Chris Whittaker's Commentary:

Posted May 12, 2004 (user submitted)

Having grown up in the Ithaca area, I was around when the mall first opened in 1976 (I was 4 or so) and remember what the mall was originally like. Back then, the anchors were Hills, Wards, and JC Penney. Also, the mall was decked out in the earth tones and wood motif, with several fountains and fake streams running through the areas near Wards and Penneys, remaining this way until the mid 80's when the mall was redeveloped to its present style Also during this time, there were several changes, including addition of Sears which forced one of the Mall cinema's then 8 screens to close) the sale of JW Rhodes (a mid-upscale store developed by Pyramid when Pyramid was unable to get an upscale anchor to locate to Ithaca) to Bonton, and the expansion and renovation of the Hoyts Theatre from four to eight (and eventually in the mid 90's, ten) screens.

The Cafe Square area originally was set up with a gazebo in the center, used for fashion shows, Santa, and the Easter Bunny with seating surrounding it. Also, there were a couple of local sit down restaurants that occupied the top areas of the Cafe Square. All of this changed when Pyramid renovated the mall in the mid 80's, removing the gazebo and converting the sit down restaurants into overflow seating for Cafe Square.

The movie theaters, originally four screens, were originally accessed through the mall, in an entrance between the arcade and what was then a pizza place (now the alleyway leading from Cafe Square to the theater area in front of Sears). The theaters were then shut off from the mall in 1987, as part of the renovation and expansion of the theater.

IN the late 90's much change took place inside the walls of Pyramid Mall, due, for the most part, to the changing retail scene nationally, as well as regionally. All three of the original anchors of the mall closed, due to Chapter 11 (Ames, which bought out Hills, and Montgomery Ward), or mismanagement of the company (JC Penney). However, due to the mall's location, the needs of big box stores to expand into the smaller markets, and the inability of developers in the Ithaca area to get any large scale power centers built, Pyramid was able to benefit. First, in 1999, Old Navy took over part of the closed Montgomery Wards store. Then in 2001 and 2002, the closed JC Penney was redeveloped with an addition to house three stores, Dick's, Borders, and Best Buy. Also in 2002, the mall was expanded in the former Wards end to house a new Target Store. Now, in 2004, Regal Cinemas, which bought out Hoyts, has announced plans to build a 14 screen theater within the Mall, with the possibility of several sit-down restaurants as well, which will be located in the foremr Ames store's footprint.

Pete Blackbird's Commentary:

This mall is doing quite well, it's near capacity, and has solid anchors. But it's an interesting mall to visit. It is anchored by Ames, Sears, Bon-Ton and formerly a Montgomery Ward's. The food court was updated at some point, to give it the open-air market feel that Pyramid strived for with it's Hampshire Mall and Sangertown Square. This time they hit thier mark. There is seating available above the restauraunts, and in the middle of the court. The rest of the interior of the mall is somewhat bland. The pyramid mall was built without any real marks of it's age on the inside. The outside of the mall is another story.

The mall entrances faccades are comprised of very dated looking mirrors and black glass, and the rest of the mall is mostly the light tan and brick that Pyramid loved so much in the late 70's and early 80's. The mall's logo hasn't been updated either, it's in the same font as my hometown's "Aviation Mall" was prior to 1990. Another interesting note is, the movie theater is attached to the mall, but not accessable from the inside. This always struck me as odd, because it could have easily been done this way. I wonder if it's a local code that is responsible for this oddity.

Anyhow Pyramid doesn't seem to feel pressured to make this mall look like a younger shopping center than it is. It's got no competition anywhere near it, so it's not really neccecary. The parking lot has been FULL every time I've been there, so I get the impression that this will remain a fairly good representation of what Pyramid malls looked like in the early 1980's.


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