Memphis’ Raleigh Springs Mall is a pretty creepy place. This winter, in the midst of my cross-country drive, I stayed at a Sleep Inn on the Old Austin Peay Highway, about a mile south of this place. I had all of my most important worldly belongings in the car, so I was already a bit paranoid and unable to sleep because I had already gone through a few nights of worrying someone would steal away with my beat up pair of Chucks, a microwave with a broken LCD, and an HP computer with Vista installed (guess which one of these three things is crappier?). The stay was sort of unsettling, and the electrical storm we experienced while we were there didn’t help–the Days Inn right next door to us was actually hit directly by lightning at about 5am.
I was passing through fairly quickly, so I didn’t have enough time to visit many of Memphis’ retail offerings, but Raleigh Springs was convenient enough. I had known Memphis had lost at least one high-profile mall due to crime (or the perception thereof), the infamous Mall of Memphis, aka the “Mall of Murder.” Raleigh Springs Mall, located on the other side of town from Mall of Memphis, opened in 1971 on the Austin Peay Highway north of I-40 as one of the first two malls in the greater Memphis area. JCPenney, Sears, Lowenstein’s, and Goldsmith’s were the original four anchor tenants at this Edward J. DeBartolo Corporation-built center. There was also a Woolworth’s store in the mall that was later replaced by a multiplex cinema.
For some time, Raleigh Springs Mall was the dominant mall for the Memphis area, but traffic was yanked away by newer, more glamorous centers such as Hickory Ridge Mall and the aforementioned Mall of Memphis over the years. In 1997, the opening of the Wolfchase Galleria–now the most dominant mall for the Memphis metropolitan area–and an increased perception of crime at Raleigh Springs (it’s far closer to Memphis proper than its newer cousin) helped fuel the mall’s downfall.
Dillard’s, who had acquired Lowenstein’s in 1982, closed their store in 2003. Federated Department stores, who had just acquired Goldsmith’s, the middle anchor, opted not to keep the store (or convert it to a Macy’s) and shuttered it the same year. The third strike also came in 2003: the JCPenney store–since downgraded to an outlet–scooted out, leaving Sears as the lone anchor tenant in the hulking structure.
Today, the mall is eerily quiet with little foot traffic, and as you can see in these photos, the expansive parking lot is mostly empty. Portions of the complex are in poor repair and only about 20 or 30 of the mall’s stores are occupied, many with secondary-type tenants. The interior of the mall is in reasonably good shape, the result of a renovation that (I am guessing) probably took place in the early 2000s.
Raleigh Springs Mall looks pretty forlorn for now, but things may be looking up. Wal-Mart has expressed interest in demolishing the vacant JCPenney space and building a Wal-Mart Supercenter on the site, though nothing has started yet. Hopefully it will at least have mall access! We know what happens when Wal-Mart turns their back on the interior of a mall.
Another link from MallMemories: http://www.mallmemories.com/pmwiki.php/Main/RaleighSpringsMall