Hanes Mall; Winston-Salem, North Carolina

With the probable distinction of being the only mall in the world named after underwear, Hanes Mall is the largest mall in the Piedmont Triad and one of the largest in the state of North Carolina. Hanes Mall has five anchor stores and nearly 1.5 million square feet of retail space on two levels, and is the anchor to a large retail district on Winston-Salem’s west side.

With the probable distinction of being the only mall in the world named after underwear, Hanes Mall is the largest mall in the Piedmont Triad and one of the largest in the state of North Carolina.  Hanes Mall has five anchor stores and nearly 1.5 million square feet of retail space on two levels, and is itself the anchor to a large retail district on Winston-Salem’s west side. 

Hanes Mall opened in 1975 with three anchor stores (Belk, Sears, JCPenney) on two levels, and was about half the size it is today.  The mall expanded to nearly double its size in 1990 with the addition of two more anchors and a food court.  This expansion was partially a response to nearby Greensboro’s Four Seasons Town Center adding a third level and its own food court in 1987, and also to the announced development of the brand new Oak Hollow Mall, which eventually opened in High Point in 1995. 

The 1990 expansion at Hanes Mall was unique due to spatial constraints affecting its placement.  It had to be built on the other side of JCPenney, and the end result for shoppers is that the mall goes “through” the middle of JCPenney.  This curious setup exists at several other malls, such as Golf Mill Mall in suburban Chicago and Northridge Mall in Salinas, California.  I can never tell if the arrangement is advantageous or unwelcome by the anchors themselves.  On one hand, the increased volume of foot traffic allows them to market to a captive audience, but on the other hand there are a significant number of people coming through the store who have absolutely no intention of shopping there.  The loss figures are probably a bit higher, too.

The expansion also added a brand new food court, as well as anchor stores Dillard’s and Richmond-based Thalheimers.  Dillard’s was actually signed as Charlotte-based Ivey’s until just prior to the store’s opening, but opened as Dillard’s due to the latter acquiring the former that year.  The Thalhimers anchor became Hecht’s in 1992 when Thalheimers was purchased by the May Company, who owned Hecht’s and merged Thalhimers into Hecht’s.  The Hecht’s then became Macy’s in 2006 when Macy’s acquired May Company and merged all of the May plates into Macy’s.  The original three anchors have remained the same since the mall opened in 1975. 

After the Hanes Mall expansion, the original mall received the designation “north mall” and the 1990 expansion became known as “south mall” – both in marketing literature and on signage.  Today, Hanes Mall is a dominant fixture in the Piedmont Triad, and has held its own against competition from the nearby malls in Greensboro and High Point.  In fact, its greatest competition is probably SouthPark Mall in Charlotte, 80 miles away, due to its upscale mix of stores not found in the Piedmont.  SouthPark actually overtook Hanes Mall for the designation of largest mall in North Carolina when it completed its most recent expansion, adding Nordstrom and Neiman Marcus, in 2006. 

We visited Hanes Mall in September 2005 and took the following pictures – including a “vintage” Hecht’s still in operation.  Feel free to add your own thoughts and experiences to the comments page.

Tarrytown Mall; Rocky Mount, North Carolina

Tarrytown Mall; Rocky Mount, NC

Rocky Mount is a city in eastern North Carolina, about 45 minutes east of Raleigh, and contains about 70,000 residents.  Rocky Mount is known for being home of the first restaurant which would become the Hardee’s chain.  It is also strategically located on I-95.  In September 1999 Hurricane Floyd swept through Rocky Mount and caused major flood damage throughout the area.  One of the casualties of the hurricane was Tarrytown Mall, the second enclosed mall in the state.

Here are some pictures of Rocky Mount underwater during the flood.  Tarrytown Mall, which opened in 1962, sat under several feet of water for over a week.  A relatively low spot in general, Tarrytown Mall was particularly susceptible to floodwater and as a result of the flooding completely destroyed the mall and sadly it never reopened.  Here are a whole bunch more pictures of Tarrytown Mall as it sat abandoned.

Tarrytown Mall; Rocky Mount, NC

Tarrytown Mall sat for over 6 years before Sam’s Club came and decided to build a club there, and resurrect the site from abandonment due to the natural disaster.  First, they needed to remove all the asbestos from the 40+ year site.  Then, in April 2006 most of the mall structure was destroyed, and by 2008 a new Sam’s Club was open in its place

We visited Tarrytown Mall, or what was left of it, in August 2005, nearly 6 years into its tenure of abandonment.  We know a Montgomery Ward store was at the site, but we know little else?  If you can help us piece together the history of Tarrytown Mall, do so in the comments for this post.  A few questions:  What was Tarrytown Mall like immediately before the hurricane?  Did it co-exist on the same level as Golden East Crossing, a competitor mall across town, or was it already on the way out?  Let us know.

Tarrytown Mall; Rocky Mount, NC Tarrytown Mall; Rocky Mount, NC Tarrytown Mall; Rocky Mount, NC

Tarrytown Mall; Rocky Mount, NC Tarrytown Mall; Rocky Mount, NC Tarrytown Mall; Rocky Mount, NC

Tarrytown Mall; Rocky Mount, NC Tarrytown Mall; Rocky Mount, NC

Eastland Mall; Charlotte, North Carolina

Eastland Mall blowing sun in Charlotte, NC

Located on the east side of Charlotte, Eastland Mall seems to be going the way of the dodo, at least in its current state.  Opened in 1975, Eastland was, for a time, the biggest and best mall in all of North Carolina, before Hanes Mall in Winston-Salem unseated it in size a short time later.  However, demographic changes, urban sprawl, and the perception of crime have all but sealed Eastland’s fate as a dead mall with an uncertain future. 

As time progressed through the 1970s and 1980s, Eastland Mall reigned with anchor stores Belk, JCPenney, and Ivey’s, and trumped even SouthPark by having an ice skating rink.  In the late 1970s, Richmond-based Miller & Rhoads joined as junior anchor and Sears got on board in 1979.  Through the 1980s Eastland was considered to be on-par or even superceding SouthPark in terms of size and store selection. 

In 1991, the winds of change brought Carolina Place Mall to south-suburban Pineville, indicative of a retail shift from the core of Charlotte to the periphery.  Around the same time, SouthPark management began to upscale the mall’s offerings, adding Saks Fifth Avenue and Nordstrom in the process.  The addition of Carolina Place meant that the competition for ‘top dog’ in the market would be fought between it and SouthPark, with Eastland left a distant third.

Eastland Mall Dillard's and ice rink in Charlotte, NC

Eastland didn’t go down without a fight though.  Around the same time Carolina Place opened and SouthPark upscaled, Eastland went through a massive makeover, updating its 1970s look to a more “modern” early-90s feel with muted, cerulean pastel tones, which actually look somewhat dated by the standards of 2008. 

Even with the upgrades, the inevitable outcome of being a distant third place didn’t bode well for Eastland.  Built with the intention and veracity of being number one in 1975, being third by the late 1990s created an odd juxtaposition between the large, super-regional mall and the notable vacancies within it.  The retail outcome of this decline included the loss of anchors, beginning with JCPenney in 2002.  After a few years of being an ominous (read: Closing Soon) JCPenney Outlet Store, the space was broken up into Burlington Coat Factory and Fred’s Discount Store.  Next came Dillard’s, who packed up the normal wares and converted to an outlet location in 2005, sealing off their lower level.  Then, in February 2007 came the worst blow to the mall as Belk departed, leaving only Sears as the last traditional anchor to the mall.  In addition to the anchor woes, the retail spectrum in the mall’s corridors has fared no better, as Limited Brands closed all five of their Eastland stores.  Other recent departures included Harris Teeter, Chik-fil-A, Things Remembered, American Eagle, and Spencer’s.

Eastland Mall Belk in Charlotte, NCAnother important factor in the decline of Eastland is the perception of crime.  However, unlike some situations when a mall merely changes demographics, (from mostly white shoppers to a mixed or predominantly black shopper base) the perception of crime is not without basis in fact here.  Several shootings, none of them fatal, have occurred in or around the mall in recent years.  This has certainly kept even loyal and neighborhood customers at bay, causing them to drive across town to other malls.

In addition to all of this, the physical condition of Eastland is deteriorating rapidly, so much so that Glimcher, the mall’s current owner, has deemed the mall a “fixer-upper” and Charlotte mayor Pat McCrory was quoted in 2007 as saying “We built crap. We built pure crap. I call it corridors of crap…and we’re paying for it now” referring to Eastland and the struggling, semi-abandoned strip malls near it.

Despite the downward spiral into oblivion, it seems some astute community leaders and business owners are committed to redeveloping the site for a sustainable future.  The movie theatre, which closed in 1996, was reopened in 2007.  Also, In March 2007, the Urban Land Institute Advisory Council of Washington shared its findings in a comprehensive report about Eastland, ultimately suggesting the mall be torn down and a mixed-use center be put in its place.  Their full report, which is an interesting read for those of us interested in how outdated retail architecture can be successfully repurposed, outlines a number of solutions and explains why a retail-only site would not work for the future.

But why did this all happen?  In order to put together an accurate picture of Charlotte’s retail history, one has to analyze how growth materialized over the past several decades in the area.  When Eastland Mall opened in 1975, a few miles east of downtown, it was extremely well-positioned on the frontier of what would become Charlotte’s largest expanse of sprawl, mostly to the east and southeast of downtown.  However, as the built environment sprawled farther out, so too did the demographic base, including upper-middle class and upper class families who drive the machine of retail location.  As such, new convenience strips of big box and even newer malls, such as Carolina Place, Northlake Mall, (which opened in 2005) and the expansion and upscale positioning of off-freeway center SouthPark Mall took over the limelight from aging regional centers such as Freedom Mall and Eastland Mall.  This, combined with the perception of crime at the center, has even kept those who live nearby away, and the mall has become an open wound, bleeding anchors and in-line retailers alike.

We visited Eastland Mall in September 2005 and took the pictures featured here.  We can’t help but wonder what winds of change the blowing sun, Eastland Mall’s logo, will usher in for the future.

Eastland Mall in Charlotte, NC Eastland Mall in Charlotte, NC Eastland Mall in Charlotte, NC

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Eastland Mall in Charlotte, NC Eastland Mall Belk in Charlotte, NC Eastland Mall in Charlotte, NC

Eastland Mall in Charlotte, NC

Becker Village Mall; Roanoke Rapids, North Carolina

Becker Village Mall in Roanoke Rapids, NC

Located where the coastal plain meets the upland fall line, Roanoke Rapids was originally settled as a port.  Historically, it connected the appalachian upland with a navigable river to the Atlantic Ocean.  Today, Roanoke Rapids has outlived the necessity to be a port and instead functions as the anchor city to a small micropolitan area.  I-95, one of the busiest interstate corridors in the country, has also helped in boosting the local economy as Roanoke Rapids sits roughly halfway from the megalopolis in the northeast to Florida’s sunland.

The city of Roanoke Rapids has a population of only 17,000, but due to the relative remoteness of its location it draws from a large rural and semi-rural area around it; in fact, the trade area is close to ten times the population.  In addition, the nearby larger cities of Richmond, Raleigh and the Hampton Roads area are all over 80 miles away.  Therefore, Roanoke Rapids has developed as a center for commerce in its microregion.  Also recently Roanoke Rapids has been the recipient of an entertainment destination per Dolly Parton called Carolina Crossroads, which will be a mixed-use development featuring an amphitheater, aquarium, hotel, water park, billiards hall and over 300,000 square feet of retail and restaurants.  The site was chosen for its centrality, being approximately halfway from Florida and the seaboard cities of the northeast.

Becker Village Mall in Roanoke Rapids, NC  Becker Village Mall in Roanoke Rapids, NC

As Roanoke Rapids has emerged, a large retail strip has developed along U.S. 158 near Interstate 95, including many strip malls, restaurants, box stores, and typical retail strip fodder.  Nearly adjacent to the U.S. 158 strip is also a small enclosed mall, Becker Village Mall, located along 10th street. 

Becker Village Mall has definitely seen better days and today the center is almost wholly defunct as a retail destination.  The small, 320,000 square foot mall has seen many departures in the past several years, stemming largely from K-Mart’s closure in 2002 and also from the groundbreaking of Premier Landing, a modern lifestyle/strip-mall development the same year.  Premier Landing has opened in phases since at a more visible location in the center of the strip near I-95 and U.S. 158, and also managed to wriggle Belk and other typical ‘enclosed mall’ offerings away from Becker Village Mall, sealing the mall’s fate rather solidly. 

We visited Becker Village Mall in August 2005 and took the pictures featured here.  For even more information and photos please visit Anita Rose’s Sick Malls blog, for a different (and daylight) perspective from Summer 2006.

Becker Village Mall in Roanoke Rapids, NC Becker Village Mall in Roanoke Rapids, NC Becker Village Mall in Roanoke Rapids, NC

Freedom Mall; Charlotte, North Carolina

Freedom Mall pylon in Charlotte, NC

Freedom Mall, located on the west side of Charlotte, opened in 1964 as a 330,000 square foot anchor to the westside retail scene.  It is, to this day, the only mall on the west side as far as I know.  The prime shopping areas in Charlotte are south and more recently north with the opening of Northlake Mall in September 2005.  There are also the ever-popular (much to our chagrin) victims of new urbanism known as lifestyle centers, and they’re popping up everywhere. 

Freedom Mall has seen better days; however, it still functions as a community center for the surrounding, largely African-American community.  Flu shots and other community resources are regularly available at the mall throughout the year.  In addition, families from great distances have been known to travel to the mall for the region’s only African-American Santa Claus at Christmastime.   Freedom Mall’s lone anchor is discounter Peebles, a chain based in the mid-south and spread throughout Dixie.  Other stores include Stuarts, a Rent-a-Center, Foot Locker, and several beauty supply stores.  There are also local stores selling urban wear, music, and toys.  The mallway’s design is a basic barbell between the Peebles and what I’m told was a grocery store, but is now offices.  Aesthetically, Freedom Mall’s decor is extremely dated yet simplistic.  There aren’t many wooden tones or facades typical of the era from which Freedom Mall came to us in its time machine; however, the marbled cream-colored floor is a gem as well as the ancient Peebles sign above the main hallway. 

I took these pictures of Freedom Mall in August 2005.  As always, comments, anecdotes, and more information about the mall to complete its story are much appreciated.

Freedom Mall in Charlotte, NC Freedom Mall Peebles in Charlotte, NC Freedom Mall Peebles in Charlotte, NC

Freedom Mall directory in Charlotte, NC Freedom Mall in Charlotte, NC