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               KNOLLWOOD MALL: ST LOUIS PARK, MN

Matthew Cody's Commentary:

Posted May 11, 2005 (user submitted)

I first visited Knollwood mall back in august 1996. At the time, Kohls and Montgomery Ward were the main anchors. It was "back to school" time so the Kohls end of the mall was quite busy. Walking through the mall, the next busy store was TJ. Maxx. Further you go down, the more dead it gets. The interior of the mall seemed to be original, but with a few modern things added to make it look updated without spending a few too many bucks.

The food court was dead. McDonalds and Sabboro were the only two open restaurants. The movie theatre was somewhat busy, the smell of fresh popcorn and cookies from the cookie shop (Can't recall the name) across the walkway. Downstairs was a KRS computer school. The ceiling was a vaulted mirror type with many little light bulbs like a carousel. Take a right and you go down to Applebee's the now gone Walgreen's. A jeweler was at the corner.

Heading down to Montgomery Ward, the mall seemed to get more vacant. The Fun Shop and Arcade were the only two busy stores. Radio Shack was there and in business. The last store before Montgomery Ward was Pet Ranch, having a moving sale.

Walking in to the Montgomery Ward was like a time warp. It appeared that the store hasn't had a remodel since it opened a while back. The old logo hung above the mall entrance. I might be wrong, but I believe the store was two stories. I didn't bother to go upstairs. Walking between sofas to go to the `Electric Avenue' I walked past a ceiling fan display, which hung a few non active models. Montgomery Ward was dead. I recall seeing an employee sitting at the jewelry counter reading the newspaper. No wonder it was one of the first stores to close in Minnesota. The outside of the mall appeared to be mismatched. Kohl's looked brand new, as did the DSW shoe store. Walgreen's hadn't seen a remodel since it opened. Montgomery Ward was a big limestone colored block at the end.

I was recently there back in February 2005 when I noticed that the Walgreen's was across the street and in its place was a brand new Old Navy. The Montgomery Ward was now a Cub Foods. Inside Kohl's was still there, and busy as ever. TJ. Maxx was still there. The food court was dead. No restaurants but all the chairs and tables were still there. The mall was cut off after the food court. No entrance to Cub Foods from the inside of the mall.

Sultan's Commentary:

Posted March 23, 2005 (user submitted July 22, 2004)

I have no recollection of when Knollwood Mall opened its doors, but I'll venture to guess (from the architectural style) that it was sometime in the early 1970's. I moved to the Minneapolis suburb of St. Louis Park in 1991 when I was 9 years old, and at that time, Knollwood Mall was a major player among malls in the Twin Cities, a metro area known for its staunch dedication to indoor shopping centers. This was a mall that did not see its downfall from another big shopping center opening up nearby, nor a proliferation of big-box retail in the area, but because of incompetent business and architectural practices and a lack of forward thinking among its owners. I can only tell the story beginning in 1991, because I had not visited the mall prior to that.

Knollwood Mall sits nestled in between the intersections of Highway 7 and Blake Road and Highway 7 and Texas Avenue in St. Louis Park, Minnesota. Around the time Knollwood opened, Ridgedale Shopping Center (with 140+ stores) had also opened in a farmer's field 3-4 miles away in Minnetonka, MN. Ridgedale was not seen as competition for Knollwood, because it was (and still is) common for malls in this part of the metro area to be located within only a few miles of each other. Knollwood would be very successful for its first 20 years of its life. Ridgedale also filled a different niche than Knollwood. Ridgedale was seen as a metro-wide shopping destination, while Knollwood was seen as a shopping place for mainly people in St. Louis Park and Hopkins.

In 1991 (as far back as I can remember), Knollwood was a proud and healthy mall. Even though it was only around 300-400,000 square feet, it was anchored by Carson Pirie Scott (formerly Donaldson's, a local chain) on the west side, and a Montgomery Ward on the east side, and a 4-screen movie theatre anchoring the back. There was also a TJMaxx anchoring the front flank. There was probably 75 to 80 stores in that small space, and vacancy never went above 5 percent.

There was a food court that had a Sbarro, 1 Potato 2, Subway, McDonald's, a Chinese place (whose name I forgot), and a Dairy Queen/Orange Julius. There was a Petland pet store, a Hallmark store, Fun Shop, Sam Goody, Carribean Tanning Salon, a 99 cent store, Christopher & Banks, KRS Computer School, Radio Shack, Foot Locker, Regis Salon, Applebee's, Merle Norman, an arcade called "Gold Mine", an art store, and other stores whose names slip my mind.

Every weekend, there was a HUGE sports cards show in the corridors of the mall. I collected cards at that time, and I would always to to the shows, then walk around the mall. I would go to movies at the theatre almost weekly, and I'd watch my younger brother get his picture taken with Santa every Christmas in the main commons area. Kids could get their pictures taken with the Easter Bunny every Easter. Knollwood did good business, and was very profitable. Then in 1994, things changed.

Carson Pirie Scott closed shop, but was quickly replaced by a Kohl's. Then Montgomery Ward's closed and would stay abandoned for another four years. A man (I forgot his name) purchased Knollwood around this time, and announced he would open a 16-screen multiplex movie theatre in the mall, and that it would take up the entire eastern half of the mall. So they kicked all the businesses out of the east half, and emptied the area out.

But the theatre never came. It was never built. I have no idea why, it just never happened.

So one half of the mall was forcibly abandoned. Instead of re-opening that half of the mall from the indoors, they gutted out a huge chunk of that part of the mall, and a department store called "Everyday Hero" (currently DSW Shoe Warehouse) was opened. They also forcibly closed down the 4-screen movie cinema (that place is still abandoned). There was no entry to the mall. This wouldn't be the last time they tried to cut off the mall's lifeline.

In 1998, they decided to renovate the abandoned Montgomery Ward's and turn it into a much-needed Cub Foods grocery store. I worked there for two weeks when I was 16, and quit shortly after due to managerial abuse. They DID NOT build an entranceway from Cub Foods to the rest of the mall. Even though the grocery store was physically part of the mall, they essentially cut off the grocery store to everything else. Now we had two anchors (Cub, DSW) that were cut off from the rest of the place.

In 2000, they gutted yet ANOTHER part of the mall out to build a mini-anchor (Old Navy) that would NOT be connected to the mall. This time, they kicked out MORE existing tennants to build it. They were not in the eastern half of the mall, they were in the center, next to the main entrance. This was the second forced abandonment of stores in Knollwood. The Old Navy was built, but again, wihout ANY connection to the rest of the mall.

The food court then went downhill. The Dairy Queen left first, then the McDonald's, then the Subway (who moved into a strip mall adjacent to the main mall), then the Chinese place, then the 1 Potato 2, then eventually the Sbarro, which actually held on for a few years.

And do you want to know what's currently at the Knollwood Mall Food Court??

Nothing.

All the eating places have been boarded up and drywalled-over. The only things to eat and drink at Knollwood Mall's "food court" are chips and pop from one of six or so vending machines they installed in the back of the court. Interestingly, all the tables and chairs remain. But who would want to sit down there when there's absolutely no eating establishments in the area??

The pet store, Hallmark and numerous other stores were long gone, They stopped having baseball card shows at the mall. Most of the place was now a glorified strip mall, with a Cub Foods, Old Navy and DSW Shoe Warehouse not connected to each other in any way.

Just recently, most of the stores in the strip-mall extension that piers out of the normal mall have closed. There's now only the Subway and a party supply store, and that's it.

Things kind of changed in 2003, with the addition of a Dress Barn and an Avenue women's clothing store with entranceways from the outside and also into the mall's main corridor. No doubt that guy who owned the place and planned all those cut-off anchor stores isn't running the show anymore. Panera Bread opened a couple years ago, though it's the only fast-food eating establishment in the mall.

Applebee's and Kohl's still exist, but Radio Shack, Foot Locker, the art gallery and numerous other stores in the west corridor no longer are there.

Today, Knollwood Mall is on life support. It consists (going east to west) a Cub Foods that's not connected to the mall (but physically part of the mall), an almost-abandoned strip mall section just south of that, a DSW Shoe Warehouse and Old Navy not connected to any part of the mall (yet physically part of the mall), the abandoned 4-screen theatre on the northwest corner of that, the somewhat thriving south flank of the east corridor with a Dress Barn, Avenue and TJMaxx, the abandoned food court to the north of that, then the Panera Bread and Kohl's on the west side.

Vacancy at this mall is probably well over 50 percent. If it's not a dead mall, it's at least a dying mall, because most of it has been transformed into a glorified strip-mall structure. At best, the mall is on life support. But one has to ask which part of the mall is really "the mall".

It almost seems like Knollwood has been turned into a type of unhealthy mutant.

James Kaplan's Commentary:

Posted December 2, 2006 (user submitted)

I have no idea when the "original" Knollwood Mall was built, but by 1958 when I moved to St. Louis Park there was a thriving open air strip mall on this site. It was anchored on the southwest end by Powers department store, had a large Woolworths and Musicland record store among the tenants I recall. There may also have been a JC Penneys. There was also a Country Club Supermarket at or near the east end. (This chain long gone in the Twin Cities)

The original mall was torn down and rebuilt as a partly enclosed mall, sometime in the 1970s as suggested by the original article. Also interesting is that the the northeast corner of what is now the mall property (at 36 1/2 Street and Texas) was once occupied by a St. Louis Park grade school and I believe it disappeared during the course of the property's first reincarnation. There has been more destruction and reconstruction since that time, apparently with a lack of success.

Photos:

Collections.MNHS.org - link to old photos of the mall/plaza









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