Wednesday, March 01, 2006

the day the malls came crashing down

Dixie demolition: Harvey city officials and guests Tuesday watch as demolition finally begins of the Dixie Square Mall, whose interior was destroyed in a car chase for the 1980 film "The Blues Brothers." The property will be replaced by a new shopping center.
(Chicago Tribune photo by Zbigniew Bzdak)

Note from Steve: Apparently today is a popular day for mall closiungs and demolitions.

Mall trashed by 'Blues Brothers' finally is razed
By Stanley Ziemba
Chicago Tribune staff reporter

More than three decades after Jake and Elwood demolished it during the filming of a chase scene for the movie "The Blues Brothers," the long-shuttered Dixie Square Mall in Harvey, Ill. finally has a date with the wrecker's ball.

The deteriorating shopping center -- long a monument to the economic woes facing Chicago's southern suburbs -- is being razed to make way for a new retail center.

Harvey city officials today gathered in the mall's parking lot at 15300 S. Dixie Hwy. to announce the sale of the 57-acre site to a private commercial developer, and to launch the demolition of the 750,000-square-foot structure.

With the sound of bulldozers in the background biting into the brick and concrete shell that once housed more than 60 stores, Harvey Mayor Eric Kellogg and developer John Deneen of the Chicago-based Emerald Property Group described the occasion as "historic" for Harvey and the region.

"President John F. Kennedy once said that a rising tide raises all ships," Kellogg said. "What we're witnessing today is the beginning of a process that will bring new tax revenues to our city and its schools and an opportunity to transform the entire south suburban area."

Calling Dixie Square "a monument to failure and hopelessness, an eyesore and a white elephant," Kellogg said, "From now on, however, we can refer to it as the miracle on Dixie Highway."

The mall, one of the first covered malls in Illinois when it opened on a former golf course in 1966, fell on hard times in the mid-1970s. Crime rates in and near the mall skyrocketed. The economy of the south suburbs declined, and shoppers opted for larger, more opulent shopping centers in the southwest suburbs and elsewhere.

Ironically, it wasn't until after it closed in 1979 that the mall achieved national recognition as the scene of a car chase in the 1980 film, "The Blues Brothers," starring John Belushi and Dan Aykroyd.

The city acquired the site for $150,000 in 1983. Over the years, various proposals -- none successful -- were floated to redevelop the mall as a shopping center, housing complex or industrial park.

Once, there even was as a plan to build a 157,000-square-foot mausoleum. Another time, Harvey officials offered the Chicago White Sox the opportunity to use the land for a new stadium. Again, nothing happened.

Now, Harvey officials have reached an agreement with Deneen to sell the mall site for nearly $500,000 in exchange for a promise to redevelop the site into a $74 million commercial center that would restore Dixie Square to the tax rolls and create an estimated 1,000 jobs.

"We should complete demolishing the exiting mall in the next six weeks," Deneen said. "We plan to build 525,000-square-feet of retail space in the first phase, which would include two big box stores, several so-called junior box stores, several small stores and a supermarket. If all goes according to plan, the we should be up and running by October of 2007."

Among the major national chains with which Emerald Property Group is trying to attract to the center are Old Navy, Barnes & Noble, Borders, DSW and Bed, Bath and Beyond, Deneen said.

"We're excited by this development, and we're confident it will succeed," Deneen said. "Right now, there are no significant retail services in Harvey."

Cook County Commissioner Deborah Sims, who joined several local elected officials and Harvey area civic leaders for the demolition ceremony and whose district includes the mall site, said redevelopment of the old shopping mall land "is a project long overdue."

Kellogg praised former Harvey Mayors Nick Graves and David Johnson having tried to redevelop Dixie Square, and said he was thankful his administration had finally brought about a proposal that promises to reach fruition.

"Finally, we are going to have a strong economic base that is going to give our schools revenue and our citizens in Harvey a new sense of energy, pride and hope," he said.

See also: Dixie Square Mall to be razed

Green Bay mall closes shop
Washington Commons hits end of the line

Gannett Wisconsin Newspapers
Filed by the Green Bay Press-Gazette

GREEN BAY, Wisc. — The end has come for the enclosed downtown shopping center formerly known as Port Plaza Mall.

After 28 years, the mall closed at 9 p.m. Monday. Electricity to the 450,000-square-foot complex now called Washington Commons, whose remaining half-dozen tenants have cleared out in the past week, was being cut today.

If it was only a flash in the pan — or a bad idea from the start, as many have argued — it was at least part of Green Bay's identity.

Rob Loy, now of Scottsdale, Ariz., thinks back to taking the city bus from Edison Junior High to the mall, where he would play video games at Gold Mine and stop at McDonald's before going to the YMCA for swim lessons.

"I bought my first computer at Video Concepts. I bought my first CD at Musicland — paid $2 more than I would have at Shopko," Loy said, "my first leather coat from Wilson, my first camera from some camera store. And I won't forget the nuts from Buddy Squirrel's."

Loy, whose first memories of the mall were from Bruce the Spruce and the animated characters in Prange's Christmas displays, later became a Santa Claus in the center court and remembers the mad rush on the day after Thanksgiving.

"Green Bay had never seen so many trendy teen clothing stores under one roof like that," said Tawni Gustavson, who as a Green Bay West High senior landed a job at Foxmoor Casuals when Port Plaza opened on Aug. 10, 1977. "The mall was definitely a new and exciting addition to our small city."

Phyllis Hutte, manager at the Terrace Room restaurant inside Prange's and later Younkers for 38 years, recalls the boost in business that came with the mall's opening.

The upstairs restaurant needed 10 waitresses a day — 13 during the holiday season — to serve a daily volume of 500 customers. But in the last two years before the Terrace Room closed in 2003, that volume slipped to 50 a day, she said.

The mall's beginnings, which stretch two decades before its opening, remain controversial.

Hutte witnessed many breakfast conversations between Prange's manager Jerry Atkinson, considered by many to be the impetus behind the downtown shopping center, and other prominent local men about the mall in the late 1960s.

Port Plaza sprang from a series of citizen committees known as Gregby, a contraction for Greater Green Bay, but the process moved slowly. The original intent was to expand business toward Monroe Avenue and secure more parking space, said then-Adams Street music store owner Don Poh.

"That covered mall was never supposed to have been constructed in the first place," said Poh, arguing that the mall's development under revised plans destroyed the waterfront with the former Fox River Ramp and cost the downtown some of its best businesses.

"If it was a mistake for Green Bay, it was a mistake for everybody in the country because all cities were doing the exact same thing," said Paul Jadin, president of the Green Bay Area Chamber of Commerce president and a former Green Bay mayor.

The mall quickly wasn't meeting its projections and wasn't generating enough income.

The mall was in decline before Development Associates, a team of local investors, bought the mall in November 2001.

It's uncertain what will become of Washington Commons, and given the lawsuits involving Development Associates, Baylake Bank and the city of Green Bay, it may take a while. Talk in recent years has leaned toward restoring the street grid through the property, and it seems for certain that the commons will never return.


Tarrytown Mall set to come down
Rocky Mount Telegram

ROCKY MOUNT, N.C. - It's finally coming down, and a celebration is planned.

The Rocky Mount Area Chamber of Commerce and the city of Rocky Mount have invited the public to join a 10 a.m. celebration Friday at Tarrytown Mall, said The Chamber President David Farris. People attending the event should enter by the Sunset Avenue entrance, as other entrances will be blocked, he said.

Farris said work at the mall is under way. McCrory Construction Co. of Columbia, S.C., will remove asbestos and wiring at the mall and disassemble bricks that will be pulverized.

The Chamber's Chief Executive Officer Eddie Baysden said work at the mall is not a demolition project. The celebration program was developed by The Chamber in concert with the city, he said.

"There will be no wrecking ball knocking the mall down," Baysden said.

Materials that can be recycled will be removed from the mall by McCrory, he said.

Overland, Kan.-based M.D. Management Co., owner of the mall, spent about $500,000 after the 1999 flood to clean up the inside of the mall and make sure there was no mold or contamination, Farris said.

"The celebration Friday puts an end to what occurred in 1999 by removing the mall – an eyesore and tangible evidence of Floyd's devastation," Farris said.

Farris said the 135,000-square-foot Sam's Club and other businesses that will build at the Tarrytown site will create new economic development opportunities that will do what Tarrytown did for the city in the 1960s as Eastern North Carolina's first enclosed mall.

"The Sam's Club will bring people from 30 to 40 miles away to shop in Rocky Mount," he said.

"In the 1960s and 1970s, the intersection of Sunset Avenue, U.S. 64 and U.S. 301 bypass was the major retail center for Eastern North Carolina.

"I am encouraged about the prospects of this once again becoming a major retail hub in Eastern North Carolina. We're resurrecting a great retail center."

Alan Matthews, business recruiter for The Chamber, said Sam's Club will have the same draw Tarrytown had and create 350 jobs.

Farris said the tax base for the city and Nash County was substantially decreased after Tarrytown was flooded. Sam's Club and businesses that locate on outparcels will increase the city's and county's tax base and generate sales tax.

"There's been no revenue from the Tarrytown site for the last six years," Farris said. "The city has gotten no utility revenue out of that area."

Matthews said the Sam's Club project and outparcels at the Tarrytown site will be a $25 million investment – including the Sam's Club, restaurants and other businesses. It will generate $38 million from construction and $35 million from operations – for a total of $73 million locally, he said.

Farris said the celebration will last from 30 to 45 minutes.

"We want people to be there," he said. "This is a win-win for Wal-Mart, Sam's Club and Rocky Mount.

"They get a great site and high visibility. We get rid of one of the most visible remnants of Hurricane Floyd. That's what we're going to celebrate – the end of an era and the exciting start of a new era."


  1. Another mall suffers the same fate as Carolina Circle. LOL

  2. There are many, many "Carolina Circles," as you call them.

  3. Sad news, what is going to go where the mall is at? It might have told me in the article but Im too lazy.

  4. There were three malls mentioned. The one near Chicago is being replaced by a new mall. The one in Wisconsin is in limbo, and the one in North Carolina will become the site of a new Sam's Club.

  5. The one in Wisconsin brings back such nostalgia for high school boyfriend and I used to roadtrip (30 minutes was HUGE when we were 16!) up there and shop that poor excuse for a mall on the weekends. Remember County Seat? I used to buy ALL my clothes at that crappy store, that is until my little sister borrowed one of their sweaters from me, got caught in a rainstorm, and the sweater literally dissolved. We'd eat lunch at the Mc Donald's because it was all super-sized and pimped out for a mall Mc D's.

    Then we'd go to the park with a tub of Baskin Robbins ice cream, sit on the edge of Lake Michigan (er, the *green* bay inlet part), smoke cigarettes, and make out. Ah, those were the days....

  6. Those sound like good tiomes in Green Bay. I remeber County Seat well. I bought a pair of Orange Tab Levis from them that suffered te same fate as your sweater.

    Seems like the mall McDonald's from back in the day were always deluxe. I remember eating at the one in Water Tower Place in Chicago about 10 years ago and it was friggin HUGE! But it was one of the nicest McD's I've ever seen.

  7. One more mall doing some demo - NRV in C-burg, VA.

    I have some memories of meeting a college sweetheart (to see a movie) there back when I was attending NRCC back in '89 or so.


  8. New River Valley Mall is a little different than the other examples above. It is indeed a dead mall, but it's never been dead enough to close down.

    I have some pretty fond memories of NRV's early days too. There was a woman who worked at Lilly's Crown Jewelers that I chased around for years. You know the one; I told you about her before :-)