Blake Hutchison's Commentary

Posted (user submitted) September 30, 2005

Another case where losing the anchors isn't the problem with the mall. The interior stores are leaving in droves, however. Every time I visit this mall, there's a new labelscar where a store once stood.

I believe this mall was built around 1965-1970, when Marion still had enough people to support a mall. As far as I know, it was originally anchored by Sears, JCPenney, and Elder Beerman. JCPenney pulled out in 2002.

The following factors have probably contributed to Southland Mall's demise: Poor freeway access. To get to it from the nearest freeway (US 23) you either have to drive six miles south of Marion to Bethlehem Road, and find your way to State Route 423, then drive four or five miles back into Marion, or you have to fight Marion traffic crossing town on State Route 95 or 309 to get to State Route 423 (Marion's street system is also one of the WORST mazes of one-way streets and continuous-flow ramps in the country.) One has to question the management's competence when much of the mall smells like mold, in some areas it's worse than Southtown Mall in Fort Wayne! Marion has been shrinking in population steadily for the last 30 years. There are really no other sizable cities nearby to support the mall. Shoppers in Delaware, Ohio (the next county south of Marion) are far too trendy to shop here, and they are closer to Columbus than they are to Marion anyway. Old Navy has pulled out of the mall completely. And they didn't build a replacement store. The mall is clearly hurt by Meijer and by Wal-Mart Supercenter, both of which are within a quarter mile of US 23. Few of the chain stores have modern logos - as if they don't want to invest the money on a mall they're probably going to pull out of soon. Waldenbooks, usually one of the last stores to leave a mall in Ohio, still has an old logo from the 1980's, before they changed it.

Steve and Barry's and Sears may survive for a while, and with Elder Beerman, who knows? But I would say the rest of the mall is likely to be shuttered, or at least completely barren, in the next five years.

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