RIVER ROADS MALL: JENNINGS, MO
Adam Godfrey's Commentary:
Posted April 25, 2005 (user submitted)
River Roads Mall in Jennings MO was one of the first enclosed malls in the United States. Built in the mid 1950's the mall's original anchors were Stix Baer & Fuller and Woolworth's. The mall was added onto in the late 1960's when JC Penney was added with new specialty shops. While River Roads' indoor mall corridor was shuttered permanently in 1995, one store still operates on the property: Food For Less. Food For Less is connected to the mall but has no access to the mall corridor. Also, Firestone Tire & Auto operates still as an outparcel.
River Roads was a great shopping center up until about the mid-1980's when the crime and population of poverty stricken nearby North St.Louis started to spill into the suburbs of Jennings, Dellwood, Ferguson, and Florissant. River Roads, along with nearby Northland Shopping Center, both became casualties in this demographic change.
Some cool things to note about River Roads are that the old Woolworth's had a toy train track that was mounted high on the walls that ran around the perimeter of the store. Also, the mall has a tunnel system that runs below it for delivery vehicles. This tunnel starts behind Food For Less and has its exit by JC Penney and the rear mall entrance. In the front of the mall, near the old Stix Baer & Fuller (later Dillard's) there was a sunken outdoor atrium with trees and a fountain. There was an entrance to the River Roads Bowling Alley down there.
In addition to crime in Jennings playing a part in River Roads' demise, the buyout of Stix Baer & Fuller by Dillard Department Stores also played a role in the mall's demise. After Dillard's bought the Stix chain in 1983, the River Roads Dillard's days were numbered. Dillard's had nicer, larger stores at nearby Jamestown Mall, Northwest Plaza and a new store being built in Downtown St. Louis at St. Louis Centre Mall (that store closed in 2001). After Dillard's announced they were leaving the mall, JC Penney converted their large store to an Outlet Store in 1984. River Roads stayed open, but the crimes (mostly auto thefts and muggings) that happened on the mall's premesis kept shoppers away. In 1995, JC Penney closed its outlet store and the mall corridor was closed with it. Any stores that were still open in the mall, had exterior entrances off the parking lot. Another event that helped in this mall's demise was when Benderson Development sold the mall to mall slumlord Haywood Whichard of North Carolina.
Some of the other stores that were at River Roads over the course of its operation were: Walgreens, Radio Shack, Kroger (later became Food For Less when Kroger exited St. Louis in 1986), Taxman's Fashions, Lane Bryant, Arthur's, Jeans West, Slack Shack, Singer Sewing Machines, Guisini Shoes, Hardy Shoes, Regal Shoes, The Wild Pair, California Shirt Works, Steamboat Room Restaurant, Harvest House Restaurant, Lindy's, Fashion Guys, Dandy Men's Store, Joan Bari.
At present, the mall is slated for demolition and redeveopment into market rate single family homes and condos by Pyramid Homes. The demolition is supposed to be completed sometime by the end of 2005.
Designed in the early 60s as a superregional mall for the northwest part of St. Louis City and St. Louis County, River Roads was one of the megalith supermalls of its heyday. I first discovered River Roads Mall on a trip to St. Louis with a friend over two-and-a-half years ago. We had planned to hit some malls, but mostly ones listed on websites or maps - profitable ones. It was a wrong turn off I-70 that brought us to this hulking structure. The grossly dated greenish-aqua facade on the one anchor combined with its apparent dilapidation impressed us in many ways. Set in the urban, inner ring dilapidated mid-20th century suburb of St. Louis known as Jennings, Missouri, River Roads Mall has seen its glory days.
From online searches of newspapers and search engines, I determined that River Roads was permanently shuttered in June of 1995. Its anchors unclear except for JCPenney (and probably Dillards and Famous-Barr), the mall probably had close to a dozen stores when it closed for good. Random acts of brutal violence and gang warfare sent waves of shock into the community and kept them far away from the mall. Murders and gruesome deaths took place here as late as the early 90s, with more frequency as time went on. Also apparent in this mall's demise is the income base of the community. In 40 years, this community went from middle class suburbia to run-down, boarded up houses and an unkept atmosphere.
Today, however, River Roads still stands. There are no current plans for the mall; however, many have been slated. The problem arises when nothing is done. The area is so economically depressed that its next step is probably to be razed. There are only two stores open on the mall structure itself: a beauty shop and a discount grocery store, which doesn't appear to ever have had mall access. The label scars of Lane Bryant and the logo of the mall are still present, with the latter being printed on some entrance signs and trash bins scattered around the property. In the back of the mall on some doors is an entrance to a Woolworths, which closed all its stores about the same time the mall was shuttered. These pictures were taken July, 2001.
Demolition has begun:
http://www.eco-absence.org/stl/rrm/ page that has pics of the mall