SHOPPINGTOWN MALL: DEWITT (NEAR SYRACUSE), NY
Jack Thomas's Commentary
Posted May 7, 2011. Revised August 8, 2016
The Shoppingtown Mall originally opened in 1954 as an open air shopping plaza developed by the Eagan Development Corporation. Tenants included Dey Brothers, The Addis Company(these two later merged to form one company, Addis and Dey's), Woolworth, W.T. Grant, and a Kallet theater in the back of the property. In the early 70's, E.W. Edwards out of Syracuse opened a new store behind the property, resulting in the theater moving to a new building. Shortly after in 1975, the plaza was added onto and enclosed with about 80 to 100 stores. E.W. Edwards was replaced by JCPenney and Syracuse based Chappell's was added to the mix sometime after that.
Things seemed relatively unchanged until 1990 when the major shopping mecca Carousel Center opened up nearby. Also around this time, the mall was bought by Rochester based Wilmorite. And while Carousel didn't put the hurt on Shoppingtown like other malls in the area, management nevertheless reacted. In 1991 the mall was expanded, adding a food court, a new Hoyt's 10 screen theater on the lower level taking up former store space(the old theater was demolished at this point), and a new Addis and Deys to replace the old one. Their former store for a time became Steinbach on the upper level and from what I've heard, a TJ Maxx on the lower level. This was short lived however, and Sears eventually took up shop after vacating nearby Fayetteville Mall in 1995. The mall was also redone inside and out, replacing the 70's era architecture with bright skylights and a new floor. JCPenney also remodeled their original mall entrance at this time. Other anchor changes soon came as well. Chappell's was bought by The Bon-Ton and Addis and Dey's became Kaufmann's. Dick's Sporting Goods added on the the southwest corner of the mall and finally, Woolworth's became Media Play.
Success could not last forever though. The Bon-Ton closed in 2005 in a wave of underperforming stores. In 2006 Kaufmann's was changed over to Macy's. Later that year, Wilmorite was bought by Macerich Development, who had grand plans for the mall. The hallway leading from Dick's Sporting Goods to Sears would be demolished for a lifestyle section and a new main entrance for the mall. The mall evicted all the tenants in the corridor, except for Media Play who shuttered all stores that year anyway. Other tenants found nearby homes in strip malls. However shortly therafter the economy changed those plans and they were ultimately scrapped. Walking through this hallway now, one is treated to many locally owned businesses; a children's gym in the former Old Navy, many karate schools, a skate shop in the old Media Play, and one storefront has been turned into a family restroom and waiting area. While this is unique, you have to hand it to management for trying to keep people in the door. The theater was also expanded and added stadium seating all while taking a huge chunk of the former Bon-Ton store.
One interesting aspect of the mall is its layout, in part because of the geography of the land it sits on. The original 1954 section of the mall sat on a hill, gently sloping down towards the Deys/Sears building, and inside the mall this can still be seen as the hallway follows the same path. Also, the mall is generally one level, except at the eastern end and the expanded section. This creates for many unique spots in the mall to explore, one of which is a sunken courtyard halfway down the Sears wing with benches, that leads to offices and out to the mall's parking garage(also the only apot in the mall still featuring the 1970's floor and architecture).
Recently, the mall has taken a further turn downward. Macerich defaulted on their payments for the mall, and it was handed to Jones Lang Lasalle who did little to revitalize things. Las Vegas, Nevada based Moonbeam Capital Investments bought the mall in 2014, announcing to revisit the former Macerich plan of demolishing the Sears wing for an outdoor center, as well as other revitalizations of the property towards mix use. These plans have yet to come to fruition, but the job has been made easier as several small stores have closed. A triple blow in 2015-16 came in the form of Macy's, JCPenney and Dick's Sporting Goods all leaving the mall. Sears remains the only anchor left and despite assurances that they'll stay, the company's fortunes continue to decline.
I recommend a visit to this mall before it's gone or drastically altered. There are still a few signs of life left, and the "community wing" of local business continues to thrive. Overall, the clock is ticking on this mall continuing to be a viable retail center.
Posted May 3, 2011 (user submitted January 17, 2008)
Last time I was there about a third of the shops were vacant. From what I've heard the property changed hands about two years ago, and the new owners had to hike up the rent to pay for the acquisition. I hate going there now because it reminds me too much of Dawn of the Dead, especially the Sears wing, which is down to two stores.
Shoppingtown Mall Official Web Site
Exclusive photos taken by Jack Thomas. Photos date from 2005 to present day.