Park Central Shopping Center; Phoenix, Arizona

I promised a few months ago that I went to every single mall in the Phoenix and Tucson areas–and you were all quick to point out at least one omission, at an outlet mall in Mesa–but by and large I think I made it to all of them, and I plan to bring them all to you, one by one. It is happening, I swear! If we’re gonna do this, let’s start with the oldest.

The Park Central Shopping Center opened as Park Central Shopping City in 1957, way back when Phoenix was still a fairly small city of a little over 100,000 people. This was still the early days of air conditioning–the innovation that made places like Phoenix feasible to inhabit–and Phoenix hadn’t yet grown into the desert behemoth that it is today. Park Central Shopping City was initially built by the Burgbacher brothers on the site of a former dairy farm on what was then the edge of town, in a brand new “edge city” 2 miles north of downtown Phoenix (the area would later become known as Midtown Phoenix). At the time, the development was seen as overly speculative and foolish, and located too far from the city’s center of population–a seemingly laughable assumption today.

The mall, which is completely open air and always has been, opened in 1957 with three anchors: a two-level Goldwater’s (founded by the same family as former Republican presidential candidate and modern conservative godfather Barry Goldwater), a two-level Diamond’s, and a J.J. Newberry 5 and dime store. Laying to rest the initial skepticism about the mall’s potential, both Goldwater’s and Diamond’s soon both shuttered their downtown locations in favor of operating the new midtown stores as their main locations, and JCPenney also joined the roster as another anchor. For a time, Park Central was the center of the Phoenix retail scene. During the 1960s, a number of new high-rise office and apartment buildings sprang up in the immediate vicinity of the mall, pulling the city’s center of gravity north and quickly becoming the de facto “city center” of Phoenix.

Phoenix exploded in population in the decades following world war II (and, realistically, continuing until only very recently), causing most development in the low-density, auto-oriented city to fan out for miles and miles in every direction. Due to these patterns, more people moved to far-flung newer regions of the city only partially accessible by freeways, and eventually the Midtown neighborhood came to be seen as slightly tired and inconvenient. During this time, Park Central experienced the normal slate of changes that any major shopping center tends to see, mainly in shifts in tenants: Robinson’s replaced Goldwater’s and Dillard’s replaced Diamond’s, both sometime in the mid-late 1980s. But by the end of the 1980s, Park Central was failing, losing many of its tenants to other, newer locations, and to enclosed, climate-controlled centers. JCPenney and Dillard’s were the last of the anchors to leave, gone from the mall by the mid-1990s.

Despite its failure as a retail center, the mall still sat at the very center of the city’s business district, surrounded by towering modern skyscrapers. Realizing the potential of the property, the mall’s management began to convert the center to a mixed-use, office-focused facility not long after the closure of Dillard’s. The former Diamond’s property became home to Catholic Healthcare West, Banner Health Systems moved into the Goldwater’s, and United HealthCare replaced the former JCPenney space. With so many office workers occupying the mall’s 3 largest spaces, some of the smaller spaces were able to be re-leased to low-level retail tenants, including Starbucks, Qdoba Mexican Grill, The Good Egg, and even a bevy of local businesses (including several small delis and even Kobalt, a gay bar). A Hampton Inn also opened on the corner of the property.

Although Park Central isn’t a mall by any definition now, the center has seen almost no cosmetic changes during its transformation and is completely open for perusing, so it’s a good opportunity to get a glimpse of Phoenix’s oldest retail establishment. It’s a little weirdly quiet now, and there aren’t any traces of old retail storefronts, but the facades on some of the original anchor stores are fairly neat and worth checking out if you’re in the area. Also, the area itself has changed somewhat of late: while the mall failed in part because Phoenix had turned its eyes towards the sprawling suburbs, the city has seen (like many others) a revival in interest in urbanism, and a new light rail opened along Central Avenue in December 2008 giving direct transit access to the mall. Much of the dense and centrally-located Midtown neighborhood has become popular with young, upwardly mobile types who want access to nightlife and restaurants that aren’t just formula-based chains, and much of the city’s alternative culture thrives within blocks of Park Central (hence the mall housing a gay bar), so there’s even some remote chance that someday there will be a newfound interest in dense, pedestrian-oriented retail at the site.

Regional Malls Not Dying; Rather Rising Like a Phoenix

I’ve been sitting on this story for nearly a month now, but Retail Traffic had an excellent piece in their last issue outlining a trend that most readers of this blog have likely suspected–that malls, especially the big, super-regional centers–have not only proven resilient in the economic downturn but have been performing strongly:

“As the Great Recession unfolded, regional malls—rather than being pushed to the brink—weathered the storm better than any of their supposed replacements. The very things that made fortress malls seem so outdated—their size, their enclosed environments, their dependence on anchors—proved to be powerful assets instead.

Quarter after quarter, U.S. regional mall REITs have outperformed shopping center REITs, beating analyst estimates and occasionally posting NOI growth. By 2010, class-A regional malls shot up to the top of both retailers’ and real estate investors’ list of preferred product types.”

It’s easy to make the case for why this happened. Big box centers relied on too few tenants in number, so when one went belly up, the entire center suffered (and was hard to repurpose). Malls carried a certain sense of place and offered entertainment value (our favorite argument -Ed.), while these other centers didn’t, so they thrived. Most (though not all) of the new “lifestyle centers” failed to achieve a critical mass. Whatever. The point is that we’re seeing a paradigm shift that’s being noted by one of the foremost publications in the industry.

Retail Traffic’s blog did a follow-up after the fact as well. If you don’t follow them, you should–they’re the best source for news in the industry.

*On a related note to the TITLE of this blog post, I made a trip to Phoenix and Tucson, Arizona a few weeks ago, and managed to visit every single mall in those two cities. Look for more content on these in the future.


Reno Town Mall (Old Town Mall); Reno, Nevada

Reno is most famous as “The Biggest Little City in the World,” and the west’s original gambling town and the place long ago where wealthy easterners came to get divorced. With around 400,000 people in the metropolitan area, it has long since faded as the main gambling destination in comparison to Las Vegas, though it still has many casino resorts and still does a decent tourist trade. In recent decades, like many western cities, it has become more of a bedroom community for people seeking a high standard of life for a relatively low cost.

As Reno’s tag would suggest, some of the physical form of the city is still suggestive of a small place. The main commercial drag through the city, Virginia Street, cuts a roughly north-south swath through the middle of downtown, and on the south side it long ago became the city’s main suburban commercial corridor, home to several newer (mega?) resorts and all 4 of the enclosed malls to ever call Reno home.

Of the four enclosed malls, one, the Park Lane Mall, is long gone, demolished years ago and replaced by a rather lovely barren windswept lot. Another, the Meadowood Mall, is the only truly large super-regional mall in the metropolitan area, though several newer and fairly large “outdoor malls” have sprung up either further south on the strip or over in Sparks. That leaves two more enclosed malls along South Virginia St., and both of them are small, strange, dated little centers.

The Reno Town Mall opened in 1972 as the “Virginia Center,” at the corner of South Virginia Street and Peckham Lane. The original anchors were a Raley’s-owned “Eagle Thrifty” superstore and a Breuner’s furniture store, at opposite ends of the center. The owners would quickly declare bankruptcy, however, and in 1975 the mall as sold and renamed the “Old Town Mall” instead. During this time a movie theatre opened in the center and Gray Reid, a popular downtown Reno retailer, moved into the mall. But its fortunes refused to turn around and by the early 80s the center was mostly vacant and dubbed the “Ghost Town Mall” by many in Reno.

In 1982, the mall began a renovation to reposition itself, adding a Marshalls store as a new anchor, and attracting more tenants to bring occupancy up to 23 retailers. The mall continued to falter through the 80s however, and fills vacancies with non-traditional tenants such as a Washoe County Library, which opened in the rear of the mall in 1987, or a community college that opened in 1989. Around the same time, a small strip of outdoor stores was tacked on to one end of the mall.

In 1989, Marshalls left the mall and it quickly fell into foreclosure, failing yet again. Roter Investments of Nevada snatched the mall up in 1992, leasing as much of its 280,000 square feet as possible, and brought the Old Town Mall up to 100% occupancy by 1995. In 1999, Burlington Coat Factory replaced now-defunct Breuners as the largest anchor in the center.

In 2000, deciding that “Old Town Mall” had bad connotations (good thinking), the center was renamed to its current moniker, the “Reno Town Mall.” More recently, Raley’s converted their store to the budget-oriented, warehouse-style “Food Source” concept.

The Reno Town Mall’s design and architecture is actually very strange. From the outside, the center appears to be a fairly small strip center, with a tiny enclosed portion wedged between the Burlington Coat Factory and Raley’s anchors. Once inside, however, it becomes apparent that the mall slices lengthwise between the two stores–going back a ways from the front–and splits almost immediately into two separate levels, giving it quite a bit more of significance than it would appear from the street. The interior is also deliciously ’80s garish, a sea of browns, coppers, and oranges with planters and fountains galore. I thought it was a real treat.

As you can see from the pictures, the decidedly mixed-use center (there are still a ton of civic functions inside, including a library, community college, civic center, dmv, and more) actually generates a fair amount of foot traffic, and the collection of mostly mom-and-pop shops seem to do at least somewhat okay. Granted, things seem a bit more hopping than you’d expect in these photos because there was a little girl dance-off, or something, so I had to try harder than usual to not look like a creep. (A creep walking around by himself photographing little girls). The center is a bit small to be a real destination–and the collection of stores is just a bit too weird to encourage much cross-shopping–but it’s a pretty unique one of a kind gem nonetheless.

Palm Springs Mall; Palm Springs, California

The Coachella Valley is a desert region in eastern Riverside County, California, stretching through the desert north of the Salton Sea. One of the fastest-growing metropolitan areas in the country (with an estimated 2010 population of around 600,000 permanent residents, plus hundreds of thousands of seasonal residents), the region has been a popular tourist destination since the 1920s when many in Hollywood were drawn to the hot, sunny weather and seclusion. The region’s anchor city and historic heart (though not the largest community) is Palm Springs, at the far western edge of the valley.

Development patterns in the Coachella Valley are more or less what you would expect of a region developed almost entirely in the 20th century (and very significantly in the last few decades). The region is criss-crossed with a network of wide grid-pattern arterials and a sprawling network of low-slung housing developments, many of them resort-style communities for part-time residents. Like most places that have exploded in this manner, there are dozens of strip malls and big box centers scattered across a 25-mile wide swath of the valley stretching from Palm Springs to Coachella. Buried within that mess, there are no less than four enclosed malls, and shopping in air conditioned comfort makes sense when the region is known for it searing heat and blinding sun. However, 3 out of 4 of these malls are dying (and one of the four is shuttered entirely). We posted the Fiesta Mall in Indio, at the eastern end of the valley, about a year ago. Today’s mall is 25 miles to the west: Palm Springs Mall, while technically still open for now, is one of the near-dead.

Located on Tahquitz Canyon Way about 2 miles northeast of downtown Palm Springs, the Palm Springs Mall is a relatively small, T-shaped community center, with an extension on one side that housed a Von’s supermarket and several smaller outdoor-facing stores. Architecturally, the exterior almost looks like a fairly standard strip mall, but the interior still has terra cotta tiles and other trappings of malls from several decades ago. There are also some interesting soaring ceiling features and skylights that clearly date the mall to its original construction in the late 1960s, even if it otherwise appears to have gotten a facelift sometime in the 80s. Until the middle of this past decade, it was relatively successful, with Gottschalks, True Value, Ross Dress For Less, and Office Max all functioning as the mall’s most recent anchor stores.

The Palm Springs Mall opened with San Diego-based Walker-Scott in 1970, who lasted in the space until the entire chain folded in 1987. Long Beach-based Buffums’ replaced them, but they also folded in 1991. Gottschalks took over the space right up to that company’s demise in 2009. The large anchor at the southern end of the mall was for a time a Kmart store, but that space was subdivided into True Value and Ross Dress For Less at some point later. I can’t find if there was a tenant in that space before Kmart, and to add to the confusion many news articles on the internet seem to confuse this mall with another dead mall in Palm Springs, so there is some question as to whether this mall or the other ever had a JCPenney anchor store. Just over the last few months (since these photos were taken in February, even!) the True Value fled the mall for a new location.

Rumors of a redevelopment have been swirling since at least 2007, when the mall was at least still somewhat viable (and still had its main anchor store in Gottschalks). There continue to be rumors of *something* to happen at the property, but in the meantime it continues to bleed tenants. The location is also somewhat strange and off Palm Springs’ main arterials, so it may make more sense to repurpose the property as something other than retail though the empty lots that dot the nearby area seem to indicate there isn’t a ton of demand.

Like a lot of dying malls in growing sun belt cities, we couldn’t find much about the Palm Springs Mall online–there probably aren’t that many current residents who remember much about the glory days. Do you know more about the history? Use the comments section to fill us in.


Jordan’s Furniture to Open Mall Store

Former Caldor/Old Navy Store at Warwick Mall

Jordan’s Furniture, a New England chain of large, destination-oriented furniture stores, is moving into the former Caldor/Old Navy store (pictured above) in the Warwick Mall in Warwick, Rhode Island.

Last spring, the Warwick Mall was heavily damaged by a flood and was closed for months. As a result of the renovations, many retailers either left the center entirely or moved to new spaces. As part of the process, Old Navy–who had occupied part of the first floor of the massive, two-level former Caldor store at the mall’s center court–decided to move to a more appropriately-sized in-line space instead of moving back into their too-large digs. The second level of the store has been unused since Caldor shuttered the store in 1999. This created a space for a new anchor to move in, and enter Jordan’s:

Furniture shopping remains a tactile experience, according to an industry spokeswoman, as American consumers still like to see and touch furniture pieces before buying them.

“It’s not unusual in midsized cities for there to be a cluster of home furnishing stores in proximity. It’s happening all over” the country, said Jaclyn C. Hirschhaut, of the American Home Furnishings Alliance, a furniture manufacturers’ trade group. “Ultimately, to the consumer, it makes the process of shopping for furniture so much easier.”

Typically, furniture stores make for sleepy mall anchors–we’ve all seen a dying mall here or there with an Ashley or Bob’s Discount Furniture store clinging on to one of the darkened anchors for cheap rent. Jordan’s, however, is a bit of an anomaly in that their stores are destinations in and of themselves, and often feature a variety of attractions and eateries (many with a local focus) to draw people to them even when they’re not looking to buy a sofa:
Jordan’s is well known for its splashy store layouts — one has an IMAX theater, another has a trapeze school. Eliot Tatelman, Jordan’s president and chief executive officer, declined to say what people will find in the Warwick store when it opens later this year.

Jordan’s stores are typically very, very large, so this will be one of the smallest stores (if not *the* smallest store) in their portfolio, and their first in Rhode Island.

In other news, it was announced only a few weeks ago that the adjacent, long ailing, and almost completely vacant Rhode Island Mall–the oldest two level mall in New England and the only one designed by Victor Gruen–will finally be put out of its misery and shuttered on April 30.


Help “Malls Across America”!


A few weeks ago, we posted about Michael Galinsky’s photo project of 1990 shopping mall photos. The project got so much attention that Galinsky began a Kickstarter campaign to raise money to produce a high-quality book of his collection.

Kickstarter, if you’re not familiar with it, is a project aimed at “pre-funding” art and music projects by expressing your level of financial interest up front, and similarly getting extra goodies for paying more. In this case, Galinsky is offering things like high-quality prints of certain photos or signed copies of the book.

Galinsky also goes into greater depth on his Kickstarter page about what inspired the project–and also that it isn’t just photos of the Smith Haven Mall:
In 1989, following in the footsteps of Robert Frank, Garry Winogrand, and William  Eggleston, I drove across the country and documented malls across America.  I had a cheap Nikon FG-20 and an even cheaper lens – but I had a lot of passion.

I shot about 30 rolls of slide film in malls from Long Island to North Dakota to Seattle.  It was hard to tell from the images where they were taken, and that was kind of the point. I was interested in the creeping loss of regional differences.  I thought a lot about Frank’s “The Americans” as we drove from place to place without any sense of place.

Visit Galinsky’s Kickstarter page to help his project and pre-order your copy of his book. He’s also blogging regularly (under the “updates” tab) with new photos we haven’t yet seen. As of the time of this post, he’s 32% of the way to his goal to be able to publish the book.

USA Shopping Malls, Summer 1990

Just wanted to share this neat collection of photos from ex-Sleepyhead bassist Michael Galinsky, all taken at various malls in the summer of 1990. The fashions play more prominently than the malls themselves, but you can still get plenty of glimpses into a blur of Tape Worlds and Jarmans and Patrick Swayze posters. Mall department store junkies won’t find too much to latch onto here–the only anchor that features prominently is an old Sears, though I think there’s a “Harris” logo visible in the reflection of one shot.

Can anyone identify the malls in these pictures?

EDIT: Apparently many of the photos, if not all, were taken at the Smith Haven Mall on Long Island, which we’ve featured on the site before. It looks a little different now.

Green Acres Mall; Valley Stream, New York

The Green Acres Mall is a large, old shopping mall located just barely outside of New York city limits on Sunrise Highway in Valley Stream, a Long Island suburb. At 1,635,000 square feet, it’s one of the largest malls on Long Island, and also the second oldest, after Roosevelt Field.

Some of the most popular malls on this site have been in the tri-state area, so rather than keep you waiting, I’m offering up another:

Green acres is the place for me.
Farm livin’ is the life for me.
Land spreadin’ out so far and wide
Keep Manhattan, just give me that countryside.

The Green Acres Mall is a large, old shopping mall located just barely outside of New York city limits on Sunrise Highway in Valley Stream, a Long Island suburb. At 1,635,000 square feet, it’s one of the largest malls on Long Island, and also the second oldest, after Roosevelt Field.

The Green Acres Mall was developed by the New York-based Chanin corporation, and first opened in 1956 replacing Curtiss Airfield, and was one of the first suburban shopping centers in the New York metropolitan area. The mall’s name is somewhat indicative of the post-war optimism of the time; it was an era when this area’s population was rapidly exploding, and it was necessary to provide more out-of-town shopping options to the sprawling Levittowns of Long Island. A four-level, 266,000 square-foot Gimbel’s (the westernmost anchor) was the only initial anchor to the center, but a Lane’s opened at the mall’s east end four years later. JCPenney also opened a smaller inline store at the mall’s center court at some point, and they remain in this location to today. In 1967, a 320,000 square-foot Alexander’s department store opened in the front of (but apparently not connected to) the mall. Initially, the center was open air, but in 1968 the entire center was enclosed, as was the trend at the time.

The original center was a more basic dumbell design. but a 3 level expansion and renovation in 1983 added the wing closest to Sunrise Highway along with a new Sears store. A brand new food court was added to this wing at some point as well, though I have my doubts it was right in the original 1983 expansion. In 1986, the Gimbel’s store became an Abraham & Straus (and here’s a GREAT photo of it), which would remain until 1995 when the nameplate was retired in favor of Macy’s. The Lane’s store, at the mall’s east end, would be home to many different nameplates over the years. The store became a Love’s in the late 1960s, before becoming an S. Klein for ten years or so. EJ Korvette’s then replaced the S. Klein store, which in the 1980s became a location for Queens-based Gertz before being rebranded as a Stern’s. Stern’s lasted until 2001, before becoming half of the Macy’s location at the mall, which it remains until now. The Alexander’s store closed in 1992 and was completely demolished, and replaced somewhat nearby by a Caldor store, which, well, geez, that didn’t work out so well either. Gone by 1999. It’s a Target now.

In 2003, a Walmart opened in a strip center on the mall’s outlots, replacing an old Kmart store. Although this wouldn’t normally be big news, this particular Walmart was the site of a major news story in fall of 2008, when a Walmart employee was trampled to death by a mob obsessed with Black Friday bargains.

The mall was again renovated in 2006-2007 to remove a lot of the neon accoutrements left over from the 1983 re-do: our two sets of photos date from 2001 (I think) and 2007, so before and after this most recent remodel. I’ll let you guess which is which because let’s be honest, it’s not that hard.

Despite all of the changes to Green Acres Mall over years, it has remained successful. It’s still one of the largest/only malls serving the adjacent part of Queens, and it is a vital shopping destination for the older inner ring suburbs not far from JFK Airport. Even though it seems the demographics have evolved over the years–from the post-war GI Bill-driven veteran sprawl to a plethora of ethnic and racial groups that shop at the mall today–it seems to be largely similar, serving a large middle income audience in the older suburbs of this part of New York.

The mall’s anchors today are Macy’s (two stores), JCPenney, Sears, and Kohls.

More on the mall:

Blackhawk Plaza; Danville, California

I’ve been meaning to get around to posting Blackhawk Plaza for some time. Blackhawk Plaza is one of the weirdest malls in all of California–an excessively upscale, kind of dead-ish small outdoor mall that’s unfailingly pretty. I really wish all lifestyle centers were this nice, and I hope this place is someday able to find the success it mostly deserves. In the meantime, let’s dig in, and make sure you stop to check out some of the pretty pictures since this is an extremely attractive shopping center.

The Blackhawk Plaza opened in 1989 at the intersection of Camino Tassajara, Crow Canyon Road, and Blackhawk Rd in Danville, a rapidly expanding suburb in the hills of the East Bay region of the San Francisco Bay area, approximately 30 miles east of San Francisco and 20 miles east of Oakland. Most of the established development at the time was located in lowlands along I-680, but a series of large new subdivisions began to creep up into the hills to the east, and the growth of these developments has continued to explode until today. If you’ve ever seen “Weeds,” you know precisely what to expect in these communities: large, vaguely Tuscan-looking McMansions set on winding, sprawling developments with relaxing views of the hills, and all of these fairly interchangeable houses tended to sell for around a cool million. It’s also an insular and pretty boring area: there’s not much to do up there beyond putter around your house and yard, and there’s next to no commercial development in the hills at all. Prangeway and I even had an uncomfortable encounter here in the fall of 2008 that defined Blackhawk Plaza for us. It was just weeks before the elections, and we were approached somewhat surreptitiously by an elderly woman discreetly distributing “Yes On Prop 8” literature out of her satchel. It was kind of an alternately bold and timid thing to do, but probably par for the course for “political engagement” in an area populated in large part by people who want to isolate themselves from “others.”

Blackhawk Plaza was devised as part of a plan to generate a commercial center far up in the hills and well off the freeway. Unlike most large shopping malls which locate near a freeway to serve a large geographic area, Blackhawk was intended just to serve the affluent suburbanites nestled in the removed area east of I-680. As a result, it’s a fairly small shopping center with just around a quarter of a million square feet, but the developers made up for size with attention to detail. Most of the center shares some of the architecture of the surrounding area, setting a series of buildings around a man-made brook, with the main pedestrian walkways criss-crossing the brook for the length of the mall. There are ample spaces set aside for outdoor dining, as well, to take advantage of the mostly favorable and warm climate of the area. As Scott at BigMallRat calls it, it’s like a little man-made San Antonio. Also, people seem to really like feeding the ducks here. They also seem to not really like spending much money.

The architecture is unsual even beyond the beautiful (by mall standards, anyway) lagoon. The southern side of the center looks like a more typical enclosed mall, with stores on both sides and a roof on top, and the stores on the side closest to the lagoon mostly have outdoor patio spaces reserved for dining. The other side of the center faces the lagoon directly, with a walkway between the stores and the lagoon. There are also stores on all sides facing the parking lot and some outparcels such as a movie theatre. At the mall’s eastern end, there’s a rather unusual anchor: a large automobile museum. There’s also a wheelchair foundation office, mysteriously up a large set of stairs (??).

And that leads us to the rub. When Blackhawk Plaza was opened, most of this area was still pretty sparsely built, and as noted earlier, it was designed as a somewhat insular shopping mall meant for the surrounding neighborhood, not for the region on the whole. This meant there wasn’t quite the critical mass of population to support the kind of mall they built with Blackhawk, and as a result the center has spent two decades being plagued with vacancies and weird occupancies. It’s also had a significant shuffle of anchors in its tenure: initially, Bonwit-Teller was supposed to anchor the center, but they pulled out before the store was ever built. Instead, the initial anchor was Blackhawk Market, an upscale grocer that even had cell phones attached to each cart (weird?), but they went out of business. I wonder why. They were replaced by Saks Fifth Avenue–a real boon, and a more typical anchor for a center like this (and in fact, the only Saks located in the East Bay), but they were  a colossal failure, closing after only six months. They were replaced by Fresno-based Gottschalks, a significantly frumpier but more sensible alternative, but Gottschalks was bizarrely and unceremoniously booted out in favor of local upscale grocer Draeger’s, who anchors the center now along with the auto museum, a Crunch Gym, and a large Century Theatres.

In the past two years, since we first visited, the mall has shown some significant signs of life, however. Increased development south of the mall in San Ramon increased the population of the area significantly in the 2000s, helping justify a new class of tenants in Blackhawk’s location. Many big-name national tenants, including Anthropologie, Restoration Hardware, Brookstone, and See Jane Run, have all moved into the center, and many high-quality local tenants such as read. and a handful of restaurants have also taken up space inside of the center, and this is all in spite of the condition of the economy and the fact that the surrounding area hasn’t exactly escaped the foreclosure crisis. The blend of everyday tenants (a market, a gym, a theatre), upscale fashion-oriented retailers, and local bistros certainly seems to make sense given the center’s style and location, but the tenant mix remains bizarre due to things like the auto museum (which may well be legitimately neat, I’ve never been inside) and the wheelchair foundation. I give the center’s developers credit, though: Blackhawk Plaza is an unusual mall that attempts to run with a unique formula–to create a genuine community gathering space for an area that would otherwise have none–and they’ve succeeded at least in part. I hope the trend over the last two years continues, and the mall’s fortunes continue to improve.

Pony Village Mall; North Bend, Oregon

The Pony Village Mall is a 341,000 square foot enclosed mall located in North Bend, on Oregon’s coast. Pony Village is the only enclosed mall on the entire Oregon coast, and serves the twin cities of North Bend and Coos Bay (sometimes jokingly, affectionately referred to as the “Bay Area” of Oregon).

I realize this is two Oregon malls in a row, but until recently we really didn’t have much to offer in that state. No more: Introducing the Pony Village Mall, a small town mall on the Oregon coast that its likely few of you have ever seen or heard of. Malls like this seem to be popular on this site, so I hope you like it.

The Pony Village Mall is a 341,000 square foot enclosed mall located in North Bend, on Oregon’s coast. Pony Village is the only enclosed mall on the entire Oregon coast, and serves the twin cities of North Bend and Coos Bay (sometimes jokingly, affectionately referred to as the “Bay Area” of Oregon). Due to the mall’s size and relative remoteness, it is decidedly small-town in its appeal, and in fact was sold in 2009 to a couple from Alaska–not some big conglomerate like GGP or Simon. As a result, it maintains a lot of its down-home, community appeal and it has also remained charmingly dated over the years. Surprisingly, its also reasonably successful, with legitimate anchors like Macy’s (almost certainly a former Meier + Frank Bon Marché), JCPenney, Ross Dress 4 Less, Big 5 Sporting Goods, and a Sears appliance store filling its ranks, and a hodgepodge of local and national tenants filling in the spaces between.

One of my favorite features of the mall itself is not just its relatively dated appearance, but also the fact that it seems to serve as a legitimate small town community gathering space–kind of like I remember malls being 20 years ago. I mean, the day I was there, their SPCA was having some sort of cat show. See:

Architecturally, and in terms of layout, the Pony Village Mall was also a gem. From the exterior, there’s a varied and undulating roofline, and a significant plaza portion with exterior-only facing stores. Inside, it’s mainly a straight shot, but one half of the mall is two level (with a second level of mostly service-related and office type businesses) and the other half has extremely high, wood-paneled ceilings. Malls like this simply don’t exist anymore outside of remote small towns.

North Bend and Coos Bay only have a combined 25,000 people or so, so there’s not quite the market for much more than this. There’s also relatively little “modern” big box development in the area, and the twin cities seem a bit less touristy than some other Oregon coast cities like Newport and Florence–possibly the reason this place seems to persevere in its state. I can find almost nothing about this place’s history online–I’m guessing it opened in the 70s, but who knows really–so in the unlikely event that anyone from the Oregon coast stops by, I hope you can fill us in a little bit on the history of the Pony Village Mall.

  • More photos of the mall’s storefronts here!
  • Also, Yelp is more fun than usual for the Pony Village Mall. I especially like this one:

Out of towners- you must stop by the Pony Boy Mall for a taste of small town Americuh. This place rules. There’s a saddlery, all branches of military recruiters, a new-agey tribal gift shop, and Sears. The movie theater is way cheap and is now stadium seating. Sure, there might be a green line running through the screen throughout the entire film but who cares?

Using a GPS? Set it to the British guy and program it so that he tells you “Now arriving at Pony Boy Mall.” I almost wet my pants. It’s the small things that make life meaningful.