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My Childhood Mall is Dead

August 4, 2009 Retail, Suburban Sprawl, Travel 11 Comments

It opened 8 days before my 7th birthday. Crossroads Mall was a very big deal at the time.  All the malls in Oklahoma City were on the other side of town.  Now we’d have a mall less than 2 miles from home.  I may have been in one of the other malls in town prior to the opening of Crossroads but I doubt it.

When Crossroads Mall opened in 1975 it was the 9th largest shopping mall in the United States, and the largest in Oklahoma. It is still the second largest mall in Oklahoma at 1.3 million square feet.  (source)

West County Center in the St. Louis region, rebuilt and greatly expanded in 2002, is still smaller than Crossroads Mall.

When the mall opened in 1974 my parents were in their early 40s, as I am today.  They saw downtown and retail districts die as new suburban malls took over.  They did not shed a tear, they embraced the change.

Likewise as shopping patterns I don’t mourn the death of Crossroads mall.  I should clarify that it is not totally dead – yet.

But when all four of your anchors are closed the diagnosis is not positive.  The sign, above, lists four anchors as you enter — AMC (which is in its own building outside the mall),   Waldenbooks, Bath & Body Works and Chick-fil-A.  Yes, Chick-fil-A is now listed on signage that used to list stores like Macy’s, Dillard’s, JC Penny, and Montgomery Ward.  Yeah, good luck with Chick-fil-A as an draw.

On the directory they have severed off the four vacant anchor spaces as if they didn’t exist.  I’m sure they wish they didn’t exist.

But from outside and inside it is obvious to the casual observer.  The above space was Montgomery Wards, which closed in 2001.  The East coast chain Steve & Barry’s opened in this space until they went Bankrupt in January 2009.

One by one the remaining long-term anchors all closed – JC Penny in 2007, Macy’s in March 2008, Dillard’s in December 2008.  (source).

It appears all four anchor stores are owned separately from the mall as I spotted for sale signs with different real estate companies.  If so that makes it harder to create a solution unless the mall owner sinks more money and buys all four anchor spaces.  Then what?  Raze it all?

Crossroads was so named for being at the crossroads of two interstates – I-35 and I-240. Retail centers have now developed along both so that rebuilding retail on this massive site would be a risky proposition.

Little has changed inside save for additional interior lighting.  With the exception of the Chick-fil-A, the only remaining long-term tenant may be Spencer’s Gifts:

The location is exactly where it was in 1974.  Although curious, I didn’t go inside.  I hadn’t been in that store in 30 years.

In January the mall was in foreclosure:

Officials say Crossroads Mall could be put up for bids in about 60 days and stores in the mall will remain open for now.

Price Edwards & Co. is now managing the mall and senior vice president Jim Parrack says he hopes to find a buyer who will keep the property as a mall, but some analysts say it could be taken over by a government agency, a school or a medical organization.  (source)

I’m not sure where it stands, not sure I care.  In my lifetime I’ve seen the birth & death of this mall.  Right now it is the roadside wreck you can’t help look at.  It is time to call in Dr. Kevorkian, or a demolition crew, to finish it off.

As people return to the center and flock to newer strip centers this future of this mall as a mall is long over.  Strip centers around the mall built in the last two decades are already housing offices for things like the state Department of Human Services.  A Best Buy and the Toys R Us where I worked for 5 years are hanging on.

Like my parents I will not shed a tear at the loss of the old way of doing retail.

– Steve Patterson

 

Currently there are "11 comments" on this Article:

  1. Jimmy Z says:

    In most malls, the anchors own their own buildings and the mall owner/developer owns the rest. The thought is/was that the anchors would draw the majority of the customers, and the smaller stores would do better from adjacent to the higher traffic, much like how Schnuck’s and Dierberg’s do their suburban strip malls now. And locally, Crestwood and North County are following exactly the same trajectory.

    You’re right, how we shop has changed since both the 60’s and the 70’s and the 20’s and 30’s. While the mid-century enclosed mall and the Depression-era streetcar urban storefronts still work for some shoppers and some business uses, they’re obviously not the “model” for what works today, where shopping online and using the drive-thru have both had major impacts on many, many retailers. The tacky strip mall has morphed into the high-style, almost cartoon-like, “lifestyle” center and Walgreens is building more and more pharmacies with drive-thru’s something that was unheard of twenty years ago.

    And what drives everything, pardon the pun, is the single-occupant vehicle. Most people are inherently lazy. Given the right incentives, you can convince a minority that commuting to work or school every day by using alternate means, like biking or public transit makes sense. You can convince another group to use transit to get to their entertainment, be it sports, concerts or drinking. But it’s increasingly difficult to convince people that they can use alternate means when they shop. What if we find something that’s “too big”? How many retailers offer local delivery? Would/could we use a taxi? Besides being easier to just drive over, it also answers both the “what if/just in case” question AND it doesn’t tie you to a schedule. Retailers know this. Even the traditional downtown department stores were early adaptors of attached parking.

    Yes, it’s having a huge, negative impact on our urban and rural areas. It’s impacting the face of our architecture. It’s impacting how we interact. But it’s also what most of us, as a society, are CHOOSING! Money talks, loudly. This mall is dying because shoppers are choosing to shop elsewhere – they’re still shopping, just not there. We, as a society, may love to dis WalMart, but there’s a reason they’re doing well, and it’s not because they have restricted parking and show windows lining their sidewalks – they’re giving their customers (us?) what they/we want at a price that we think is fair in an environment that doesn’t cross the line into where we’ll actually stay away. If we, individually, as advocates and as a society, don’t like it, we definitely have the power. But until we quit spending in places we don’t like, they’re going to continue to either thrive or fester (depending on your perspective)!

     
  2. USMC says:

    Crazy. I remember when Shepherds Mall went the same route, but I could see why at the time. Now Crossroads!!! Is Penn Square still the main draw? With it’s proximity to Edmond I still can’t see where everyone is going. Is it all going to the strip malls like the new one on the site of the former Bell Isle power plant? These times, they are a changing.

     
  3. john says:

    Self destructive tendencies trump Dr. K. Overbuilt malls with their large impermeable parking lots are environmental disasters yet to be addressed. They could easily be converted to auto dealers but that idea was overbuilt too with more disasters to come. The car culture and its numerous offsprings has much to account for in our collective demise. It is ugly to watch, worse to experience, on the way up and on the way down.

     
  4. Dennis says:

    I read several years ago the shopping malls would be the abandoned ghettos of the future. I don’t remember who wrote it, but I have remembered it these many years. At that time malls were still a hot comodity, bustling with shoppers and enjoying full occupancy. I thought at the time that the guy was crazy. Now I look at NW Plaza, Jamestown and others that have gone “ghetto”. I think large strip centers will be the malls of the future.

     
  5. Angelo says:

    If strip centers are the malls of the future, and malls are going ghetto today…..

    But anyways, I can’t wait until every last mall is torn down and the parking lots ripped up. Strip malls are next, hopefully..and soon.

    Perhaps the lazy people will sit in their homes and CHOOSE to rot while the rest of us build real cities again.

     
  6. Kris7 says:

    I never was a mall rat, but an over-the-hill cultural symbol is sad to see.

    I’ve been reading “Big Box Reuse” by Julia Christensen. The book is not so much about malls, but old big box retail buildings. (It mentions the Lebanon-Laclede County Library in Lebanon, MO…a reused Kmart building.)

    One draw about Wal-Mart is that they offer one-stop shopping. Wouldn’t it be great if locally-owned businesses teamed up and took over a mall space in order to offer one-stop shopping?

    I don’t necessarily mean flea markets and antiques..but produce markets, bakeries, hardware etc… each shop individually run, but still offering the shopper with everything under one roof.

     
  7. Angelo says:

    Kris,

    That’s what a commercial strip is supposed to do. A collection of small businesses offering one-stop shopping as a whole.

    Though, if you wanna be “in the know”, a bunch of indie artists and crafters have been contemplating taking over one of those abandoned grocery stores in the city (there are a few).

     
  8. Margie says:

    Dude, you didn’t go inside Spencer’s Gifts? Next time you’re there, please do go in and get me a blacklight unicorn poster!!!

     
  9. Brad says:

    What people don't know is that we all own Crossroads. The Federal Reserve now owns Crossroads since they took on toxic assets from Bear Stearns so that JP Morgan was willing to purchase Bear Stearns.

     
  10. Angie says:

    Wow. In the mid-90s, my first husband and I spent nearly every weekend being mall-rats here at Crossroads. Well, this was after we got our first car (we were only 19). Before our car, we walked to Heritage Park Mall in Midwest City, which now sits completely abandoned. How disturbing and sad to think Crossroads may be next. When I was in labor with our first child, 16 years ago, they told me to walk… and walk we did, for hours, through Crossroads. It's still open, apparently… but it doesn't look like it will be for long.

     

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