Richmond Mall; Richmond, Kentucky

Richmond Mall opened in September 1988, a relative latecomer to the regional scene, as nearby Lexington’s three regional malls opened in the 1960s and 1970s. Richmond Mall enjoyed success for two decades, despite the eventual dominance of Lexington’s Fayette Mall, the largest and one of the best malls in the state of Kentucky. Local competition eventually did Richmond Mall in, with the opening of nearby Richmond Centre in 2008.

Located 25 miles south of Lexington in south central Kentucky, Richmond is a small city with 31,000 residents. Home to Eastern Kentucky University, Richmond has grown a lot recently. In the past two decades, Richmond has added over 10,000 residents, increasing its population by over 30 percent.

This massive growth spurt has been a boon to the city, and should have also been a boost for Richmond’s only enclosed mall, Richmond Mall. Except it hasn’t worked out that way. Located southeast of downtown Richmond along the Eastern Bypass, Richmond’s only mall can be summed up in one word: sad.

Richmond Mall opened in September 1988, a relative latecomer to the regional scene, as nearby Lexington’s three regional malls opened in the 1960s and 1970s.  Set up like a simple dumbbell, Richmond Mall is pretty minimalist and functional in design.

Richmond Mall enjoyed success for two decades, despite the eventual dominance of nearby Lexington’s Fayette Mall, the largest and one of the best malls in the state of Kentucky. Local competition eventually did Richmond Mall in, with the opening of nearby Richmond Centre in 2008.

Richmond Centre is a much larger, open-air center consisting of over 800,000 square feet of restaurants and shopping. Anchored by Belk, JCPenney, and Meijer, Richmond Centre features other popular stores and restaurants such as Panera, Childrens Place, Culver’s, Chik-fil-a, Michaels, TJ Maxx, Petsmart, and Logan’s Roadhouse restaurant. A Home Depot opened in the center but has since closed. Most of Richmond Centre is set up like a typical Power Center, but the central buildings retain a semblance of an open-air mall corridor.  A tiny semblance.

Sadly, and predictably, Richmond Centre caused a mass exodus at Richmond Mall. The two shopping centers are only two miles apart, both located along Eastern Bypass south of downtown. In addition to being more than twice as large and brand new, Richmond Centre is located directly along I-75, whereas Richmond Mall is a couple miles away.

Also, when Richmond Centre opened, it poached JCPenney, Goody’s Family Clothing, and Hastings entertainment directly from Richmond Mall. According to a article published in November 2010, Richmond Mall was 98% leased when Richmond Centre opened in 2008. Just two years later, the mall was less than 50 percent occupied.

In November 2010, Richmond Mall defaulted on its loan and was auctioned. According to the same article, the foreclosure came as a result of a lien placed on the property, which was owned by Richmond Mall Associates and does business as Bush Realty. The lien, which was sought by U.S. Bank, is valued at $16.4 million. The former owners of the mall wanted to sell the mall because they do not specialize in redevelopment.

Today, Richmond Mall has very few stores open. Most of the operating stores are on the mall’s west side. The food court remains completely empty. Aside from Sears, the eastern half of the mall is almost completely dead.

It’s shocking what a difference a couple years can make. I visited Richmond Mall for the first time in November 2011.  I came in the eastern end of the mall, which is the more vacant half of the mall.  When I left, I noticed a young man on a bike riding through the mall who exited the same door I did.  I’m kind of sad I didn’t see the mall before it died in 2008. Feel free to leave your comments.

November 2011:

Kyova Tri-State Mall; Ashland, Kentucky

Kyova Tri-State Mall in Ashland, KY

Ashland, Kentucky is a city of 20,000 residents located in the northeastern part of the state near the border of Ohio and West Virginia.  It is the second largest city in this tri-state area and part of the Ashland-Huntington OH-KY-WV metropolitan area, which is home to nearly 300,000 people.  Known primarily for heavy industry and raw materials processing, which had a successful run during the 19th century and into the first half of the 20th century, Ashland and the entire area have been in decline for several decades.  Today, the area is supported by what is left of its manufacturing core, along with medicine and higher education.

The first major regional mall in the Ashland-Huntington metro area was the Huntington Mall, which opened in Barboursville, WV, in 1981.  With four anchor pads and 100-plus stores, Huntington Mall opened as, and still is, the largest mall in West Virginia.  Throughout its life it has been a successful, destinational center and has become surrounded by the region’s biggest and best collection of chains and boxes to date.

Kyova Tri-State Mall directory in Ashland, KYHowever, residents on the Kentucky side of the metropolitan area, including those in Ashland, were growing tired of making the 30 minute drive to Barboursville to go to Huntington Mall.  So, in the late 1980s they embarked on not one, but two proposals for building enclosed malls in Ashland, Kentucky, at the same time.  Hey, it was the 80s…

The first proposal for a mall in Ashland came in 1988 and was put forth as a joint venture between DeBartolo Corporation, Glimcher Realty Trust, and Crown American, on a pad near downtown Ashland.  The site attracted interest from anchors Wal-Mart, JCPenney, and Allentown, Pa.-based Hess’s, and opened in October 1989.  The mall was named Ashland Town Center and had 441,000 square feet of leasable space on one level. 

The second proposal for a mall in Ashland also came in 1988, as developer Zamias Enterprises determined that Ashland could support not one, but two, regional malls, and put forth a proposal for an enclosed mall

  Zamias leveraged the mall’s location, closer to the interstate, against its distance from a population center.  They thought another mall would draw traffic from I-64 and thus would become profitable and, at the very least, hold its own against Ashland Town Center.  This site attracted interest from Sears, Wheeling, W. Va.-based Stone & Thomas, K-Mart and Phar-Mor, and it opened in November 1989.  Named Cedar Knoll Galleria, this mall was billed to be slightly larger than Ashland Town Center and it opened with 600,000 square feet on one level.

As the 1990s began, Ashland became the ostensible envy of teens everywhere, with over 1 million square feet of enclosed retail space in two malls, all for a town of 20,000 people plus environs.  However, it wasn’t long before disparity developed between Ashland’s two malls.  In fact, it started right out of the gate, as Cedar Knoll Galleria opened with an only 69% occupancy rate.  While this is somewhat common for brand new malls, it’s typical for the occupancy rate to go up closer to 100% within the first year.  Not so for Cedar Knoll Galleria; its fortunes only fell and fell, as occupancy dwindled as the years went on.  Two anchor pads at Cedar Knoll Galleria were never built, and in 1999 the Stone & Thomas anchor became Dayton-based Elder Beerman as the latter purchased the former.  Meanwhile, Ashland Town Center, in the middle of town, attracted shoppers and kept its occupancy rate high throughout the 1990s. 

Kyova Tri-State Mall in Ashland, KYFrom 2001 to 2003, some energy came to Cedar Knoll in the form of Michigan-based hypermarket Meijer, and Minnesota-based discounter Target, both of whom wanted to construct a store at the mall.  Unfortunately, though, Boyd County government prevented the deals from taking place by disallowing incentivization for the stores’ construction, and both stores went away.  As a result, neither store has – as of 2009 – located in Ashland.  However, Target eventually opened in Barboursville near Huntington Mall – about 30 minutes away. 

In 2002, anchor Phar-Mor left the mall as that company went out of business, and a popular Italian restaurant closed about the same time after discovering Boyd County was a “dry” county – meaning no alcohol could be served there.  Oops  Also about this same time, the Food Court emptied out completely, and K-Mart closed during a round of bankruptcy purges. 

Not surprisingly, in 2003 Zamias realized their folly and gave up the ghost, went bankrupt and put the nearly failed Cedar Knoll Galleria on the selling block.  In 2004 the ailing property sold and the mall was renamed Kyova Tri-State Mall, a redundant portmanteau of the states Kentucky, Ohio, and West Virginia.  The new owners, Eggleston Associates of Cincinnati, realized the mall had some potential despite its lackluster history and made some necessary repairs.  The roof was replaced, and portions of the mallway were restored to a usable condition. 

The new owners also found tenants for the empty Phar-Mor and K-Mart anchor pads.  In 2005, Steve and Barry’s opened in the former K-Mart space, and in 2007 a large, stadium-style theatre opened on the site of the former Phar-Mor.   In addition, the restaurant liquor woes were solved in 2007 when Boyd County voted to allow liquor sales there.   

Despite these boosts, however, Kyova Mall still remains a troubled facility, and as of early 2008 it had a 21% vacancy rate in smaller shops along the mallway.  Some of the food court tenants have returned, though, and a popular ‘Build-a-Bear’ style stuffed animal factory opened in the mall.  Also, as of late 2008, Steve and Barry’s closed, leaving a major anchor pad dark once again.  In addition, 2008 saw a major revamp of downtown Ashland’s mall, with a small expansion and a brand new JCPenney store. 

As of early 2009, the sinking economy doesn’t bode well for the continued success of Kyova Mall, even despite the addition of the theater.  We’ll cross our fingers, though, that perhaps Target or Meijer (or someone) still might be interested in the empty anchor pad, and that this mall can get off the ground.  The photos here were taken in July 2008; leave us some comments and let us know what you think.

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Kyova Tri-State Mall in Ashland, KY

Mall St. Matthews; Louisville, Kentucky

Mall St. Matthews in Louisville, KY 

The largest city in the state of Kentucky was put on the map by horse racing and baseball bats, but few are familiar with its retail scene.  As anchor to one of the larger trade areas in the region, metro Louisville consists of eight counties in northern Kentucky and four in south central Indiana, and is bisected by the meandering Ohio River.  Over 1.3 million people call the Louisville area known as Kentuckiana home.

When not sipping mint juleps, Kentuckianans are shopping in a handful of areas around the region.  One of the largest of these areas is east of downtown along US 60, known to locals as Shelbyville Road.  Home to two of metro Louisville’s enclosed malls, this area is undoubtedtly the most important center of retail in the entire region.  Extending to the east along US 60 and Hurstbourne Parkway, this retail area is home to numerous strip centers, big box stores, and all the ugly chain retail stores everyone loves to hate.  One of these malls, located on the east side of I-264 along US 60, is called Mall St. Matthews. 

Mall St. Matthews sign in Louisville, KYMall St. Matthews began its rollercoaster life in 1962 as simply “The Mall”, and opened featuring anchor stores A&P, Kaufman-Straus, Rose’s, and JCPenney.  Throughout the 1970s and early 1980s the mall remained popular, yet required updates in response to competition from other Louisville-area centers.  This involved first changing the name from The Mall to Mall St. Matthews, and later updating with a food court and many expansions.  The Kaufman-Straus store closed and was replaced by Stewart Dry Goods and later L.S. Ayres, and later Louisville-based Bacons which moved from a freestanding store down the street.  This occurred in the late 1980s, and sparked a resurgence of interest in the mall over other Louisville-area malls.  Retailers once again clamored to be in Mall St. Matthews, and again Rouse, the mall’s owner, expanded the mall in 1995 with a new wing and the addition of Dillards, and later in 1997 with the addition of Lord and Taylor.  The late 90s saw the peak of popularity for Mall St. Matthews, at least in terms of anchor diversity.

In 1998, Bacon’s was merged into Dillards, and Dillards used the extra store to split its offerings at the mall into two giant anchor stores.  Such practice has been popular at many malls nationwide as anchor stores consolidate, with the split offering men’s, children’s, and home departments in one store and the entire other store devoted to women’s in many cases.  In 2000, Nordstrom expressed interest in moving to the mall but the deal was dead in less than a year when no agreement could be reached with Rouse.  Then, in 2004, Lord and Taylor left the mall amid corporate parent woes and the consolidation of many of their locations within core markets.  Until 2007 part of that store was occupied by regional junior anchor Dawahares, but that closed also. 

Mall St. Matthews in Louisville, KYCurrently Mall St. Matthews has one anchor closed, and it has been speculated that Dillards will sell its store to Rouse for mall redevelopment (Lifestye portion anyone?) and will relocate to the former Lord and Taylor store.  The rest of the mall is currently very popular, and with its sister-mall across the street Oxmoor Center provides much of the upscale and mid-tier offerings in the Louisville area. 

As far as design, due to competition both Mall St. Matthews and Oxmoor Center are frequently renovated and very modern looking.  The mall is set up like an S with anchor stores at the cruxes, yet currently only has 2 anchors: Dillard’s (2 locations) and JCPenney.  The mall is unique in that it has large courts at the cruxes of the S, with giant fountains and tall ceilings, reminiscent of years past. 

Take a look at the pictures featured here.  All were taken in the Summer of 2006, except for the older ones taken by reader ftn65 in 1993 and 1999.  He also writes about the mall:

Here are some photos of Mall St. Matthews in Louisville from ’93 forward.  I’ve taken all my pictures of this mall since its second major renovation.  The first renovation occurred in the late ‘70s, replacing the “concrete and lush vegetation” look of the ‘60s with a whole lot of brick and a couple of large fountains.  In the early ‘90s that gave way to what it is today, at least aesthetically.  That change also brought the addition of the front entry wing (next to The Limited) and the Dillard’s wing, which extends from JCPenney.  The Lord and Taylor extension beside JCPenney came a few years later.  When Bacon’s became Dillard’s, Bacon’s was turned into the Dillard’s men’s/home store.  Now the Dillard’s men’s/home store will be moving to the vacant Lord and Taylor, which is apparently more convenient to the other Dillard’s.  I’m sure it’s also an easier space to maintain, since a large portion of the former Bacon’s location dates back to the mall’s opening in 1962, when that anchor was Kaufman’s of Kentucky.” 

Summer 2006:

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Mall St. Matthews Bacons 1993 in Louisville, KY

Parkway Plaza Mall; Madisonville, Kentucky

Parkway Plaza pylon in Madisonville, KY

Self-proclaimed “The Best Town on Earth”, Madisonville is a small city of approximately 20,000 people located in the middle of western Kentucky.  Economically, the city has remained prosperous in the post-coal mining period thanks to a highway infrastructure which criss-crosses the city.  In fact, the new I-69 corridor linking Canada to Mexico will pass right by Madisonville within a few years, solidifying the manufacturing industry here for the time being.

Parkway Plaza in Madisonville, KYIn part due to Madisonville’s importance as a manufacturing and transportation hub and also due to its relative isolation from larger cities, Madisonville is a retailing center for it and the immediate region surrounding.  The closest larger city is Evansville, Indiana which is 50 miles north and the closest large metropolitan area is Nashville, Tennessee which is 100 miles southeast.  A large strip featuring a mall and many big box retailers and strip malls exists near the interchange of KY 70/85 and Pennyrile Parkway (Future I-69), just east of downtown.

Parkway Plaza Mall, which opened in 1980, is a small one-level enclosed mall anchored by Goody’s Family Clothing, Peebles, and Dawahares, a Kentucky-based family apparel retailer.  There is also an 8-screen Capitol Theatre in the mall, and the mall’s enclosed space is a mere 230,000 square feet.  The mall is owned and managed by local Ershig Properties, based in nearby Henderson, who indicate on their website they renovated the mall in 2002. 

We visited Parkway Plaza Mall in May 2001, and were surprised to find how substantial it was given the relatively small population of the trade area.  However, this can be explained by two factors.  First, a small mall building boom took place during the late 1970s and early 1980s, placing enclosed malls of this size in smaller cities and suburbs (as ancillaries to larger centers) throughout the country, such as Beaver Dam Mall in Wisconsin.  Second, and the reason why Parkway Plaza has largely succeeded where others such as Beaver Dam have failed is that the mall fills in an important gap.  As mentioned above, the nearest regional mall is 50 miles to the north in Evansville, and the nearest metropolitan area with larger offerings is Nashville which is 100 miles away, so shoppers appreciate and use this local offering.

Check out the 80s decor of Parkway Plaza, featuring wood paneling, curving mirrors, and carpeting throughout the mall.  If you have any information or anecdotal accounts of Parkway Plaza, or know anything about the 2002 renovation, feel free to chime in with some comments.    

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Parkway Plaza in Madisonville, KY