STATION MALL: ALTOONA, PA
Posted December 31, 2006 (user submitted)
The Station Mall was built, I believe, sometime in the 70s, anchored by Hills
and a BiLo Supermarket. It was so named because of its location, the former
site of some sort of rail yard, plus it was next door to the Railroaders
Museum. The design of the mall itself sort of ran with the whole train motif,
with a steam engine logo and both the interior and exterior of the mall trimmed
in railroad ties. There are also two outparcels: a McDonalds and another
outbuilding that has been everything from a video rental place to a mattress
store to a physical therapy office. We shopped at Hills pretty regularly when
I was younger since it was very close to my school, so most of my memories of
the mall are of cherry Icees and hot pretzels. Most of the stores inside the
mall were locally-owned businesses, though there were some franchises like the
Dollar General and the Dairy Queen. There were maybe 25-30 storefronts total.
Looking back, I realize that even when I frequented the mall in the early and
mid-90s, it was already pretty dead. Aside from a few places that had been
there for years, like the Dollar General, the Revco, some restaraunts, and the
Hallmark, other stores came and went regularly. My favorite was a used
bookstore that was there for maybe three years and even that was a long
lifespan for a store at the Station Mall. There were always at least a
half-dozen empty storefronts.
We always referred to the mall as the "dirtball mall," due to it's
less-than-savory location and the even less savory characters that could be
seen browsing the otherwise empty hallways. Most local shoppers are bound to
prefer the Logan Valley Mall across town, which was renovated after a fire in
1994 and is full of national chains and is surrounded by big box stores. The
Hills (later Ames) store was never too bad, but the Bilo and the rest of the
mall always felt very dated and run-down. The interior of Bilo smells like
cigarette smoke, which can't be a good sign for a grocery store. :P
Hills changed to Ames when the chain was bought out, but when Ames closed in
2002, most of the other stores in the mall closed with it. A few stayed open,
but the vast majority of the mall sat empty. The last time I visited the mall
was at Christmastime 2003 to pick up my Chinese food. There were maybe five
stores in the whole place. It was very dark and very creepy, and it was very
strange not to see Santa Claus in the central court.
All sorts of possible fates for the mall were thrown around for a couple of
years, but it was in 2004 that it was purchased by a local doctors' group and
converted into a "medical mall." The Ames was given a spiffy new white glass
and stucco-ish exterior (which looks verrry out-of-place in the middle of very
run-down Altoona), though I'm pretty sure the rest of the mall still looks the
same. For a long time, the old Station Mall sign still stood, complete with
the choo-choo logo, but with a black bar over the "Station" part of the name. :P It's now called the Station Medical Center. The Ames and I think part of
the mall have been converted into doctors' offices.
As part of the arrangement made when the doctors bought the mall, the
remaining retail outfits were allowed to stay, though I have recently heard
rumor that their leases have not been renewed, so how long they actually stay
open at this point is beyond me.
Still remaining are the Bilo, the McDonalds outparcel, the drugstore (now
a CVS), and I think the Dollar General, plus a hair salon, a Chinese
Restaraunt, a pizza place, and the Dairy Queen. The pizza place and Dairy
Queen in particular are pretty cool. They've looked exactly the same since
probably the late 70s. :P If you want to go roam the halls of a pretty much
empty mall, this is the place to go.
(linked from http://www.amtran.org/gallery/images/stationmall.jpg)
http://www.lindaauker.50megs.com/station_mall_altoona.htm - Good offsite writeup
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