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hauntedheadnc

A Savage "Malling"!

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I don't know if many forummers here share as much of an interest in "urban exploration" as in urban design and planning, so you all may not know that there's a plethora of websites out there devoted to people who basically go into abandoned buildings (and other places they ought not be), take pictures and post them on the internet.

I've found one however, that takes a bit of a different approach, and one you all might find interesting.

The site is devoted to abandoned and failing malls, which is quite a sight to see for those of us who abhor suburban sprawl. Is it a sign of downtown resurgence, or just a sign of dismal economics? Why would a mall, that icon of the 70's and 80's fail, when it seems the burbs have every advantage, from perception of safety to sate-subsidized "sprawlways" leading rightu p to their doors? Again, it makes one wonder if perhaps America's mass return to the city might play a part.

Take a look and see for yourself! The website is www.deadmalls.com, and features the following Southern dead or dying malls:

North Carolina -- Carolina Circle Mall, Greensboro

South Carolina -- Bell Tower Mall, Greenville

South Carolina -- McAlister Square Mall, Greenville

Georgia -- Regency Mall, Augusta

Georgia -- Shannon Southpark Mall, Union City

Tennessee -- Mall of Memphis, Memphis

Virginia -- Cloverleaf Mall, Richmond

Virginia -- Tanglewood Mall, Roanoke

Louisiana -- The Plaza at Lake Forest, New Orleans

Alabama -- Eastwood Mall, Birmingham

Some entries have pictures, while others just have descriptions but either way it's a fascinating experience to read about malls past. The most interesting entry though, has got to go a mall outside the South: Dixie Square Mall in Harvey, IL, a suburb of Chicago.

Dixie Square, complete with storefronts, mall furniture and some store interiors, has been abandoned and decaying since 1979.

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Interesting site. Unfortunately, from what I've witnessed (at least in Michigan), the malls die not because people are going downtown to shop, but rather are going to the newer, better malls.

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Don't even get me started on Walmart!!!! You know how much I hate that store!

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I've heard about Eastland, CityFair and Midtown Square, but what are those others? Are they enclosed malls or just big strip centers?

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It's just a fascinating thing to read about, isn't it? The very thought that something expressly designed to attract people and activity would go empty, be abandoned and fall to ruin just grabs the imagination somehow. And it's even more interesting when you start delving further into these sites and you come across abandoned schools, nursing homes, apartment buildings, stores, churches, hospitals, amusement parks and even, in some of the more blighted American cityscapes, abandoned skyscrapers! I even came across one website that explored an abandoned university!

I don't think there are any malls here in the Asheville-Hendersonville area that could honestly qualify for "dead mall" status, though there are a couple that are troubled. The Blue Ridge Mall in Hendersonville has never been more than half full since it was built in 1983, for instance, and Innsbruck Mall in East Asheville is not doing well, although it's making the transition from mall to strip shopping center with some success. Biltmore Square Mall in South Asheville doesn't look too hot either, but it was built on speculation of a boom that never fully materialized.

Biltmore Square is probably about half full, like the Blue Ridge Mall, but because Biltmore Square is a lot larger, the emptiness shows more even if there are more stores overall. I can also recall that some stores that were there originally have left the mall. Their food court is pretty anemic, for example, when it used to be full and bustling.

Innsbruck meanwhile, is a tacky "concept" mall built to look vaguely German/Austrian-ish. I can recall when it only had a handful of stores, including a very popular Christian bookstore I like. Innsbruck probably couldn't have had a worse location. It's on Tunnel Road, where you'd think all that strip development would have a positive effect, but because it's back behind all the frontage retail, with a hard-to-locate entrance, it never did very well. Maybe when it was first constructed back in the 60's it might have done well, but I don't know. All I know now is that due to being hard to locate and having Mal*Wart for a neighbor, it's just a sickly little thing. Now that they're converting it into a strip center it looks like it will be holding its own in the future though. Some stores have moved in, plus Mal*Wart will be moving out soon to a big ol' Super Duper Mal*Wart being built over on Swannanoa River Road on the site of a big, historic, abandoned bleach factory.

Speaking of Mal*Wart and strip centers, though, there are plenty of those in trouble in this area, yet developers (who are not exactly the brightest blinkers on the Buick it would appear) keep building more. Of course! That's the solution when you can't fill the strip malls you've already got -- build more! The biggest blighed strip center that immediately comes to mind is the old Mal*Wart center in Hendersonville on Four Season Boulevard, back behind the restaurant row. It used to be home to probably twenty or more businesses before Mal*Wart kicked a lot of them out and expanded, then decided it just HAD to have a Super Duper Mal*Wart prescence in Hendersonville and packed up, skipped across the interstate and built itself a great big shopping center filled with the likes of Pier One Imports, Staples and a bunch of free-standing restaurants like O'Charley's and Chick-Fil-A. They left the old Mal*Wart center to its lonesome, with only a Chinese restaurant, the biggest and most popular of its kind incidentally, and a Mailbox Post and Pack store, with the rest abandoned. Even the Ingle's supermarket pulled out.

Recently though, there's been a revitalization at the old Mal*Wart center. The Chinese restaurant is still going strong, and is now about three times the size it was when it first started out. The postal services store is still there, and Welcome Finance, a local company, has moved in. The Ingle's grocery store was replaced by the Pardee Urgent Care Center, a sort of not-quite-emergency-room run by Hendersonville's Pardee Hospital. And there are plans to redevelop the old Mal*Wart into a movie theater -- but according to an article in the local paper a few days ago, the Blue Ridge Mall is also pursuing the idea of a movie theater. It's kind of hard to pck which place would be more deserving! On one hand you don't want to see a big empty strip mall just squatting there, but on the other hand you want something good to happen at the mall, which has always been the underdog and really deserves some luck.

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Durham actually had three malls. North Durham had North Duke Mall, Northgate and South Square.

North Duke Mall is now call North Duke Crossing

North Gate Mall is still going strong

South Square Died at the expense of The Streets of Southpoint Mall

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The addition of a 3rd level with many stores at Four Seasons mall in Greensboro contributed to the decline of Carolina Circle Mall. Crime in the vicinty around the mall as well as a couple of shoot outs in Carolina Circle cause the mall to gain a reputation that it wasn't safe. The mall died slowly.

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here are some photos of a deteriorating 2 level Carolina Circle Mall

ccmall2.jpg

ccmall4.jpg

ccmall1.jpg

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The deteriorating former Toys R us across the Street

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here is the history of Carolina Circle Mall

1958: Developer Joe Koury starts talking about building a shopping center in southwest Greensboro. He expands his plans several times during the 1960s but doesn't start the project. While he waits, other developers make plans of their own.

1972: Alpert Investment Corp. of Atlanta proposes building a mall off U.S. 29 in northeast Greensboro. Then, in October, Koury's Imperial Corp. breaks ground on Four Seasons Mall.

April 1974: Alpert breaks ground on the Carolina Circle Mall in the city's northeastern outskirts. The owners figure the location will attract shoppers from Reidsville,Eden, Burlington and even southern Virginia. The site is difficult to reach by car, but Mayor Jim Melvin and other city leaders push successfully for public money for street improvements.

February 1975: Koury's Four Seasons Mall opens off High Point Road. The two-level mall features about 95 stores and 900,000 square feet of retail space. It's the city's first enclosed mall.

February 5, 1976: Belk opens at Carolina Circle. It's the mall's first store.

June 1976: The mall's ice skating ring opens.

July 30, 1976: The mall sponsors a gala ball benefiting the Carolina Theatre. More than 1,200 people dance to Glenn Miller and other Big Band music. There's talk of making the ball an annual event.

Aug. 4, 1976: The mall holds its grand opening. Mall manager Ray Brantley says the special features like the ice rink will appeal to children much as Ronald McDonald and McDonald's playgrounds help sell hamburgers. ``The housewife spends most of the disposable income in the family,'' he says. ``And who controls the housewife? The kids. It's true. We want this to be a pleasant place for kids to be.'' Twenty-two stores opened, with another 50 to follow within a few months. Visitors also notice the smell of the city's nearby sewage treatment plant. Equipment is later added to the plant to reduce the smell.

November 1976: Piccadilly's cafeteria and the mall's six-screen cinema open.

December 4, 1977: At 10:30 on a Sunday morning, three deer,apparently startled by cleaning equipment churning through the mall parking lot, panic and run through two plate glass windows. The deer then fall 18 feet to the mall floor, near the ice rink. One doe breaks its neck and dies. The other two are captured and released. Deer are a common site near the mall, which is still on the outskirts of town at this time.

August 1986: An Australian firm buys Carolina Circle through its U.S. subsidiary, Sunshine Properties Inc. of Dallas. The new owner promises to renovate the mall to keep up with Four Seasons. At the time, Carolina Circle's vacancy rate is 10 percent, compared to 1 percent at Four Seasons. Shopper traffic is sagging.

April 9, 1987: Four Seasons opens its new third floor after 18 months of construction. That brings the mall's repertoire to 200 stores.

June 1988: A $6 million renovation project is completed and Strouse Greenberg unveils the new Carolina Circle Mall.Changes include a new logo, brighter lighting, and a $250,000 custom-built carousel. The owners eliminate the mall's most distinctive feature: the ice rink. Merchants and skaters are incensed. It was the only ice rink in Greensboro.

Jan. 15, 1991: Robbers shoot and wound a 54-year-old man while he walks out of the mall's Montgomery Ward store with his two daughters. The incident fuels a perception that the mall is dangerous.

Sept. 11, 1992: Greensboro police open a satellite station at the mall. The city pays $1 a year for the space. City leaders say they hope the station will make shoppers feel more secure. Some Carolina Circle merchants complain that having a police station is a bad thing because it gives visitors the impression that the mall needs a police station.

Sept. 30, 1993: George D. Zamias Developer, buys the mall for $16 million in cash and agrees to take over the $21.17 million mortgage. Company president George D. Zamias promises to market the mall aggressively.

February 1994: The U.S. Postal Service signs a 10-year lease to put a mail facility in the first floor of the Carolina Circle Belk's department store. Belk keeps the top floor open as a store.

July 1996: Some of the mall's bread-and-butter stores -Camelot records and Waldenbooks, for instance - already are gone as Piccadilly Cafeteria says it will close its doors at the end of the month. A few days later Radio Shack says it, too, will move soon. Remaining merchants worry about how they'll survive.

Updates:

1998: Belk and Dillard's finally close their stores, leaving Montgomery Ward as the sole anchor.

Fall 1999: Guilford County has tentative plans to purchase the mall and convert in to offices and a community college campus.

January 2002: Carolina Circle Mall is now pretty much completely deserted. All the retailers have moved out, and the plan is that the center will eventually be converted into a new sports and retailing facility.

They tried to build a new enclosed mall in Northwest Greensboro near the Bryan Blvd, expressway but the NIMBYs fought hard to keep that plan from materializing and the developers eventually gave up. Once the I-840 northern loop is completed, i'm sure the idea for new mall for northwest Greensboro will resurrect from the dead. Another good place to build a super regional mall would be some where between Greensboro and Burlington. near I-85/40 or Greensboro's eastern loop. There is alot of residential going up between Greensboro and Burlington.

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The New York Times has an article on Sunday, December 28th about the Mall of Memphis, which closed on December 24th. I'd post the link, but it's registration required.

Anyway, one of the things the article mentioned was the fact that a few years ago, management had installed police guard towers in the parking lot to make shoppers feel safer.

Now, that did a lot for its image, right? :lol:

And this was a mall that had opened in only 1981, yet reached that point in just 22 years.

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Doesn't Charlotte have two old malls along North Tryon? Where is the old 1950's grocery store? I always thought that place was cool.

Mixed use pedestrian retail villages seem to be the future, where you have a large population in walking distance and there is transit access. I have never liked malls. Even when I was a kid I didn't like them. We had a huge mall near where I lived in Alabama as a kid and it took hours to walk around it. My mom would spend hours in that place. I didn't like going there.

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The Detroit metro has gone crazy with these pedestrian retail villages. All these suburbs seem to think that they can create their own charming downtowns. We've got one that's been open for a few years, as well as 2 or 3 under construction, and more in planning. My city is planning a large one for a vacant piece of land in our "downtown" area. It's really just a mall in disguise, except that you have to walk outdoors to get from shop to shop. It's even got several mammoth parking lots to go with it and add that sprawling, suburban feel that city planners are trying to avoid. I guess they've never heard of a parking garage. Although the two story height limit doesn't help anything either.

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