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               METHUEN MALL: METHUEN, MA

Harry Esenwine's Commentary:

Posted November 20, 2006 (User submitted August 24, 2004)

Methuen Mall was developed by First Hartford Realty Corp. in the early 70's and was virtually the only mall in the area at the time.

Located on 56 acres facing Pleasant Valley Road, it originally contained about 60 stores and two anchoer-Sears and Jordan Marsh.

In the mid-80's, the mall was renovated and a food court was added together with a Filene's Basement.

The early 90's saw the construction of a major mall at the site of the Rockingham Park horse race track in nearby Salem, NH. Sears left Methuen Mall to anchor the new center and Ann & Hope took over the Sears space some time later.

Jason's Commentary:

The Methuen Mall was about a half-million square foot shopping center with a terrible location. Located near freeways but not near any sort of strip, it was less than a mile from tax-free New Hampshire. Also, the area--in suburban Lawrence [see next submission for corrections], MA, a town so poor that the median income is less than $10,000 a year--would be unable to support the Methuen Mall AND competition at once. It was asking for it from day one.

For years, it co-existed peacefully with the smaller Rockingham Mall which was on the "strip" in Salem, NH. Rockingham, with Bradlees and Child World as anchors, was a fairly small mall and was no threat to the larger Methuen Mall. However, in 1992 the new Rockingham--The Mall at Rockingham Park--opened, right across from the other Rockingham Mall. With 1.3 million square feet of retail space, it is still the largest mall in the state of New Hampshire. Rockingham Mall was quickly big boxed--in stages, actually, they did half the plaza at a time--as it buckled to its next-door neighbor's competition.

Methuen Mall's descent was slower. I believe it had Sears and Jordan Marsh as anchors originally, and then Jordan Marsh left and was replaced in the mid-1990s by the last Ann & Hope to ever open its doors. By then, tenants were already running scared, and the Ann and Hope closed within a couple years of opening (Ann and Hope, incidentally, never had more than 7 stores but their behemoth outlets were landmarks: they literally invented the discount dept. store format, and were copied by Sam Walton and countless others). Soon Sears closed, and most of the mall went with it. The only remaining part of the original mall was an Applebees with an exterior entrance. In 1997, someone cooked-up a very ill-fated attempt to save the mall by turning one of the anchors into a civic and convention center. The first event: an all-night rave. They had no idea what was actually going on, but obviously the police were involved and that was the end of the convention center.

Soon the mall owners began trying to pressure Applebees to leave so they could raze the mall and start anew. Applebees refused, saying that business was fine and their lease was not yet up. To retaliate, the mall management demolished the entire mall around applebees, leaving a standalone applebees "wedge" (I say that because keep in mind it was part of the mall!) amid rubble. Applebees left soon later.

The first time I actually went was when the rubble was still present, but everything (including all traces of the mall) were gone, so I saw nothing. The only thing remaining was an outlot plaza (which is still there today) with Market Basket and a dead Caldor. Two of my roommates grew up within 2 miles of that mall, so Ive heard a lot about it, but unfortunately never saw it.

Its replacement, the coveted "Loop" is actually a fairly effective big box center; it has a broad "main street" type of walkway with lots of landscaping and benches and things, and a mix of big box stores and mall stores, as well as a big movie theatre and lots of restaurants. The idea was not so much a mall as an "entertainment complex;" a place to go hang out, eat, and possibly duck into a few shops at. It's working, and Wal-Mart is about to start construction on a nearby plaza so it's having an effect on the area too.

Lynn's Correction:

(User submitted April 29, 2006)

A quick note to say it is listed in the wrong city [since corrected]. The Methuen Mall (which was built in 1974) was not in Lawrence, MA. To be exact it was in Methuen, Massachusetts and was off Exit 3 on Route 213 on Pleasant Valley Road.

I was born, raised and still live in the area so I do happen to know this, especially since I spent my teen years in the Methun Mall which in it's time actually was popular since it was the only local mall. Until the Mall at Rockingham Park opened in 1991. Then the Methuen Mall died.

Please ignore most of "Jason's commentary", he obviously has no clue what he speaks. His comments about Lawrence were unjust and uncalled for, mostly because Lawrence has nothing to do with the former Methuen Mall.

Links:

The Loop - The new and improved shopping center on the former Methuen Mall site










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