WALNUT MALL: PETERSBURG, VA
Laura Willoughby's Commentary
Posted June 3, 2006 (user submitted)
Located in Petersburg, Virginia, twenty-five miles south of Richmond, this mall was built in Petersburg's growing Crater Road commercial corridor in the 1960s. The 300,000 square foot mall had two anchor stores at either end, Thalhimer's Department Store (a Richmond based department store that completely folded in the 1990s) and J.C. Penney's. Rucker-Rosenstock's, another smaller Petersburg department store was located in the central strip next to Penney's for several years. Along with Rosenstock's a corridor of approximately thirty stores connected the two anchors with several including Rosenstock's and a drug store having exterior doors to the parking lot as well.
In 1972 the mall was advertised as the weather-
controlled shopping showplace of Southside, Virginia (considered roughly the sixty mile area between Petersburg and the North Carolina state line). At that time, Petersburg was the retail metropolis of Southside, VA even though its population was only 39,000. From the beginning the mall appears to have been a mixture of local and national stores -
several local stores moving to the mall from their downtown Petersburg location or adding satellite stores as Rosenstock's did. Other tenants from the early 1970s included a grocery store, People's Drug Store, So-Fro Fabrics and Thom McAn shoes. A movie theatre and post office may also have been inside the mall.
From early pictures of the interior the mall definitely seems to have had 60s and 70s decor including globe light fixtures, white circular planters and wooden benches. The interior changed little in the 80s -minor changes appear to include the addition of pastel banners and fixtures constructed of those tubular metal rods. By 1985, the theatre had closed -a multi-screen cinema was built several miles south of the mall.
The mall still appears to be viable in 1985 with national chains including Radio Shack, General Nutrition Center, Kay Bee Toy and Hobby, Walden Books, Kinney's Shoes, Foot Locker, Lerner's and a Pearle Vision Center. There were also several restaurants that appear to have been locally owned and operated. The two department stores were also still in business. However, with only about thirty to thirty-five stores and no major renovations, the mall was doomed when Southpark Mall, a large regional mall opened next to Interstate 95 in the neighboring city of Colonial Heights, less than ten miles from Walnut Mall in the late 1980s. By 1991, Walnut Mall had been completely vacated -many of the national chains including Penney's moved to Southpark and Walnut Mall was boarded up -
albeit with flimsy plywood covering the entrances!
Fifteen years later, the vacant mall still sits. There apparently was some talk in the mid-90s of a Home Depot and a Kroger grocery store replacing the mall but those talks if they ever existed fell through. Petersburg actually lost population in the 80s and 90s so re-opening or building another mall in the city appears to be out of the question. Wal-mart built a Supercenter about three miles south of the mall five or six years ago, although the mall site would have been an ideal location since it borders a large middle class neighborhood. Other big box stores including Home Depot, Target, and Best Buy have built less than ten miles away around Southpark Mall in the past decade and that area continues to grow with the recent additions of a Hilton Hotel, Panerra Bread Company and a Starbucks that is under construction. Later this summer construction is going to start on a multiplex cinema -this has siphoned off all major retailers with the exception of Wal-mart from Petersburg. The Crater Cinemas that replaced the original Walnut Mall cinema closed in the late 90s and has recently been demolished and replaced with a Walgreens Pharmacy.
About a year ago, the mall site was mentioned as a possible location for a new city library although many would like to see the library built in downtown Petersburg which is being revitalized. Ironically, some of the merchants that have businesses out in the suburban Crater Road corridor are eyeing moving into the historic downtown which has received a steady influx of new restaurants, art galleries, and specialty shops within the past five years. It appears that Walnut Mall and its site will sit vacant and unused for years to come.
Virginia Film Office had a site up with pics of this place to possibly rent out to movie studios to use in their productions. Reposted by Anita Rose of deadmalls.com
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