Southtown Mall; Fort Wayne, Indiana

Fort Wayne’s first mall, Glenbrook Square, opened in 1966 on the north side of town. Three years later, Indianapolis-based Simon decided that Fort Wayne’s recent and projected growth indicated it could support a second enclosed regional mall. Located on the south side of town, Southtown Mall opened in July 1969. Southtown’s single-level complex debuted with a 100,000 square-foot Montgomery Ward and a 114,000 square-foot Fort Wayne-based Wolf and Dessauer department store, which was acquired that same year by Indianapolis-based L.S. Ayres. When Southtown opened, it had 567,000 square feet of retail space, including the anchors. In addition, G.C. Murphy operated a 60,000 square-foot junior anchor store, and there was a single-screen cinema, which was twinned in 1972 and expanded to a triplex in 1982.

After a long hiatus spending a good chunk of this Summer in Europe, I’ve returned with a treat. The mall featured here has long been one of my personal favorites, so please enjoy.

My very first visit to Fort Wayne, Indiana yielded this mall in June 2001. Gas was just north of a dollar a gallon, and I was a teen with few cares in the world other than driving around and exploring new areas. I had never been to Fort Wayne despite the unlikely kinship that existed between the city and my hometown of Janesville, Wisconsin. Located about five hours apart, both cities were General Motors factory towns, and growing up I remember many families who set off to Fort Wayne in search of better jobs when the plant opened there in the late 1980s.  In the end, the ties between the two cities dissolved, as General Motors ceased production in my hometown, abandoning it, though the more modern Fort Wayne facility continues to operate.

Named for Revolutionary War general “Mad” Anthony Wayne, Fort Wayne was established as a frontier trading post for European settlers. The village was platted in 1823, and grew tremendously following the completion of the Wabash and Erie Canal in 1843, which provided a vital shipping passage between the Great Lakes and Ohio River valley, then leading into the Gulf of Mexico.

Today, Fort Wayne is the second largest city in Indiana after Indianapolis. With a population of over 250,000, Fort Wayne is located in the northeast part of the state, near the borders of Ohio and Michigan, and about 2 hours north of Indianapolis.

Fort Wayne’s first mall, Glenbrook Square, opened in 1966 on the north side of town. Three years later, Indianapolis-based Simon decided that Fort Wayne’s recent and projected growth indicated it could support a second enclosed regional mall.  Located on the south side of town, Southtown Mall opened in July 1969.

Southtown’s single-level complex debuted with a 100,000 square-foot Montgomery Ward and a 114,000 square-foot Fort Wayne-based Wolf and Dessauer department store, which was acquired that same year by Indianapolis-based L.S. Ayres.  When Southtown opened, it had 567,000 square feet of retail space, including the anchors.  In addition, G.C. Murphy operated a 60,000 square-foot junior anchor store, and there was a single-screen cinema, which was twinned in 1972 and expanded to a triplex in 1982.

How about a high school art mural from 1995:

Hopefully the Wayne High School Advanced Art Class of 1995 finds this page and is amused to find their mural may have been destroyed, but is saved in perpetuity on the internet.  I would be.  But maybe you’re just in the mood for a case full of plastic oranges at this defunct Orange Julius:

Also in 1982, Simon embarked on a major expansion of Southtown, adding a new southwest wing through recently vacated G.C. Murphy, leading to a new 90,000 square-foot Sears store.  Added in addition was a food court called The Patio, and a Service Merchandise.  After the expansion was complete, Southtown had 858,000 square-feet of total retail space, giving it the designation of Fort Wayne’s second super-regional mall after Glenbrook Square.

Unfortunately and ironically, the completion of the addition was the beginning of the end for Southtown.  The same year the expansion debuted, 1982, was the same year International Harvester dealt a whopping blow to Fort Wayne, eliminating over 10,000 jobs.  Most of these jobs were on the south side of the city, in Southtown’s immediate trade area.

In addition, Glenbrook Square expanded in 1976 and 1981.  Adding to its retail dominance in Fort Wayne, it became the hub of a massive conglomeration of retail strip on the north side of town, which it still is today.  In contrast, the retail offerings to complement Southtown were slim by comparison.

The fallout of Harvester’s Fort Wayne exodus was evident in the departure of Montgomery Ward in 1983.  Fortunately, though, Wisconsin-based Kohl’s stepped in to fill most of the vacant store, with apparel chain Spiece taking the remaining balance.

Southtown continued to soldier on with a full set of anchors, a designation it would keep until the 1990s; however, the newer southwest wing to Sears was never fully leased, and the mall was always thought of as a lower-level ancillary to Glenbrook Square.

In 1992, Southtown lost junior anchors Spiece, Richman Brothers, and Old Mill Pottery. L.S. Ayres also announced plans to shut their store that year, but were convinced to ride out their lease, which didn’t expire until 1997. Kohl’s opened a short-lived outlet venture in the shuttered Spiece space, attached to its regular store, but his proved to be a failed venture, closing after only a few years. I’m not sure Kohl’s has ever attempted this anywhere else since.

Then, in 1997, two major anchors departed, doling Southtown two death blows. Keeping their promise to stay out their lease, L.S. Ayres departed in July 1997, along with JCPenney a month earlier in June. Service Merchandise and MCL Cafeteria also closed around that same time, and the mall began bleeding stores faster than it had prior to these major departures.

In 1998, Simon had enough and unloaded Southtown to infamous mall slumlord Heywood Whichard of North Carolina, whose modus operandi is to buy moribund malls and run them into the ground, forcing taxpayers to foot the bill for the redevelopment. And he did just that – within two years he was already over $200,000 behind on taxes.

By 1999, things were looking grim at Southtown, and Kohl’s finally departed in March for a brand new store at Apple Glen Crossing, a new outdoor power center on the west side of Fort Wayne.  That same year, Southtown was put on the auction block, but no one offered to make a bid, and the whole process soon became confounded by the discovery of asbestos in the structure as well as underground storage tanks that didn’t meet modern regulation standards.

In 2000, some local developers attempted to buy the mall for redevelopment, and even offered to pay the delinquent taxes, but by then the process was tied up in litigation between the mall’s owner and the city of Fort Wayne.  Eventually they lost interest, and it became clear there was no future for redevelopment until the city forced condemnation.

All this time, the mall emptied, and by 2001 only a handful of stores were open, many of them mom-and-pop locals.  I remember an article I found online not long after I visited the mall in 2001, which profiled a retailer in the mall.  Her name was Su Won, and she operated a beauty supply store in the mall.  One of the photos with the article featured Su Won herself, sitting on a bench outside her store in the completely empty mall, staring wistfully into her store.  The photo was priceless, and I wish I could find it again.

In January 2002, Sears finally pulled out of the mall, leaving it with zero anchors and few in-line stores.  The mall limped along for another year like that, finally shuttering completely in February 2003.  The city of Fort Wayne condemned the property that year, so redevelopment could finally move forward on the eyesore behemoth.  Unfortunately, this meant that in August 2004 the whole thing would be torn down.

In 2006, the redevelopment debuted and the new Shoppes at Southtown opened, anchored by a 225,000 square foot Menards, and a 217,000 square-foot Wal-Mart SuperCenter.  In addition, a small strip center opened as well, featuring T-Mobile, Great Clips for Hair, and Star Financial Bank.

I visited Southtown in the Summer of 2001, and was shocked at the condition and size of the mall.  Only a handful of outlets and Sears were open for business, and few people were walking around inside the dated monster mall.  Aside from the Sears wing, where a few stores operated, the rest of the mall was completely devoid of activity. Take a look at the pictures I took that day, and leave your own reactions and anecdotes as well.  Also, what ever happened to Su Won?

Elsewhere on the web:

Pictures from June 2001:




Eastgate Consumer Mall; Indianapolis, Indiana

What’s a consumer mall without consumers?

Indiana’s first major shopping center debuted with a bang and died so slowly and painfully that its end was little more than a whimper.  Opened in 1958, Eastgate Center was the first large-scale shopping center in Indiana.  It located on the growing east side of Indianapolis, in what was then unincorporated Marion County, at the corner of Shadeland Avenue and Washington Street, which was then the heavily traveled cross-country National Road, US 40.  After many years, and many changes, Eastgate finally bit the dust in 2004 and closed the doors, leaving its husk ripe for redevelopment.

When Eastgate originally opened, the mall was situated very similarly to how it was in later years, on a north-south axis, with an anchor at each end.  A two-level Indy-based H.P. Wasson’s was the north anchor, and a smaller JCPenney dry goods-only store as well as a Standard supermarket anchored the south end.  Eastgate had a weird tilt to it, too – the south end of the mall was flush with the parking lot, but at the north end the mall was significantly higher than the parking lot grade, and many people accessed it there by either ascending a long stairway or going through Wasson’s and using the escalator.  Inside the mall were G.C. Murphy and Woolworth five-and-dime stores, as well as venerable 1950s mall stalwarts Thom McAn, Kinney Shoes, Lerner Shop, a National Shirt Shop, Harry Levinson’s, and Dr. Tavel Optical – who would become the last original tenant at the mall, closing in 2006.

In 1958, another open air mall arrived in Indianapolis when Glendale Center was built on the north side.  However, Glendale provided little competition to Eastgate, as Indianapolis was large enough to support two (or more) centers and Glendale was a good distance away.  Both centers thrived for the good part of two decades, in spite of forcing kids to wait in line for Santa Claus out in the cold.  Brrr! 

Competition did come a-knockin’ in 1974 with the opening of an enclosed, super-regional center just a few minutes away from the small Eastgate Center.  DeBartolo, an Ohio-based mall developer, opened Washington Square Mall just two miles east on US 40.  Sensing a trend, and not wanting to be left out in the cold (rather literally…), Eastgate’s owner quickly enclosed the 370,000 square-foot mall – but it was too little too late.  Penneys moved out, and when the struggling Wasson’s closed in 1980 it became clear that Eastgate was in rapid decline. 

In 1981, Eastgate was sold to Melvin Simon, an Indianapolis-based retail/real estate magnate, who promised to ease the mall’s woes and put it back on the path to success.  And it did just that, for a while anyway.  Burlington Coat Factory was brought in to replace the Wasson’s, and a mix of local and outlet stores were brought in to replace tenants who fled to Washington Square a few years earlier.  Eastgate Center was renamed Eastgate Consumer Mall, and continued on through the 1980s and into the 1990s as a discount-themed mall, which was also appropriate for the changed demographics of its immediate area.  This part of Indianapolis was in decline, as more people moved out to greener pastures in the suburbs, which only further benefited centers like Washington Square and decimated places like Eastgate. 

As Eastgate Consumer Mall soldiered on, even the outlet mall concept became a flop.  By the early 2000s, the mall was in decline again, as the caliber of stores went from okay to laughably nasty.  In April 2001, when I visited, there was a store actually called What Would D$llar Do?  I wanted to answer, “Not shop in this mall?” but it seemed to be a rather moot point since no one was there anyway.  However, I did get yelled at for taking pictures by a rather fiery security guard lady, who seemed to be chatting with her friends in the nearly empty food court at the time of my egregious photo-snapping crime and felt it necessary to shout at me from across the cavernous emptiness and waddle over to give me hell.  Par for the course at this mall, I guess.

Simon finally gave up the ghost and unloaded the mall in 2002 to a series of commercial slumlords, one of whom was Heywood Whichard, a slimy North Carolina ‘businessman’ who is infamous for craftily buying dead or dying retail properties and sitting on them, collecting rent with no reinvestment strategy whatsoever, until the properties are in such disrepair that almost nobody wants them.  At this point the local government usually has to step in and spend taxpayer money to redevelop these blighted eyesores and Whichard runs away laughing, having made a tidy profit.  This strategy has made Whichard the enemy of several cities around the country, including Akron, St. Louis, Niagara Falls, and Ft. Wayne

Whichard certainly made the death spiral worse at Eastgate, and the mall began to shake off tenants faster than ever before.  Mini anchor Dunham’s Sports and The Finish Line left first.  Then, Burlington Coat Factory, who had been at Eastgate since 1981, decided to call it quits in March 2004 by moving to Washington Square, seizing the opportunity of a recently-closed JCPenney there.  Burlington’s departure was the death knell for Eastgate, because in early 2004, Whichard gave a harsh and sudden notice, via a letter served by his attorneys, telling the 15 or so tenants operating there that they would need to skedaddle before the end of June or he would lock them out and take their stuff. 

The interior of the mall closed in June 2004, and later that year Whichard did what he does best and sold the mall at a tax sale.  The empty dead mall went through several other owners, including a woman from Michigan City who wanted to turn the mall into a senior-based shopping and entertainment center, and a Texas firm who did nothing.  Not surprisingly, she abandoned her plans too, and the mall sat and sat.  And sat.  Meanwhile, Dr. Tavel, the mall’s lone remaining tenant, who was one of the mall’s original tenants and had an exterior entrance, continued to operate until his lease expired in 2006.  Said Tavel in a 2003 interview in the Indianapolis Star, “One of the keys to our constant viability in that center is the fact that we always maintained an outdoor entrance,” he said. “That back door became our front door when the mall went to hell.”  Well put.

In recent years, ruminations of redevelopment have finally reared their heads, which will give Eastgate new life.  In July 2008, Lifeline Data Centers, an Indianapolis-based data storage outsourcing compan, decided to put a $50 million data center in the former mall.  That same year, a group of U.S. Marines also used the mall to play war games, simulating urban combat for soldier training.  In addition to the Lifeline project redevelopment, portions of the now-excessively-large parking lot will be removed and turned back to nature, with a landscaped park featuring walking trails and ponds.  Although Eastgate Consumer Mall failed as a retail mall, it’s interesting that in the end it won’t be totally demolished and will have a use – as office space.     

I visited Eastgate Consumer Mall in April 2001, just before Haywood Whichard got a hold of it and totally ran it into the ground, and took the pictures featured here.  There was even a bright yellow mustang parked inside to offset any problems the mall might’ve had.  For a more complete set of pictures, be sure to check out this Flickr page of photos of the mall from user penske14 .  Taken in 2006, you can see that the mall quickly and alarmingly fell into disrepair, as evidenced by its condition less than two years after closure.   Also, you can check out a Facebook discussion relating to the mall, or better yet, leave some of your experiences and thoughts on or own comments page here.

Scottsdale Mall (Erskine Village); South Bend, Indiana

Scottsdale Mall in South Bend, IN

Located in north central Indiana about 90 miles east of Chicago, South Bend, Indiana is home to the legendary Notre Dame University and for almost a hundred years was also the home of the Studebaker auto empire.  In addition, South Bend is the anchor of the entire Michiana region, a 7-county area of north central Indiana and southwest Michigan containing over 800,000 people.  Today, South Bend’s population exceeds 100,000, and an intermodal transportation network featuring two cross country interstates (80 and 90) combined with interurban rail links to Chicago make South Bend an enviable location.

Scottsdale Mall in South Bend, INSouth Bend, along with its twin city to the east Mishawaka, share two main retail areas.  The largest and most dominant of these retail zones is located on the north and east sides of South Bend, extending into Mishawaka.  It features numerous strip malls, big box, restaurants, and the area’s only enclosed super-regional center, University Park Mall.  A secondary retail area is located on the south side of South Bend, located mostly along Ireland Road and S. Michigan Street, and it was centered around South Bend’s first regional enclosed mall, Scottsdale Mall.

Scottsdale Mall opened in 1971, anchored by Montgomery Ward, L.S. Ayres, and Ayr-Way, L.S. Ayres’s discount box.  Scottsdale Mall appealed to the entire Michiana region and as it was their first mall, it became extremely popular.  The two-level mall continued to be successful throughout the 1970s, as it had little to no competition in the area.

Then, in 1979, University Park Mall opened across town in Mishawaka, which not only established strong competition for Scottsdale Mall, but also shifted the entire region’s retail focus from south to northeast.  However, throughout the 1980s, Scottsdale Mall held its own against University Park, even as more retail and big box was opening near University Park and not on the south side of South Bend near Scottsdale Mall.  Also, in 1980, the Ayr-Way chain closed upon its sale to the Dayton-Hudson (Target) Corporation, and the Scottsdale Mall location reopened in 1981 as Target.

Scottsdale Mall LS Ayres in South Bend, INIn order to compete with the newer University Park Mall, and attract more retail to its side of town, Scottsdale Mall embarked on a multi-million dollar top to bottom renovation, which was complete in 1993.  The new development brought an early-90s, very colorful, pastel, rainbow-brite-threw-up-here vibe to the mall; but before this, Scottsdale was already tanking, and the LS Ayres store abruptly closed in January 1992 citing poor sales.  It would later reopen, but the 1992 closure cast a pall on the store, and on the mall itself, from which both would never recover.  By the late 1990s, the mall was once again tanking; vacancy rates were growing, and national chains began closing, being replaced by either local stores or nothing at all.  Meanwhile, fortunes on the other side of town were growing ever greater, as throughout the 90s more national chains and box strip opened in and around the vicinity of University Park Mall.

The final throws to the Scottsdale Mall dunk tank came in 2000, when L.S. Ayres announced they were closing (again), and Montgomery Ward announced they were going out of business at the end of the year.  Losing these two anchors proved devastating to Scottsdale Mall, and it never recovered.

Scottsdale Mall in South Bend, INBy 2003, only a handful or so of stores were left in the mall, along with Target and a popular movie theatre.  Unfortunately this was not enough to keep the mall afloat, and it was sold, closed, and promptly torn down in 2004; only Target was to remain at the site.  Interestingly, a lot of the mom-and-pop stores moved about 15 minutes east to Elkhart’s Concord Mall.  Also, unil the very end, the management was too lazy to update the directories, which still featured L.S. Ayres and Wards.

A short time after Scottsdale Mall became a pile of scrap metal and dust, a new strip-mall like development called Erskine Village began construction on the same site and opened in 2005.  The new development features TJMaxx, Kohls, Target, Petsmart, several restaurants, and a strip of outward facing smaller stores.  Erskine Village, not surprisingly, has been slow to get off the ground, and it certainly lacks the community and place-inspired memories an enclosed mall evokes.  However, I suppose if people wanted that they would have patronized Scottsdale.  Oh well.

We visited Scottsdale a few times before it got the axe; however, the pictures featured here are from a contributor and were taken in December 2003, a few months before the mall closed permanently.  For clarification, the ad for the TV series was up from Summer 1999 until the mall was torn down.  Feel free to leave your comments and experiences.

Scottsdale Mall in South Bend, IN Scottsdale Mall in South Bend, IN Scottsdale Mall in South Bend, IN

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Scottsdale Mall in South Bend, IN Scottsdale Mall in South Bend, IN Scottsdale Mall in South Bend, IN

Scottsdale Mall in South Bend, IN Scottsdale Mall in South Bend, IN Scottsdale Mall in South Bend, IN

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Scottsdale Mall in South Bend, IN Scottsdale Mall in South Bend, IN Scottsdale Mall in South Bend, IN

Scottsdale Mall in South Bend, IN Scottsdale Mall in South Bend, IN

Lafayette Square Mall; Indianapolis, Indiana

Lafayette Square Mall in Indianapolis, Indiana

Opened in 1968 at a busy intersection a few miles northwest of downtown Indianapolis, Lafayette Square Mall was the first major enclosed mall in the metropolitan area.  Although other large outdoor shopping centers existed since the 50s such as Glendale Center, Lafayette Square was the first in a trend of enclosed shopping centers which would be constructed around the area in the 1960s and 1970s.  

When it opened, Lafayette Square was a bit smaller than it is today and contained only two anchor stores on each end, JCPenney on the south end and Sears on the north end, with a mall corridor and stores in between them.  This basic dumbell design was complemented in 1969 with a William H. Block store in the center of the mall, and in 1974 with an additional smaller wing near Sears which added Ohio-based Lazarus and eight new stores.  Then in 1975, another addition came at the expense of grocer Kroger to add anchor L.S. Ayres near the south end of the mall.  All of these expansions were due, in part, to competition in the form of newer enclosed malls opening in other parts of the city.  Castleton Square, Washington Square, and Greenwood Park Malls opened in the early to mid-1970s, respectively; and each was a large regional center located in the north, east, and south parts of the city, respectively.

Lafayette Square Mall in Indianapolis, IndianaLafayette Square Mall’s location was essential in the dynamic of its success, even as competition emerged in other parts of the city stealing customers away.  Being the closest mall to downtown Indianapolis and the neighborhoods surrounding the core of the city allowed the mall to retain those shoppers who didn’t want to go out the far periphery of town where the other malls had opened.  In addition, Lafayette Square retained much of the west metro shoppers as well who never got a mall of their own due to Lafayette Square’s presence. 

Continuing through the 1980s proved mostly status quo as Indianapolis was balanced with large malls in each cardinal direction of the city.  However, a balance shifted in favor of the other malls during the 1990s as both areas around the core of downtown Indianapolis experienced economic troubles at the same time areas of far-north Indianapolis experienced extreme growth and prosperity.  In fact, during this period the retail trade area along 86th Street around and between Castleton Square and Fashion Mall became the prime trade area for the whole metropolitan area.  During the 1980s and 1990s, the growth of tony suburbs like Carmel and Fishers added to this, because they were even farther north than the northern malls. 

 Lafayette Square Mall in Indianapolis, Indiana Lafayette Square Mall in Indianapolis, Indiana

An even heavier blow came to Lafayette Square Mall in 1995, when downtown Indianapolis embarked on a rather successful urban redevelopment initiative and opened a large two-level mall downtown called Circle Center, featuring upscale anchors Nordstrom and Parisian.  Being that Lafayette Square is the closest mall to downtown Indianapolis and many of its patrons came from the central parts of the city, having Circle Center right there and so much newer and nicer, in addition to the newer sports and entertainment venues which opened around the same time.  As downtown Indianapolis cleaned up its image, Lafayette Square started the fight for its life.

Lafayette Square Mall in Indianapolis, IndianaSo, in 1996, as a response to Circle Center’s opening, Lafayette Square embarked on a major renovation project, the only major facelift it received in its almost 40-year span.  A new food court was constructed, and the mall generally looked nice again on the inside.  This, however, didn’t woo shoppers as planned, and the mall fell several tiers in spite of the renovations.  Many urban wear stores, local discounters, and the like appeared around this time and anchor woes came as well.

All of the anchors at Lafayette Square have changed hands at one point or closed completely, except for Sears at the north end which is an original anchor from 1968.  The middle anchor, Block’s, became Lazarus in the late 1970s after Block’s and Lazarus merged.  The Lazarus store closed in 2002, before all the other Lazarus stores became Macy’s; today, it is being used for a church.  The empty Lazarus store near Sears became Montgomery Ward, until it closed in 1996 and became Burlington Coat Factory, which it is today.  The L.S. Ayres anchor near the south end, which opened in a 1975 expansion, remains open today as Macy’s which it was rebranded in 2006.  Finally, the southern anchor JCPenney remained until 2004, when it jumped ship to a newer “Lifestyle Center” development called Metropolis Mall further west in Plainfield, a growing suburb. 

 Lafayette Square Mall in Indianapolis, Indiana Lafayette Square Mall in Indianapolis, Indiana

Today, Lafayette Square continues as a third or even fourth-tier center, catering to a lower-income population and suffering from a significant vacancy rate.  Though surprisingly, it has continued on this path for several years and a downward spiral isn’t as apparent as at some beleagured malls, and many predicted the mall’s closure a few years ago.  It appears that perhaps Lafayette Square can skate along this way and may have found a niche in this fashion.  If it can keep Sears and Macy’s it may do just that, otherwise it could fall down and go the way of the dinosaur. 

The pictures here were taken in Spring 2001; newer ones exist, and when we get around to it we’ll upload them.  However, the mall hasn’t changed that significantly other than anchor issues.  Feel free to post your own comments, observations and experiences about Lafayette Square.

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Lafayette Square Mall in Indianapolis, Indiana Lafayette Square Mall in Indianapolis, Indiana Lafayette Square Mall in Indianapolis, Indiana

Lafayette Square Mall in Indianapolis, Indiana Lafayette Square Mall in Indianapolis, Indiana Lafayette Square Mall in Indianapolis, Indiana

Lafayette Square Mall in Indianapolis, Indiana

UPDATE 12/6/07:

Jay (ftn65) has sent us some vintage photos of Lafayette Square.  Judging by the movies listed, I’d say the photos were taken in 1994.

UPDATE 6/10/08: Blog reader Patron Zero has contributed a scan of a vintage Lafayette Square mall directory.  I’m not sure exactly when the directory is from, but I’m guessing late 70s.  When I was trying to discern the date, I looked at the Wikipedia article which states that Lazarus moved from its original location here to take over the Block’s store sometime during the late 1970s, and Wards took the old Lazarus location.  Anyone know?  Anyway, thanks for the submission!

laf_sq_plan_02.jpg laf_sq_plan_01.jpg

Pierre Moran Mall; Elkhart, Indiana

Pierre Moran Mall in Elkhart, IN

Elkhart, Indiana is a cozy medium-sized city of about 50,000 people located all the way at the top of Indiana, right in the middle of the state.  It’s literally right next to South Bend and a little over 100 miles east of Chicago on the Indiana Toll Road (I-80/90).  If you ever played a musical instrument in school, like I did, chances are you have run across the Selmer name.  It’s from here, and so are numerous Recreational Vehicle manufacturers.  So much so, that Elkhart is known as the RV capital of the world. 

If you aren’t yet impressed by now with rows of brass piled side by side with rows of campers, Elkhart probably has something more up your alley.  Pierre Moran Mall was not only weirdly named, but one of the most dated relics of a shopping center in the whole area.  That is, until it failed, closed and was demolished last year (Spring 2006).   

Pierre Moran Mall in Elkhart, INOpened in 1958 as a strip mall, Pierre Moran Mall was enclosed in the 1970s and became Elkhart’s first real mall.  In early days, the mall featured a W.T. Grant, then later on Chicago-based Carson Pirie Scott and Indianapolis-based Ayr-Way (Discount store of L.S. Ayres), and most recently it had Kroger, Big Lots, CVS, Target, and a Sears.  But by the turn of the century the mall’s age and lack of renovation took its toll, and Target took off for greener pastures south of Elkhart along U.S. 33.  Kroger and Sears agreed to stay, but the 416,000 square foot mall had to go.  In 2004, this new project got a name: Woodland Crossing.  I think The NecroKonicon, which appears to be a lexicon of inside jokes and information relating to this area, says it best: “…as if that will magically make new shoppers flock to the complex to shop with the added convenience of having to walk outside more.”  Apparently by demolishing what was there and renaming it, they’ll trick woo shoppers into coming back.  Though, according to the developer’s site plan, the stores aren’t coming in droves.  Hmm.

So what really killed this mall?  I would argue both competition and lack of support from its management put the nails in the coffin here at Pierre Moran Mall.  South Bend, which is the center of the entire Michiana region, is a mere 15 miles away, and there is a huge concentration of every Big Box store imaginable centered around the University Park Mall in Mishawaka.  Even though Elkhart and Goshen residents complain and would rather have these stores open locally, the stores’ bottom lines don’t support this.  In addition, even local competition aided in sealing Pierre Moran’s fate.  Throughout the past decade or so, many of the newer and more popular chain stores have gravitated south along U.S. 33 between Elkhart and Goshen, which is today a huge strip.  Elkhart’s Concord Mall, which is a great deal more successful than Pierre Moran ever was, is along this corridor, though it too is very dated and in need of some love.  Also, Concord Mall is not far from Pierre Moran; both were on the south side on opposing sides of the U.S. 20 Bypass.  Finally, management is somewhat to blame for allowing Pierre Moran to go fallow, with absolutely no renovation or repositioning efforts from when the mall was enclosed in the 1970s to when it was torn down in 2006.

Pierre Moran Mall in Elkhart, INCaldor and I first visited Pierre Moran Mall punchdrunk at the end of a long trip through western Michigan in Fall 1998, though we weren’t able to go in due to the lateness of the hour.  I finally returned with digital camera in hand during the Summer of 2001, and snapped these pictures.  I did also manage to make it back at least once since, and as soon as I find those pictures I’ll post them as well.  I also have a few specific questions for the comments.  Who was (is?) Pierre Moran?  What was the specific chronology of the anchor roster?  And, how do locals feel about the new development?  The Internets suggest that people aren’t warming up too quickly. 

Pierre Moran Mall in Elkhart, IN Pierre Moran Mall in Elkhart, IN Pierre Moran Mall in Elkhart, IN

Pierre Moran Mall in Elkhart, IN Pierre Moran Mall in Elkhart, IN

Green Tree Mall & River Falls Mall; Clarksville, IN

Green Tree Mall front entrance, 1993. Clarksville, IN

Our friend Jay sent us these cool early-90s photos of a pair of malls in extreme southern Indiana, just outside of Louisville.

These two malls are located in very close proximity to one another off the Lewis & Clark Pkwy. and Greentree Boulevard, just off I-65. Green Tree Mall is the older of the two, opening in 1968, with JCPenney and Sears as anchors. Later a Ben Snyder’s was added as a third anchor, and this store became a Hess’s before later becoming a Dillard’s store, which it is today. Despite a 1980 expansion, the Green Tree Mall was not terribly large, and as a result in 1991 the River Falls Mall opened directly across the street. Originally conceived as a somewhat more youth-oriented and lively center, River Falls Mall was initially anchored by Wal-Mart, Bacon’s (later Dillard’s), All About Sports, and Toys R Us, but also included a substantial entertainment component including a movie theater, food court, and indoor amusement park. After Bacon’s was acquired by Dillard’s, the chain used the two stores to split the departments in two (reminiscent of what we’ve seen with many of the former May chains after the Federated acquisition, except not within the same mall). The Green Tree Mall got the women’s department, while River Falls Mall received the mens and housewares departments.

Because neither mall was huge, they were designed to co-exist somewhat peacefully, despite a large overlap in in-line tenants. However, it was actually River Falls, the newer of the two malls by far, that became the dead mall, beginning to decline by the end of its first decade in existence. Bass Pro Shops entered negotiations with mall owner General Growth Properties to open in the struggling mall in 2002, but the mall went into steep decline during the time when Bass Pro Shops were in the process of locating in the center, culminating in the exit of the Dillard’s from River Falls Mall entirely in 2004. Not long after, both Wal-Mart and the movie theatres exited, and Dick’s Sporting Goods moved to the Wal-Mart space. When Bass Pro Shops finally opened in 2005, they built their store to envelop much of the former mall, and the remainder of this comparatively young mall was big-boxed shortly thereafter, making room for Old Time Pottery and Louisville Athletic Club to open at the mall as anchors. Jay tells us that Bass Pro Shops has retained the mall’s translucent tent-like covering over the center court area, plus the structure of the mall’s former indoor putt-putt area, which is now a bullet-free shooting venue (whatever that means!).

Jay adds that this similarly puzzling cannibalization has happened more than once in the Louisville area, a city where I’ve yet to visit (although it *IS* on my list, eventually):

The development of River Falls Mall was just another example of strange decision-making where malls are concerned in our area. Mall St. Matthews and Oxmoor Center managed (surprisingly) to compete while coexisting very near each other before they came under the same management a few years ago. But the failure within 10 years of Raceland Mall, which opened just down the road from the already-established Bashford Manor Mall in 1975, might have been a good warning for the developers of River Falls. For some reason, it seems we just can’t resist building our new malls mighty close to one that already exists.

Green Tree Mall:

Green Tree Mall front entrance, 1993. Clarksville, IN

Green Tree Mall front entrance, 1993.

Green Tree Mall's JCPenney wing in 1993, facing towards the center court carousel.

Green Tree Mall JCPenney wing in 1993, looking to center court carousel. This shows the interior from the first renovation in the 1980s. According to Jay, the parquet portion of the floor showed wear fairly quickly.

River Falls Mall:

River Falls Mall front entrance, 1992.

River Falls Mall front entrance, 1992

Front entrance interior of the River Falls Mall in 1993. The stairs lead up to the food court.

River Falls Mall front entrance interior, 1993. The stairs went up to the food court.

Second floor amusement area of River Falls Mall in 1993, with the putt putt area in the foreground.

The second-floor amusement area in 1993, with the putt-putt in the immediate background. The food court and front entrance
were to the left, and the cinemas were behind the spot where this photo was taken.

River Falls Mall center court, 1993, facing towards the Wal-Mart wing.

River Falls Mall center court, 1993, looking toward the Wal-Mart wing. The Dillard’s wing is to the left of center court, and the front entrance wing is to the right. Directly above is the amusement area.

(Thanks to Jay for all the pictures and a bunch of the details!)


Marquette Mall; Michigan City, Indiana

Marquette Mall pylon in Michigan City, IN

Cozily nestled on the southeastern shores of Lake Michigan, Michigan City is an industrial, working-class city of about 32,000 people.  It’s about 60 miles east of downtown Chicago and 40 miles west of South Bend.  The dominant features of the landscape are the giant, 600-foot NIPSCO energy cooling tower and Mt. Baldy, a 123 foot sand dune which is part of the beautifully underrated Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore.  Michigan City is also known for its downtown outlet mall and for Blue Chip Casino, Indiana’s largest riverboat.   

Aside from the outlet mall downtown, the dominant shopping area in Michigan City is on the south side along Route 421, on which sits Michigan City’s lone enclosed mall at the intersection with Route 20.  Marquette Mall opened in 1967, and today it is anchored by Carson Pirie Scott, JCPenney and Sears.  In addition to the anchors, the mall also houses a large office tower which seemingly sprouts from the base of the mall behind Carson’s.  The Marquette Mall Office Tower, at seven stories, is the tallest building in Michigan City.  On our first visit to Marquette Mall in 1999, both Caldor and I noticed the mall’s office tower upon leaving the mall and couldn’t stop laughing at its rather non-sequitur placement behind Carson’s, complete with blue letters reading “MARQUETTE MALL” at the very top. 

Marquette Mall directory in Michigan City, INOf Marquette Mall’s 500,000 square feet of leasable space, a large portion is vacant.  Even though the anchors are filled, the space along the mall’s T-shaped corridors is troubled.  For example, the only women’s clothing retailers currently open as of December 2006 are Lady Edge, which appears to be local, and Rainbow Shops, an urban-wear retailer chain.  Also, Marquette Mall’s website invites patrons to “stop at one of the Mall’s full-service restaurants such as Applebee’s or Old Country Buffet, or enjoy a quick meal at one of the many quick-food purveyors.”  On the current directory, I only count Applebee’s and something called Bingsoo, which I’m hoping is Asian cuisine.  Where are the many other quick-food purveyors?  And what happened to Old Country Buffet?  If they aren’t sticking around, something’s the matter.

It may sound like we’re poking fun at poor Marquette Mall, but we would love to see it succeed.  So too would local residents, who don’t want to drive over 30 miles to the shopping mecca surrounding Southlake Mall in Merrillville, or 40 miles to the shopping in South Bend.  Someone posted on last month and was dismayed about the mall’s offerings, blamed management, and even offered suggestions for stores even lower-tier successful malls have.   

Marquette Mall in Michigan City, INSo why is Marquette Mall mostly unsuccessful?  People don’t want to drive over 30 miles for a regular mall, do they?  The area around the mall is full of big-box, restaurants, and strip malls, and is one of Michigan City’s retail meccas.  The other retail mecca, however, might be the key stealing away Marquette Mall’s thunder.  Lighthouse Place Premium Outlets opened in the mid-1980s in downtown as part of an urban renewal project.  The outlets have been very successful ever since, and draw tourists from the Chicago area on their way to Michigan for vacation.  Furthermore, their offerings essentially replace the need for a regular mall. 

We visited Marquette Mall again in March 2005 and took the pictures below.  Share your stories and opinions here.    

Marquette Mall in Michigan City, IN Marquette Mall in Michigan City, IN Marquette Mall in Michigan City, IN

Marquette Mall in Michigan City, IN Marquette Mall in Michigan City, IN Marquette Mall in Michigan City, IN

Marquette Mall in Michigan City, IN Marquette Mall in Michigan City, IN Marquette Mall in Michigan City, IN

Marquette Mall in Michigan City, IN

County Line Mall; Indianapolis, Indiana

County Line Mall Target in Indianapolis, IN

County Line Mall was a small enclosed mall located at US 31 and County Line Road at the southern edge of Indianapolis.  It was built in 1976, and was never meant to be anything big.  It spent its entire life housing no more than 20-30 smaller stores surrounding a hallway in front of a larger, 100,000 square-foot anchor behind.  In 1985, the much larger regional Greenwood Park Mall opened across the street in Greenwood, with space for 5 anchor stores and many national chains.

Given that the small number of stores are only supported by one anchor in County Line Mall, that anchor is imperative to the mall’s success.  In 1999, when we first visited County Line Mall, that anchor was Target and the mall was indeed successful.  Filled mostly with local stores but some national chains such as Radio Shack and Jo-Ann Fabrics, the mall operated as an ancillary and had carved out a niche for itself in the shadow of Greenwood Park Mall.  However, in October of 2001 things changed drastically when the popular Target store decided to abandon their location within the mall for a brand new store nearby.  This departure resulted in a thinning parking lot, and by losing the anchor the mall lost its niche.  In January of 2003, the mall’s development company announced there would be a drastic makeover of the mall, including the demolition of the interior mallspace and most of the stores.  Leases were terminated and the mall’s remaining tenants were given space facing outward into the parking lot.  In Spring 2003 work actually began on the mall and by the fall conversion was complete.  County Line Mall was renamed The Shoppes at County Line, and the Target space was taken by Old Time Pottery, a chain of home decor stores based in Tennessee.  I took these pictures in April 2001, just a few months before Target’s departure.  The mall was still heavily trafficed and in relatively good shape. 

County Line Mall exterior in Indianapolis, IN County Line Mall in Indianapolis, IN County Line Mall in Indianapolis, IN

County Line Mall in Indianapolis, IN County Line Mall in Indianapolis, IN County Line Mall in Indianapolis, IN

county-line-03.jpg County Line Mall in Indianapolis, IN

Woodmar Mall; Hammond, Indiana

Indiana State Line, I-90 Downtown Hammond, IN

Nestled on the south shore of Lake Michigan, within a stone’s throw from Chicago, is the prominent industrial region of Northwest Indiana. Hammond, the second largest city in this region, lies directly between Gary and Chicago and had a 2000 population of 83,000. Hammond was also home to one of Northwest Indiana’s enclosed shopping centers, Woodmar Mall. As of press time the mall is about to be destroyed in favor of redevelopment. The following is a chronological synopsis of important events in Woodmar’s history, ultimately culminating in its demise. More information can be found at John Lowe’s Woodmar Mall page.

  • 1954 – Woodmar Mall opens as a U-shaped open air center, anchored by Chicago department store chain Carson Pirie Scott. National supermarket, Walgreens, and J.J. Newberry variety store are among the major names in the mall’s roster of stores.

  • 1966 – Following a national trend, Woodmar Mall is enclosed. The mall continues to thrive.

  • 1975 – J.J. Newberry closes their Woodmar location, and the store’s space on the north end is converted to twelve mall stores with a square mallway. This newly created court is called the “Court of Lions”.

  • 1978 – Following the closure of the National supermarket chain, that store’s space on the south end of the mall is converted to ten mall stores ending in a fountain with ceramic turtles, called the “Court of Turtles”; seriously, I couldn’t make this up if I tried. So-Fro fabrics was a major tenant at this end of the mall.

  • 1978 – The same year the Court of Turtles appeared, plans were drawn up for a major expansion that would have tripled the size of the mall, and would have added two anchor stores. However, a recession and high interest rates killed this project.

  • 1984 – In its last hurrah, Woodmar is given its last major renovation as Walgreen’s restaurant is converted to a food court. Schoop’s hamburgers and Pizza Pizzazz were two tenants in the food court.

  • 1984-2000s – Things went steadily downhill for Woodmar Mall. Wal-Mart and a Food-4-Less store opened adjacent to the mall, providing not only competition to the mall but completely ignoring it (they could have opened in the mall?). At the same time, Hammond lost significant population and a lack of investment, while suburbs to the south like Dyer, Munster, Schererville, and Merrillville received significant economic boosts.

  • 2003Woodmar was purchased in a bankruptcy sale by David Fesko, head of some investment group which promised to renovate the mall. Ideas flew around about converting the mall to a discount-themed mall, such as Dixie Outlet Mall in suburban Toronto. These ideas never materialized.

  • 2003-04 – In a small glimmer of hope, a new mexican restaurant opened in the food court, which hadn’t seen a tenant in several years. It lasted less than six months before closing due to lack of business.

  • 2004According to an article by Andrea Holecek on, management was not taking care of the mall, as there were leaky roofs and sewage problems. Also, the dozen or so tenants left expressed concerns that they were left in the dark regarding even the immediate future of the mall.

  • Feb. 2005In his article, Hammond Times reporter Steve Zabroski outlined the city of Hammond’s plan to redevelop the mall as a unified shopping district for the city of Hammond. It was announced that Praedium Development Corp. would spearhead the redevelopment.

  • Feb. 2006 – It was announced in the Times Online that the mall would be demolished in stages, beginning with the south mall structure/Court of Turtles. In addition, it was announced that the redevelopment of the mall would center around Carson Pirie Scott. However, Carson’s would be relocated from its current space to a brand new store in the former south mall area. The existing 1954-era Carson’s would be demolished once the new store is ready.

  • May 12 2006In her article, Andrea Holecek writes that the existing plan for redevelopment may be stalled, due to Carson Pirie Scott being purchased by Bon-Ton Stores, Inc. A Bon-Ton spokeswoman is quoted to say that they honestly don’t know what they’re going to do about the Woodmar location.

  • May 17 2006In his article, Steve Zabroski reports that Bon-Ton has indeed stuck with the original decision to remain at Woodmar (as Carson Pirie Scott) through redevelopment. Their current 1954-era store will remain while the rest of the mall is demolished. Then, they will move to a new 100,000 square-foot store on the southwest edge of the property. The mall’s demolition will begin in June.

I first visited Woodmar in 1999, as part of my plan to see all the malls in the Chicagoland area. Coming from Wisconsin, Northwest Indiana was the least accessible and therefore the last part of this mission. When I finally saw Woodmar, I knew the meaning to the phrase “saved the best for last” – I truly did. This mall was by far the most remarkable that I saw in the Chicago area, with so many notable and fascinating design features. The first visible attribute upon entering the site-the mall’s anchor, Carson Pirie Scott, is an amazingly huge behemoth – a reliced dinosaur in terms of the size of anchors built onto malls today. Inside the mall, the throwbacks to the past continue. Immediately upon entering from one of two Carson’s entrances to Center Court, my sense of smell overtook me – people were smoking in the mall. Lots of people. I haven’t seen smoking allowed in a mall since I was a kid – probably 15 years ago now, and there were numerous Carson’s employees as well as customers sitting around smoking. Throughout the mall, there were numerous people loitering, just smoking on benches. What an odd sight. Also at center court, the mall’s name is inscribed in red cursive writing along the top of the ceiling, simply reading “woodmarwoodmarwoodmar” – over and over.

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To the north of the mall’s center court, the Court of Lions beckoned visitors. To do what, I’m not exactly sure. Certainly not to shop. Not in the times I visited, which numbered about half a dozen since 1999. The Court of Lions was created from the former J.J. Newberry anchor store in 1975, and had not been touched since. Well, since the stores all closed at least. There wasn’t one open, aside from the ones on the mall’s main hallway that did not extend back into the square-shaped court. Along the main hallway in that court, Fannie May, as well as some urban wear stores operated until about 2001. In fact, during one of my visits in 2002, a young man caujght me snapping pictures in the mall and immediately became curious as to what I was doing. He asked me if I was from the ‘newspaper’ and I lied and said I was, for lack of a better excuse. Without hesitation, he told me to take a picture of his new store, some urban wear store. I did. When I came back a year or so later, the store was ghostly vacant, as if nothing ever operated there for years.

To the south of center court, the mall continued for quite a ways. However, there were only stores on one side, as when they enclosed the mall in 1966 they only put a roof over the mall’s main walkway. Yet, at the end of the mall’s southerly extent, the mall took an abrupt turn to the right and continued down a significant distance to the Court of Turtles (once again, I am not making this up). The mall originally ended at this turn; but, with the demise of original tenant National supermarket, the mall took over this space and created the Court of Turtles. Along the way to the Turtles was the food court, Cafe Woodmar, which was the last addition or renovation whatsoever to Woodmar Mall in 1984, carved from Walgreen’s restaurant. During my first visit in 1999, I had a cheeseburger and fries at the Schoop’s Hamburgers located here. I think there were one or two other Cafe Woodmar establishments at the time; none of them were there on subsequent visits. According to a friend, a mexican place opened up here in 2003 and even advertised, but it was closed by my next visit several months later. Too bad. Also interesting at Cafe Woodmar was the huge 1980s-era lighted sign indicating the tenants of the food court – most of which were long gone by the time I got there. I felt like a paleontologist unearthing the strata of time.

Just past the food court and at the Court of Turtles, the mall abruptly dead-ended, another unique feature to this schizophrenic mall. At the dead-end was a small fenced-in fountain which was presided over by three ceramic turtles. I only ever saw it on once, during my first visit in 1999. During subsequent visits, the lonely turtles were without their aquatic existence as the water was shut off. On one visit in 2005, an elderly latina janitor came by as I was snapping photos. “Sure is sad,” she said wistfully to me as she continued cleaning. And it was.

Woodmar Mall represents more than the end of a retail era, or even the sentimentality associated with it. Certainly such things are important, but the bigger picture eludes to problems on a broader scale. What can Woodmar Mall teach us about urban sprawl, using space efficiently, and even environmental sustainability? Land ecology and urban planning aside, what implications does this have on our throwaway society and the ‘American way’? Some may say that this indicates merely a natural economic cycle, and that it’s fine. They wash their hands at the notion that blight and urban sprawl are more than socioeconomic problems, but environmental ones as well. Others say that these are legitimate problems, that will eventually catch up with us and by washing our hands of these problems, we’ll never get them clean.

Update 12/18/06:  Sadly, Woodmar is a memory.  During Summer 2006, most of the structure of the mall came down; however, the massive Carson Pirie Scott anchor remains and will continue to serve customers as their new store is built where the south part of the mall used to be.  Eventually, the entire development will be shiny and new and hopefully punch some energy into the economy. 

Pictures taken February, 2005

Center Court - Woodmar Mall in Hammond, IN South Hallway - Woodmar Mall in Hammond, IN Cafe Woodmar - Woodmar Mall in Hammond, IN

Cafe Woodmar - Woodmar Mall in Hammond, IN Looking From Court of Turtles to Cafe Woodmar - Woodmar Mall in Hammond, IN Court of Turtles - Woodmar Mall in Hammond, IN

Court of Turtles Fountain - Woodmar Mall in Hammond, IN Cafe Woodmar - Woodmar Mall in Hammond, IN Schoops at Cafe Woodmar - Woodmar Mall in Hammond, IN

Directory - Woodmar Mall in Hammond, IN Cafe Woodmar Sign - Woodmar Mall in Hammond, IN Cafe Woodmar Sign - Woodmar Mall in Hammond, IN

Center Court Carson Pirie Scott - Woodmar Mall in Hammond, IN Court of Lions - Woodmar Mall in Hammond, IN Court of Lions - Woodmar Mall in Hammond, IN

Court of Lions Entrance - Woodmar Mall, Hammond, INNorth Hallway - Woodmar Mall in Hammond, IN Fannie May - Woodmar Mall in Hammond, IN

North Entrance - Woodmar Mall in Hammond, INCarson Pirie Scott Exterior Shot - Woodmar Mall in Hammond, IN