SOUTHTOWN MALL: FORT WAYNE, IN
Robert Gaul's Commentary:
March 15, 2005 (user submitted August 19, 2004)
The wrecking ball was placed to the mall this past Tuesday (17 August, 2004). The article in the local paper link is:
As for "redevelopment", Menards has agreed to build on the site (by late 2005), with several other "unamed" stores to follow. The (former) Sears site will house a new police / fire training facility.
All former traces of the mall will be gone, with new access roads from rte. 27 into "Southtown Centre".
It's just a shame that the city allowed this mall to go under. Not to mention that Hayward Witchard held onto the property after purchasing it, allowing continued deterioration until it was uninhabitable, then trying to sue for more money when the city took it away from him.
We can only hope that the crime in this part of town wil not be a stumbling block to future development, as this part of the city needs revitalization badly.
Michael Woehnker's Commentary:
March 15, 2005 (user submitted December 27, 2004)
Here's some original history on Southtown Mall. I grew within a few miles of that shopping center and it became a regular destination for me.
Southtown Mall opened in 1969 with 2 anchor department stores: Wolf & Dessauer (a local store) and Montgomery Wards. Both stores were only 1 floor. It also included a large family clothing store, Patterson-Fletcher (divn of Hart, Shaffner & Marx) and a 60,000 sq ft G C Murphy.
About 2 years later, Penneys opened in the center court, where a former plywood barrier had stood. They relocated from a strip center store of 42,000 sq ft less than 2 miles down the road to a modern 2-story 180,000 sq ft dept store with restaurant and freestanding auto center.
L S Ayres purchased Wolf & Dessauer and converted it to one of their stores; howver, the merchandising of this 108,000 sq ft store was never up to par with the 3-level 215,000 sq foot store at the premier mall, Glenbrook Square (north side).
G C Murphy's closed and that space became the new entrance to a new wing anchored by Sears. Montgomery Ward's closed their store and Kohl's occupied a large portion of that space. A local jeans retailor, Spiece, took over the remaing square footage.
The "new" Sears wing also included a Service-Merchandise and food court. HOwever, this wing was NEVER fully occupied. This brought the 600,000 sq ft mall up to 950,000 sq ft.
The rest is history.
My first visit to Fort Wayne yielded this mall in June, 2001. I had scoped out that Fort Wayne had two malls, one for each side of town. I knew Glenbrook Sq, the mall for the north side was big and prosperous, but had heard nothing about the respectable 800,000 square-foot mall for the south side. Thinking nothing of it, I went to Glenbrook. It was the super-regional mall it promised to be, yet with cool design and decor. Then, I passed through town and on the south side noticed it a bit more run-down. Coming near the mall I noticed little to no strip at all. I think there was one center, that was about 20-30 years old and across from the mall and not doing so well.
Well, the mall is a disaster. An article I found later in a Fort Wayne newspaper basically described it as a blight on the town, and for good reason. The mall is very large, and set up in a T-Shaped design. It's not completely dead. No, in fact, it's completely open. It's missing all of its anchors but one - Sears. LS Ayres left in 1996, Kohls in 1999 (they built a prototype store in a nearby shopping center), JCPenney, and also Service Merchandise. Losing all these anchors left the mall in despair. In fact, it seems as though the mall declined so fast the management company didn't even have time to board up the dead stores.
Their storefronts are almost completely intact. I noticed an original wooden western-style Casual Corner, an old Deb facade with the hanging racks, and much more. The mall even had dead facades in the food court. The only open food destination was "Connie's", a very local very one-horse thing that looked like it only made nachos and hot dogs. The few stores remaining
were clustered between the food court and Sears, on the bottom part of the T. Also present was an original Orange Julius stand, with the plastic oranges lined up in the glass case in front and the brown facade. This mall was clearly never renovated from inception. I'm very surprised it's still open and/or they don't consolidate and demolish/board off, but hats off to the people trying to make a go of their businesses in the mall. My favorite part of the mall was the crux of the T where the ceilings were wooden and vaulted very high, classic early 80s styling. It's definitely worth it as far as dead malls go.
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of Southtown Mall.
Bing Bird's Eye View:
Southtown mall from a satellite in space