Kent Ahrens' Commentary:

Posted April 25, 2005 (user submitted)

Shepherd Mall sits on NW 23rd St between Penn and Villa. At one time, this was the place. Now, it's a place. However, unlike many dead malls, Shepherd Mall is experiencing a renaissance, but not as a shopping center. My memories of Shepherd Mall are relatively few as I spent very little time there. However, I do remember it as having a T G & Y (later McCrory's) as an anchor and a Gold Mine video arcade.

Shepherd Mall is a relatively small mall. However, prior to the mid-80's, it was in the center of town and had very little competition. Oklahoma City has the distinction of being America's largest city in terms of land area. So, malls are relatively far apart. Penn Square Mall, just two to three miles north at Penn and Northwest Expressway, was Shepherd's nearest competition, and it struggled for quite some time.

Penn Square, however, had a plan. It completely reinvented itself and remodeled to become a class A mall. It became larger than Shepherd Mall, fancier than Shepherd Mall, and stores couldn't get there soon enough. Also, 50 Penn Place sits just across the street from Penn Square and has even more shopping, most of it the "ritzy" type shops. By the late 80's, the corner of Penn and Northwest Expressway became a shopper's paradise in Oklahoma City. Shepherd Mall and Penn Square Mall simply could not co-exist that close together.

Also, the rapid growth of Edmond and far north Oklahoma City put Shepherd Mall's relatively central location at a major disadvantage. Quail Springs Mall, more than 10 miles north of Shepherd Mall on Memorial between May and Penn, became their place to shop. As housing prices in Oklahoma City dropped, more and more people flocked north leaving Shepherd Mall in an increasingly blue collar area.

As Shepherd Mall's tenants began to leave, foot traffic also declined. Parking lot spaces became easier to find, and, finally, Shepherd Mall became a ghost town. However, that did not last long. On April 19, 1995, Oklahoma City was changed when Timothy McVeigh drove up to the Alfred P Murrah Federal Building and detonated a fertilizer bomb in the back of a Ryder truck killing 168 people. The Oklahoma City bombing is probably what saved the life of Shepherd Mall. When you drive by today, the parking lot is packed, but there are no shoppers.

The various divisions of the government began to separate out their locations after the bombing. Shepherd Mall's central location was attractive to state, county and federal government, and government offices began opening there. The Social Security Administration, which was virtually wiped out in the bombing, has its offices in Shepherd Mall as well as a memorial to its employees who were killed in the bombing. The mall today boasts a few federal government offices and many state, city and county offices. It also has a charter high school and a call center for a major corporation. On the business side, there aren't many businesses left, though the mall still solicits them in the few open spaces it has. There is a Subway and a few restaurants that cater to the employees and students at the mall. Those restaurants have seen mixed results. Jaramillo's Mexican Restaurant recently closed while most other restaurants close for the day at 3 PM. Subway has regular Subway hours and is probably the only area that is open after 5 PM. Shepherd Mall is about as dead as it gets for shoppers, but it's a classic case of a dead mall success story as it now has another use.

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