ST LOUIS CENTRE: ST LOUIS, MO
Adam Godfrey's Commentary:
Posted March 31, 2005 (user submitted)
Having gone to this mall in high school and later work at the May Company's Corporate Office from 2001 - 2004 I watched this mall go from decent to bad to dead.
In the early 1990's, this mall was a great mall. I featured a Laura Ashley store, Ann Taylor, Gap, Express, and St. Louis' original Abercrombie & Fitch. Adjacent to the mall was F.W. Woolworth on the corner of Sixth and Locust.
When the St. Louis Galleria opened on the outskirts of dowtown in the fall of 1991, it was just a matter of time for St. Louis Centre.
Part of St. Louis Centre's problem was that St. Louis does not have a lot of residential areas near downtown and the parking at St. Louis Centre ranged from $6 to $10. Additionally, the mall shops closed at 6 pm everyday.
By Christmas 1993 , F.W. Woolworth was in the middle of a going out of business sale (they closed all of their remaining St. Louis stores at this time, just four years prior to closing all of their remaining stores), the popular Mrs. Hulling's Restaurant and Pie Pantry had closed, Abercrombie & Fitch downgraded their store to a clearance outlet and closed in early 1994 since the new Galleria location was doing so well.
Locally based retailer Edison Brothers was in bankruptcy in 1996. Edison was the owner of chains such as 579, Oaktree, Jeans West, Bakers Shoes, and The Wild Pair. As they closed large amounts of stores, all of their locations in the mall were closed (they too had newer, more profitable locations at Galleria).
The only stores left in the mall in 2001 were Walgreens, GNC (now closed), Payless Shoes, and a couple of local restaurants that set up shop in the food court where chains like Sbarro, Chick-Fil-A, Taco Bell and McDonald's had vacated. In October of that same year, Dillard's closed after having spent its last few years as a clearance store.
There has been talk of revamping the mall into a mixed use development with residential condos. At one time it was rumored that the city and developers were trying to lure Ikea into the former Dillard's spot.
Another issue for this mall is that Simon Properties defaulted on the loan and mall slumlord Haywood Whichard bought the mall for a bargain basement price. Since then, it has sat decaying with minimal occupancy. He is the same retail slumlord who purchased the River Roads Mall in nearby Jennings, MO and let it fall into disrepair.
Ken Allan's Commentary:
Posted March 25, 2005 (user submitted)
Preface: In addition to the growing list of traditional suburban Dead Malls, there is a growing list of "downtown" Dead Malls. These malls were for the most part were planned to give various downtowns a fighting chance. Some are very healthy and doing well (Copely Plaza, and Prudential Center in Boston, The Gallery In Philly), others are struggling (including a number of them listed on this site) and others have closed completely (The Underground in Atlanta). Some were planned and never made it off the drawing board
(Cadillac Square in Detroit).
St. Louis Centre was planned in the 1970's to bring shopper traffic back to downtown St. Louis. The May Co., which has it HQ in downtown St. Louis was going to build and manage the mall on it's own (and the original name was to be the May Mall), but it chose instead to bring in the SIMON group to plan, build and manage the center and the name St. Louis Centre was born. The idea sounded like a winner, give shoppers their preferred shopping venue (of that time) an enclosed Mall with the unique feature of 2 traditional downtown flagship dept. stores as the anchors (the May Co,'s Famous-Barr at one end, and Associated Dry Good's (ADG) Stix, Baer and Fuller at the other).
Stix and ADG really got behind the project and announced that they would completely rebuild the downtown Stix store, with 6 floors of selling space, and brand new office space on the upper floors for the Stix corporate staff (Buyers would no longer have their office in an alcove off the selling floor), this plan also maintained the downtown store as the largest Stix store, and kept many of the features of a flagship store (restaurants, special events room and the like). Stix then applied for a tax abatement and grant monies since the expensive project would maintain hundreds of jobs downtown.
Work started on St. Louis Centre in the early 1980's with an opening planned for early in 1984, but then Stix was denied it's request for tax abatements and grant for the reconstruction of it's building. The end result being that ADG and Stix sold their building to a real estate developer, moved the HQ staff to a new building on the outskirts of St. Louis, and leased back as a tenant 3 floors for a much more spartan(and smaller) downtown Stix store. Needless to say, one unique aspect of St. Louis Centre was gone and it had not yet opened.
In 1983 ADG sold the Stix chain to Dillard's, and Dillard's announced that they were 100% behind the mall project and they upgraded the stores interior in anticipation of the mall opening.
Dillard's could not at this point enlarge the store as the sale of the building and reduction of the store to the building first 3 floors was already done.
In 1984 St. Louis Centre finally opened to much fanfare and for a little while at least prosperity. The retail trade rag WWD proclaimed "downtown St. Louis Alive Again", and both Dillard's and Famous-Barr proclaimed gigantic increases in sales at their downtown stores. The mall with it's barrel shaped ceiling, and national chains seemed to draw people back downtown.
However the luster would not last, for whatever reason by the early 90's, St. Louis Centre fell out of favor. Shoppers avoided the area at night, and as a result 7:00 PM became the late closing for the Holiday Season, and the rest of the year the complex was closed each day by 6:00 PM. A new Mall the St. Louis Galleria opened in one of the city's more suburban type areas and was an instant and sustained hit, and the tourist trade favored the shopping area inside the restored St. Louis Union Station.
By the mid-1990's Dillard's downgraded it's store to one of it's "clearance stores" (no longer selling regular day to day merch.) and SIMON pulled out as the malls managing agency.
The May Co., stated that it remained committed to the complex, but also warned that the downtown Famous-Barr store was producing sales per square foot 1/2 of what a healthy store is supposed to.
Dillard's pulled out completely in 2001 (and for the record by 2003 the chain would no longer have ANY downtown stores.The pending merger of May Co., into Federated Dept. Stores leaves the complex and the Famous-Barr store in question.