friends was an architect for DeBartolo. He made no defense of the malls, which enabled him to acquire a much better standard of living.

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  9. Random Century III tidbits:
    – According to various accounts on the internet, after the Gimbels chain closed down, the Century III store was acquired by a liquidator which continued to operate under the Gimbels nameplate for two more years.

    – At the time Marshalls and T.J. Maxx opened at Century III, they were still owned by separate companies. TJX owned T.J. Maxx, and Melville Corporation owned Marshalls. In 1995, Melville divested all of its chains save for CVS, and sold Marshalls to TJX, leading to the closure of the Marshalls at Century III, and the conversion of the T.J. Maxx to a T.J. Maxx & More.

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    Prange Way Reply:

    @Steven Swain, Thanks, that provides insight as to why they were allowed to be stacked on top of each other. It’s still kind of weird, though, because they were still basically the same store when Melville owned them too. It would be akin to having a Ross stacked on a TJ Maxx or Linens ‘n Things (when they existed) stacked on Bed Bath and Beyond. Still weird.

    It’s funny now, too, because Marshalls has reopened a store on the outskirts of the mall.

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  10. It’s funny that Marshalls is now making a comeback to the West Mifflin area in the old Circuit City directly above Century III in recent months.

    But as has been said already, I don’t see much hope for this mall area. The Waterfront is very easily accessible, and is a major draw for all of the Pittsburgh area. Remember that the Waterfront is situated between Kennywood and Sandcastle.

    The most interesting part of the mall, the area between Sears and Montgomery Ward, has been dying for some time. One of the last stores in that part was an old Foot Locker, a duplicate store of one already in the mall, that was original to the mall. There were a few other local places, a pet store and a hair salon.

    May sure didn’t help things taking that anchor with the Furniture Gallery. It built no traffic, and just killed that wing. At the time Lazarus left, Boscov’s would have made perfect sense, so would Target. Of course, Target was in the process of building their store on the large hill noted above along Lebanon Church Rd. I’m left to think if Target is in that spot right now, Century III is a lot healthier today.

    As has been said, there’s no real pockets of wealth around the mall. West Mifflin is lower-middle-class at best. Homestead and West Homestead would be classified as worse than that (It’s amazing the Waterfront does as well there as it does, but Pittsburgh’s a weird place). The boroughs to the east and north of Homestead are in even worse shape, and are some of the roughest areas of the entire Pittsburgh area. They were entirely dependent on steel, and they’re pretty much war zones. To the south of the mall, the population drops off fairly quickly. Elizabeth is very poor, and that only gets worse if you go into Clairton to the southeast or Monongahela to the southwest. To make matters worse, South Hills Village is pretty close taking Lebanon Church Rd. out, and the wealth grows in that direction. By the time you even hit middle-class residential from Century III, you’re pretty much in Bethel Park already.

    Malls in Pittsburgh in general are in trouble. There’s a massive hole on the end of both South Hills Village and Monroeville from Boscov’s problems and the May/Federated merger.

    Some big-box retail might be in order at Century III, but you already have Dick’s in the mall. There’s already a ton surrounding it. Best Buy is basically in the parking lot of the mall. Walmart, Sam’s, Target, Kmart, Home Depot, Giant Eagle, Kohl’s, Petsmart, Petco, Toys R Us/Babies R Us are all in the immediate area. And there are some duplicates at the Waterfront with a ton more.

    One possibility is taking down the old Montgomery Ward and building a Costco. There’s only one in the Pittsburgh area out in Robinson, it would be new to that part of the city, and be a major traffic drawer. Other than that, I don’t see a whole lot of hope.

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    Prange Way Reply:

    @Daniel, I agree, something destinational should go in to get traffic from all parts of the metro, kind of like how Ikea helped begin the boom for the Robinson area. Costco would be a good fit, but they usually shun the malls they are in so it wouldn’t necessarily help as much. It’s too bad Target, Best Buy, Kohls, and all of them are in the neighborhood and established, or they’d be a great addition here.

    It’s too bad that the Sears end of the mall, which is the most interesting architecturally, is failing. When I was there in June they had most of that wing was walled off with plasterboard, pretty sad indeed.

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    Gary Reply:

    @Daniel, South Hills is considering adding a Target and Dick’s to the former Boscov’s, whereas Monroeville has still been debating what to do with their vacancy. Rumors of a Walmart to a movie theater and a smaller JCPenney have surfaced. Despite the vacancy, South Hills has remained very profitable and as such has very little vacancy, not to mention that it is in a very affluent area. On the other hand, after Boscov’s closed at Monroeville, the mall began to lose a lot of its more high-end stores such as Arden B, J. Jill, Aldo, Ann Taylor Loft and Guess. It also doesn’t help that the mall currently has 20 or so vacancies, some of which has been replaced by tacky stores selling wigs or cigars. Even though Monroeville is surrounded by affluent Murrysville and Plum, which residents also have the option to shop at Westmoreland Mall or Pittsburgh Mills 20 minutes to the east and north, respectively, they also market themselves to several lower middle class places like Pitcairn, Penn Hills, Wilkinsburg and Turtle Creek.

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    Matthew Reply:

    @Gary, Let me tell everyone this. Cent 3 mall cannot be saved. It may hold on for 10 more years, but it will never achieve its former glory. The surrounding area is in decline. I live, and my parents, brothers, and other family members live within a mile of the mall. The encroachment of clairton, duquesne, south west mifflin, and other low income areas is what killed this mall. Afro Americans dont shop at the gap or structure. All it took was for 1 higher end store to leave and the rest followed, never to return. The mall cannot survive when mo gear and lidz are 2 feature stores. When dr. pet closed the deal was sealed. Farewell cent 3.

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    Dave Reply:

    @Daniel, There is a Costco already right over the hill in the Waterfront next to Sandcastle. There is also a Costco in Cranberry which was there before the one in Robinson.

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    John Reply:

    @Daniel,

    you are not 100% right on the demographic, jefferson hills holds a good bit of wealth in it’s residents, and pleasant hills has it’s share of upper-middle class as well (and pleasant hills literally has it’s boro line right at CIII) the problem is with the decline of the mall, they would rather travel to south hills village to shop, my wife is the same way, and will only go to CIII out of nessessity

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    Matthew Reply:

    @John, you are correct about there still being some money in the cent 3 area, but its not being spent at cent 3 mall. People from pleasant hills and jeff. hills dont shop at mo gear. My girl is from plsnt hills and shops at new york and co. in cent 3 mall. She just told me today that they are the next store to close. They are having a 50% off sale and the doors close in 2 weeks. One of the last higher end stores to go. One more nail in the coffin. Maybe theyll replace it with a seanjohn or fubu store. Reason south hills vill. still thrives is because its surrounded by affluent neighborhoods that show no signs of being overrun by hip-hop culture.

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    Matthew Reply:

    @Daniel, Im replying to daniel, but this is a general comment. the waterfront is not easily accesible. There are only 3 entrance/exits, and on busy weekends you can wait up to an hour exiting the center. Also there is a costco in the waterfront. Has been for around 6 years or so. But, about cent3 mall. This mall is very special to me. That may sound sad, but I was born in 72 and the mall opened in 79,so my young years were spent at this mall. My parents still live about 100 yards from the entrance to sears, so I walked there as a kid. It breaks my heart to see the state of a place that meant so much to me as akid.

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  11. “Ready to Work” is an indie film about Braddock, PA, an old industrial suburb near Homestead that’s lost most of its population. It’s been running on Sundance. It’s a good capsule pick of what’s happened to a lot of places in the Pittsy area.

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    Matthew Reply:

    @Rich, what is with this pittsy stuff. I have lived in the burgh for 39 years and never once heard it called pittsy. Are you from here? If so, where did you come up with such a wimpy name? Either way, if you are from here or not, its the steel city or the burgh. Please do not tarnish my beloved town with such a gay tag.

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  12. Dick’s would just be moving from behind Sears at South Hills Village. Target makes perfect sense considering there isn’t one in that area.

    I don’t think moving Sears into the mall would help anything at Monroeville. Sears down along William Penn Hwy. is plenty large enough as it is, and of course, Sears has plenty of their own problems.

    Target is already up on Monroeville Blvd. so that’s out. It really is a shame Boscov’s closed that one. I thought they were doing decently there. Of the stores they closed that I had been to, it seemed to be the best performing.

    Walmart has been fought for a decade or more to be kept from Monroeville, and it’s not like the North Versailles store is that far as it is. And that store has had a big traffic drop, saturating the market with another one at Monroeville wouldn’t help things. Plus it would just be nauseating to see Kaufmann’s replaced by Walmart.

    Not to sound like a broken record, but Costco makes sense at Monroeville too. Monroeville is more a destination and has much greater accessibility than the fairly isolated Century III. If given the choice, I’d say Costco at Monroeville over Century III.

    I don’t think people in Murrysville are going to Westmoreland Mall for anything, even if they live in Westmoreland County. Westmoreland has little upscale retail, and never really has. Bon-Ton isn’t bringing people in there, that’s for sure. Getting to Westmoreland from Plum is quite a winding and complicated process. Remember you’ve got to get down to 30, then go all the way across the Greensburg bypass.

    The problem is these malls just don’t bring traffic in like they used to. And with the May/Federated consolidation, the possibilities for anchors have dwindled to almost none. Dillard’s overexpanded, and they’re now having problems. Otherwise, taking a flyer on a store at Monroeville would make sense. But the Cleveland Dillard’s seem to be dropping one by one.

    Basically, all of these malls would have been better off if Horne’s never ends up in Federated’s hands, and of course, all malls would be better off without the Macy-ating of the entire galaxy.

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    Gary Reply:

    @Daniel, I think it wouldn’t hurt if they brought back the ice rink to Monroeville. It’s been sorely missed by the community and something like it could really help the mall’s bottom line. A movie theater could further help traffic in that end of the mall. I also agree that Costco could work at Monroeville, despite that there’s a Sam’s Club down the road from the mall. I just think Monroeville is too valuable of an asset to the community to be performing the way it has in the past few years.

    As for Westmoreland, their retail selection is pretty good, at least better than Century III and even Pittsburgh Mills, and their food court selection is among the best in the area, but I feel that the lack of popular retailers such as Abercrombie and Fitch or Forever 21 is rather interesting considering that the communities surrounding it includes highly middle class Hempfield and even more affluent Ligonier where the Mellon family is from and there’s really no competition for at least 20 miles in any direction.

    If there’s any indication of what might be in store at Westmoreland in the future, some of the mall’s recent additions within the past few years include Ann Taylor Loft, Charlotte Russe, Hollister, Wet Seal and expanding Talbots with a petites department. They’ve also managed to hold on to their Express Men/Women and Limited stores despite that a lot of these stores have closed in other malls in the area except for the most profitable ones like Ross Park or South Hills Village.

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  13. I read and thoroughly enjoyed the article! I chronicle the history of the mall, and I don’t really like to talk about the mall in its current state. However it is always interesting to hear what others think about the mall and its rich past. There are so many Pittsburghers that have fond memories of the mall from the 80’s and 90’s!

    Just a slight correction regarding Phase I and Phase II anchor stores. Phase I of the mall opened October 24, 1979. It only had 2 fully functioning anchor stores at that time: JCPenney and Kaufmann’s. Montgomery Ward came with Phase II. Phase II opened March 12, 1980.

    By the time Phase II had opened, Sears and Gimbels were not quite in the mall. Sears was still operating out of the Lebanon Church Road location at this time. I haven’t been able to pinpoint any exact dates yet, but Both Sears and Gimbels opened in the mall sometime in the Fall of 1980.

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    Prange Way Reply:

    @Eric S., Thanks, I included your information in my article. Unfortunately, other sources were wrong about this, but I’ll always trust the local.

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    Matthew Reply:

    @Eric S., I totally forgot about the old sears store by pace/sams club. I agree with you 100% about how sad it makes me to think of the state of this fine mall. Do you remember old pittsburgh? How they used to have little carts you could rent out and sell whatever you liked off of them? Im very interested in the history of the mall. If you could direct me to a website that has more info on the past history of cent 3, could you direct me to it? Or email me and maybe we could just bullshit about it a little. orlanduths@verizon.net. Later.

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    Matthew Reply:

    @Eric S., How bout the old hobby shop and the 2 fun n games locations? 2 places i spent a considerable amount of time in as a kid. When those stores closed it felt like a part of my youth was taken from me. Maybe thats a little dramatic, but it still sucks.

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  14. I’m making a documentary about the mall for possible use in a school project and I was kicked out for taking pictures.

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    Gary Reply:

    @Nick, I don’t think you’d have a problem if you talked to Gina, the mall’s manager. I’m sure she’ll accomodate you with whatever you may need regarding pics or information on the mall considering that there’s already a couple groups about the history of Century III and lot of pics have been taken recently. Her number’s 412-653-1222.

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    Prange Way Reply:

    @Nick, Both the other blogger and I have been kicked out of malls for taking pictures. Our experiences have run the gamut from security looking the other way to being physically escorted out of a mall.

    On a recent trip to D.C., I was “caught” taking pictures at The Fashion Centre at Pentagon City, and approached by some guys wearing lanyards that said they were members of the mall’s marketing department. They told me to go to the mall’s office and ask for special permission and to get a pass, just like Gary recommended. Less than 5 minutes later, I witnessed a security guard chastise a man for taking a picture in the mall (there are many tourists here given the location, and the mall’s multi-level atrium is impressive). She actually asked him to delete the photos and prove to her that he deleted them. Give me a break.

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    Cliff Warner Reply:

    The reason they won’t let you take photographs is because they are afraid of terrorists casing the malls for terrorist attacks. I worked on the railroad and they had the same no photos policy for that reason.

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  15. ‘ey chief, please stop talking about consumerism like it’s some evil as suggested by George A. Romero.

    You can think of the name Century III as a “steampunk” idea, since it was taking a popular concept of then, and thinking it would be used as such in the future, when that obviously didn’t happen. It’s called “progress”, not a failure of consumerism or “the economy”.

    C’mon, really…

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  16. I have seen comments on Pittsburgh message boards complaining about gangs at Century III. People said gang members swarm around shoppers and security is nowhere to be seen. People I have talked to in northern WV said they haven’t been there in over 10 years (myself included). Everybody goes to Robinson now. It’s closer, nicer, and safer.

    I have heard The Pittsburgh Mills has been ‘near-dead’ since being built. People don’t like it either. I wonder if it’s dying.

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    SEAN Reply:

    @David R. in WV, Simon defaulted on Pittsburgh Mills loans in 2009. I don’t know where things stand.

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    Jackson Reply:

    @David R. in WV, The only gangs at the mall are elderly mall walkers. They moved the bust stop and that was that. One of the reasons the mall is dying is because of misinformation like that. I work there. I manage a store there. The other reason is PEOPLE HAVE’NT GONE THERE FOR 10 YEARS!

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  17. Sean, I thought Pittsburgh Mills was owned by Zamias and not Simon. As for the mall itself, it seems too big to work in its current trade area. If it was smaller and perhaps two levels, then it may be much more successful but Mills’ bankruptcy around the time of the mall’s construction has part to do with it as they never really put much effort to lease all the spaces and other retailers like Abercrombie and Fitch and Gap decided not to open locations because the market conditions weren’t strong enough to support those stores in the area.

    It seems that the rumors regarding gangs at Century III have circulated since the 1990s, but the same rumors have also circulated at Monroeville Mall and that area still does amazing business even though they are down one anchor. The truth is both Monroeville and Century III had some kind of crime activity around the 1990s, whether gang-related or not, I don’t know, but it seemed to wither somewhat in later years and both malls are generally safe to visit.

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    SEAN Reply:

    @Gary, Simon did drop Pittsburgh Mills, but they were responsable for defaulting on the loans do to there purchase of the Mills corporation. Now the new owner has that headache.

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    Marty Reply:

    @SEAN, Simon had nothing to with Pittsburgh Mills and they don’t have anything to do with loans on the property. What happened was Zamias wanted to build the “Pittsburgh Galleria” on the land for decades but for various reasons, couldn’t get the deal done. Zamias convinced Mills to join the project in 2002 so it finally came to fruition. Without Mills, Zamias couldn’t get the mall built.

    This led to an identity crisis as Mills wanted the mall to be it’s usual “shoppertainment” value mall while Zamias wanted it to be a mid to upscale mall. Hence, Pittsburgh Mills has full-line department stores unlike other Mills malls but also featured some outlets and entertainment attractions. Mills sold their stake in the project to Zamias only a year after the mall opened as Mills needed the cash and the mall was a poor performer and the project was Zamias’ baby.

    The mall has never been close to being fully occupied and is often dead. It doesnt have a great location and since it doesn’t know what type of mall it wants to be, it has led to few people making the trip. The power centers around the Mills are the most successful part of the project, while the mall itself languishes and struggles. Lucky Strike Bowling lasted less than a year as did a NASCAR arcade area. Some stores that were planned never even opened. I don’t see much of a future for Pittsburgh Mills especially after ITT Tech decided to take over a siginificant portion of the mall. Sears Grand has been struggling and it’s hard to say how much longer Borders will last.

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    m Reply:

    @Marty, borders is toast now lol

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    m Reply:

    @m, simon defaulted on century 3 its now owned jones lang something something\

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    SEAN Reply:

    @m, You are thinking of Jones Lang Lasalle the Retail real estate management firm.

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  18. Thanks for the great write-up and pictures of Century III. Growing up only about a mile away from the mall, I have many memories of this place, and although I no longer live in the area permanently, I always make it a point to drive out to Century III whenever I am back in Pittsburgh, just to see how it’s doing.

    A few other thoughts…before it was renovated in the late 90’s, I remember the mall being EXTREMELY dark inside. Very little natural light inside, and I believe the ceiling was actually black all throughout. When I was a very little kid I would actually have nightmares about being trapped in the mall because of the darkness. The renovation added all those skylights you can see in the photos, which helped, but it also left those ugly steel girders exposed.

    The Kaufmann’s (sorry, but I can’t bring myself to call it Macy’s) has an unusual design. The main entrance is by the fountain, as in the pictures, but there’s also another, smaller entrance about 300 feet to the left–it’s just out of the frame of the first pic in the 2004 set. There are about three storefronts between the two entrances–still not sure why they felt like they needed both!

    I love the fact that right up until the re-branding, the Kaufmann’s basically looked the same as it did since the 70’s, both inside and out–that great “Circle K” logo, the wood-paneled door handles, the mirrored escalators inside–classic. The JCPenney hasn’t really changed too much either. If you’re not looking closely, you may think even the merchandise there hasn’t.

    The anchors of the mall changed around a lot, but I remember a lot of the smaller stores being there for a long time–the Wicks ‘n Sticks next to Kaufmann’s, Edmund’s Jewelers, Gorant Chocolates, Lady Foot Locker–all there for as long as I can remember. Many are now gone, sadly.

    It’s kind of a testament to the people of Pittsburgh that Century III is still around at all–existing in a sort of limbo, not really a dead mall, but not really very healthy either. Obviously, a lot of people still have fond memories of the place, and hopefully they’re the ones who will keep it alive.

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  19. Great write up on the mall, I always had heard this one was in trouble. Looks like I had heard correctly that this one will die in only a matter of years, which is very sad.

    That interior Kaufmann’s sign(and obviously used till the Macy’s takeover in 2006) is unusually nice, and I dig this one more than any other Kaufmann’s interior sign that in pics of the malls you guys have covered in the past that included a Kaufmann’s. Did this sign predate whatever company(regardless if it was May, or Federated) ran Kaufmann’s under that name, until 2006?

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    Marty Reply:

    @Allan, That Kaufmann’s logo was used in the 70’s. Believe it or not, the Erie,PA Kaufmann’s at the Millcreek Mall used that logo right up to the change over to Macy’s

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    emdee Reply:

    @Marty, That logo appearred outside as well above all entrances. I always thought it looked awesome against those mirrors. I was sad to see them go on the interior, but I guess due to the plethora of them on the store’s exterior, I guess Macy’s felt it was too expensive to remove them, so they remain outside.

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  20. I think that this is a very unique and nicely constructed mall. I do not want to see it go to retail heaven. However, it is good that there are still anchor stores to keep it going.

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  21. I have lots of great memories of Century III. It was still a very nice mall through the ’90s and into the early 2000s.

    One more thing that might be hurting retail in this area is the rapid growth taking place in Morgantown, WV, 65 miles to the south. I have a feeling that many shoppers from Fayette and Greene Counties might be driving to Morgantown these days instead of Century III.

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    Gary Reply:

    @Ron, not to mention, the Uniontown area is experiencing a lot of retail growth as well with the addition of the new Walmart Supercenter as well as Target, Petsmart and Burlington Coat Factory at the Uniontown Mall. I believe they even have an IHOP down there in addition to Sonic, Chili’s, Ruby Tuesday and other restaurants. Not to mention, the nearby Laurel Mall further up Route 119 is experiencing its own rebirth with the addition of several small mom and pop shops as well as a flea market. When that new highway is completed connection I-70 to Uniontown, it’s really going to make ease of travelling to and from the Uniontown area a breeze.

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  22. I still don’t get the waterfront thing. I avoid homestead as much as I can. Even though the water front looks nice you still have the same old homestead once you leave the water front. The sad part about the Century III mall is that now that the people from Brownsville and California have easier access to the mall because of the expressway the is nothing there worht going to see or do. I love going to the indoor malls like this one and all the others like it. You stay warm in the winter and cool in the summer. You also have places to sit and eat when your in the middle of shopping. That was one of my favorite things about indoor malls. Now the malls that are thriving are mostly filled with teens and not that they are all bad but you have to worry about being ran into or things going on that little kids should not see. Just my opinion. Hope fully they can save this mall and others like it

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  23. Century III’s tax assessment is lowered to $30.6 million last month from $58 million in 2009 and $112 million in 2008. In addition, Dusty Elias Kirk, the mall attorney, argued that the mega complex, built in the late 1970s, had reached “functional obsolescence” and now is too big for the market.

    http://www.post-gazette.com/pg/11021/1119569-455.stm

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  24. Turn it into a entertainment multiplex, Dining, clubs of different musical genre, coffee shops, small bars/pubs, dave + busters oriented adult video games spot, movie theater, a all inclusive nightlife mall. Instead of people driving drunk all over Pittsburgh bar hoping, they could walk back and forth inside the mall rather than getting behind the wheel, have after hours eateries with a couple after hours clubs for people to work off their inebriation. How about that for a good idea?! =) It just might work!

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    Ron Reply:

    @WILLIAMPGH, That could be a good idea. Even have some of the current stores move around to be in the walking path of the things you mentioned so they will get more traffic.

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    Gary Reply:

    @WILLIAMPGH, that might work in the Old Pittsburgh area with the cobblestone flooring. I’ve always felt that C3 could be a great place for multiple concepts such as an entertainment district. The only thing is how would it compete with more established places such as the South Side and the Waterfront area with Dave & Busters, Improv and Sing Sing as attractions?

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    Jackson Reply:

    @WllILLIAMPGH, Who wants to go to a mall with a bunch of drunks in it?

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  25. I actually own a business at Century 3 Mall and its very sad that the landlord has done absolutely nothing since they purchased the South Hills Village mall. I would assume that Simon is planning to default on the mortage simular to what they did in West Palm Beach where they bought another competitive Debartolo mall and thats a sin. I personally think that the watrerfrfront is a dangerous place to shop, the Mills Mall is a bust and Robinson shop owners are VERY unhappy with sales. In my opinion South Hills Village, Ross Park and Westmoreland mall will be the only 3 malls that will survive in the Pittsburgh area in the next 10 years. Debartolo selling to Simon was as hurtful to mall retail as Federated buying May Co.

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  26. I live right over the hill from the mall and continue to shop there. The roaming gangs are an urban myth, but unfortunately, it keeps some locals from shopping there. Macy’s and Penney’s seem pretty busy when they are having big sales, but the rest of the mall is so quite. It is such a shame. I hope that it stays a shopping area. I had heard rumors that it might become an Outlet Mall, but that is likely a myth too. This area sure could use a boost.

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  27. I was there yesterday with a friend around 7pm and noticed the guest information desk was closed… was its hours shortened or did it closed altogether? I noticed signs on the desk but didn’t care to read them.

    I’ve also noticed more store closings, among them Mrs. Fields’ Cookies, Ashley Stewart, and a few other ones. It’s unfortunately but I feel that this mall is slowly getting worse as time goes by, and it’s a shame.

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  28. the thing is, no national retailer is going to spend the money on century 3 or monroeville unless the owners go in and remove the local stores…really how many cheap fauxdesigner clothing stores they need…none you want that pish tell them to move to homestead. century 3 can live and thrive again they just need to renovate again, cause all the kids whos parents use the mall as a day care and all those gang bangers have destroyed what they did in 97, walk around you see gum and other things trampled in the carpet, hire more security have plain clothes officers walking around..etc

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  29. I live near the Pittsburgh Mills and I find it fascinating that the mall has never taken off like anticipated. People had been waiting for years for a mall in the northeast portion of Pittsburgh and look a what they got–a flea market anchored by department stores.

    The shopping selection is awful–countless sports memorabilia stores, stores selling nursing scrubs, a tuxedo rental store selling used shirts, a church of an odd denomination and a gun show exhibition center. There are stores that are closed and still contain merchandise. The clientel is mostly rural coming from rural Armstrong County. Most of the people in the local area avoid the mall like a plague, instead driving to Ross Park where there are normal stores.

    Once while eating dinner at a mall restaurant, the waitress asked if we were going shopping afterwards. I said “no we hadn’t planned to shop” and she said “I don’t like to shop here either with all these weird stores”.

    I think this will be one that enters the dead mall category very quickly even though the surrounding out parcels are thriving. The theater seems to be the only going concern in the whole mall. Hopefully, the mall will go back to the lenders and it will be taken over by a developer that knows how to run malls.

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  30. More store closings are occurring at Century III. They include New York and Company and Ritz Camera. Also, Arby’s and Manchu Wok have closed. The food court, once home to 15+ eateries, only has about six left. The one side of the food court is nearly empty except for Subway, which doesn’t seem like it’s getting any business either. In addition, the Sears and former Macy’s Furniture wing branching from the main mall is almost empty on the lower floor. The Children’s Place, Champs Sports, Bradley’s Books and Philip Pelusi next to Sears are the only stores left in that section.

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    emdee Reply:

    @Gary, Manchu Wok closed for only a short time, then reopened under the name Manny’s Wok, and is now still another name beginning with an “M” Wok. The food and recipies are still the same through the rebrandings. I do miss the Arby’s and the Chick-Fil-A, and the Long John Silver’s thats been long gone.

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  31. Two notes: On July 29, in the afternoon, two teens said they were robbed inside the mall on an escalator. They said a gang of five had a gun.

    On August 31, 2011, the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review reported that Simon Properties has defaulted on their loan of almost $79 million on the Century III Mall. It will have a new owner and a group of people will try to determine how to update it. They noted that it has mostly dollar-type stores and the condition of the property is considered poor… a bad thing for West Mifflin. Simon had not updated it and didn’t seem to care.

    Let’s hope for the best! It was an awesome mall and has unique architecture.

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  32. All of you should have seen Century III Mall in it’s hayday. I grew up visiting this mall and definitely remember how it once looked back then. Who remembers Jason’s Department Store on the second level to the right of JC Penny’s? How about these old stores in that mall: The Art Explosion store, Lou Pappin’s Restaurant, World Bizarre, Chess Kings, The Merry-Go-Round, D.J.’s, National Record Mart, Camelot Music, Thimbles, Millers, The Coach House, Wedding World, Fredericks of Hollywood, The York Restaurant too. I could go on and on about how great this Mall was back then. One final note, who remembers that very bright red carpeting outside Sears in the mall? The mall also had many Photo Huts too.

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    emdee Reply:

    @Dan, God, do I miss Lou Pappan’s! Lol

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  33. Not so confident as to how much business the Waterfront will keep stealing from Century III, as they have already lost several tenants as well. There are many open spaces in the area over by Macy’s. The town square section isn’t doing any better. The restaurant space near the movie theater has seen at least four different chains come and go. The Hollister and Abercrombie (while probably never were in the right market) have been gone for over a year, and they just lost American Eagle last month. Its possible that neither retail develoment will still be around in the next 10 years.

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  34. Oh, wow, yeah–I used to go here in the 80s with my cousins who lived closer to it (I lived in Greensburg, so “my” malls were Westmoreland and Greengate, RIP.) I was always jealous about how fantastic their mall was. :)

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  35. As of March 2013, the Children’s Place, PacSun, Gordon’s Jewelers, and Sweet Spot Creamery are all gone. The wing leading to Sears is mostly vacant, the only stores left are Philip Pelusi, Champs, Bradley’s Books and New Dimension Comics. The JCPenney wing is clearing out as well, every other space on the lower level is vacant. The grand court/center court is still holding on, but there are several vacancies as well.

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  36. I was there when it opened and it was filled with stores and people. Back in 79′ and 80′ do you remember what was called The New Wave Skatepark nearby what is now an office building over by the post office and Home Depot? 70’s era Sol Cal style smooth cement park with a pool and bowl? How about the two Fun-n-games locations? They had that huge huge Hurcules pinball when you first walked in that had softball sized balls. The row of pinball games over in the left side across from a Robotron among others. They had the Fire truck game in the back by the token machine? The upper arcade I remember the Q Bert over on the left wall and a jukebox in back? I remember some jet game that had a movie quality background (was also at the Showbiz Pizza theater in Southland). How about the Chest-tees t-shirt place in the lowered center area. You picked the decal and they would use a big iron like press to melt it to the shirt. Stop by the Tinder Box and they had peach flavored chew and the guy with the mustache behind the counter was always puffing on a pipe. I will throw out a few stores I remember. Stop by Merry Go Round for some parachute pants, or Silvermans for a Generra hypercolor shirt. Forget Best Buy, try Video Conepts up on the third floor. Or how about Sparta Hut, “monkey” Wards, Elby’s Big Boy, Morrows Nut House, Pappans ( you gonna like it he would say ), Babbages and Electronics Boutique, big turtles for kids to climb on, Taco Tinas, J Natale sporting goods Camelot and National Record Mart, Potato Sack.

    Century III thank you for the memories. Hopefully they will reuse your site for something cool like you used to be.

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  37. Another big blow to Century III as Sears announces that it will be closing up shop by December. This will leave the mall with only two anchors, J.C. Penney and Macy’s.

    http://pittsburgh.cbslocal.com/2014/09/22/sears-pulling-out-of-century-iii-mall/

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    Jackson Reply:

    @Gary, . Dick’s is an anchor.

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  38. Something I have always wondered since the major decline at Century III mall is this: It seems as though once Simon took over, the major decline started and it was very noticeable. Doesn’t matter about the Waterfront or Malls At Robinson. If it did, how come other malls in the area owned by Simon didn’t suffer???? Always struck me as odd and as if they just didn’t care about Century III. Not long ago, maybe 2013, someone new had plans to bring life back to it. As they were out of state, maybe Texas, whoever this person had as the general manager was supposedly caught embezzling. And if that wasn’t bad enough, the gm was also blamed for stealing many park benches that used to be all over the inside of the mall. Not certain how much truth there is to it, but haven’t heard much more about revitalization since that was said to happen.

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  39. As of now the Macy’s Furniture Gallery is vacant, Sears is vacant(closed in December) and the lower level of the Monty Wards store is still vacant. Long story short that section of the mall is DEAD! Who knows how long Macy’s and JCPenney can keep up before long. I think they should tear everything down and build a JCP at The Waterfront some people will hate me for saying that but it is the most rational option I think

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  40. Macy’s has announced their store at CIII will close this spring: http://www.post-gazette.com/business/pittsburgh-company-news/2016/01/06/Macy-s-to-close-Century-III-Mall-store-as-it-works-to-trim-costs/stories/201601060198

    Not really surprising, considering they already have stores at both the Waterfront and South Hills Village, both <5 miles away. Still, this leaves just JCPenney and Dick's as the sole remaining anchors. Not looking good.

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  41. Just a few updates:
    -Both Boscov’s holes were filled. SHVillage has Target on one floor Dick’s on the other. Monroeville has Penneys on top Dick’s on bottom.

    -The Waterfront finally found a restaurant to stay in that cursed corner – Burgatory – and a Carharrt store and Charming Charlie have opened recently. So I would hardly think it’s in danger of being gone.

    C3 is kaput. At this point it’s kinder to shut it and redo it completely rather than try to make it what it was. North Hills Village had success “demalling” that structure and putting in big box stores. C3 would probably have success in doing the same, unfortunately many of the big boxes are already nearby.

    IMO much of the decline of malls is the fault of Macy’s and their determination to kill all their competition by buying it. They took on too much to handle and now the malls are suffering for it.

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