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.
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.