Gina's Commentary

Posted December 31, 2006 (user submitted)

The Station Mall was built, I believe, sometime in the 70s, anchored by Hills and a BiLo Supermarket. It was so named because of its location, the former site of some sort of rail yard, plus it was next door to the Railroaders Museum. The design of the mall itself sort of ran with the whole train motif, with a steam engine logo and both the interior and exterior of the mall trimmed in railroad ties. There are also two outparcels: a McDonalds and another outbuilding that has been everything from a video rental place to a mattress store to a physical therapy office. We shopped at Hills pretty regularly when I was younger since it was very close to my school, so most of my memories of the mall are of cherry Icees and hot pretzels. Most of the stores inside the mall were locally-owned businesses, though there were some franchises like the Dollar General and the Dairy Queen. There were maybe 25-30 storefronts total.

Looking back, I realize that even when I frequented the mall in the early and mid-90s, it was already pretty dead. Aside from a few places that had been there for years, like the Dollar General, the Revco, some restaraunts, and the Hallmark, other stores came and went regularly. My favorite was a used bookstore that was there for maybe three years and even that was a long lifespan for a store at the Station Mall. There were always at least a half-dozen empty storefronts.

We always referred to the mall as the "dirtball mall," due to it's less-than-savory location and the even less savory characters that could be seen browsing the otherwise empty hallways. Most local shoppers are bound to prefer the Logan Valley Mall across town, which was renovated after a fire in 1994 and is full of national chains and is surrounded by big box stores. The Hills (later Ames) store was never too bad, but the Bilo and the rest of the mall always felt very dated and run-down. The interior of Bilo smells like cigarette smoke, which can't be a good sign for a grocery store. :P

Hills changed to Ames when the chain was bought out, but when Ames closed in 2002, most of the other stores in the mall closed with it. A few stayed open, but the vast majority of the mall sat empty. The last time I visited the mall was at Christmastime 2003 to pick up my Chinese food. There were maybe five stores in the whole place. It was very dark and very creepy, and it was very strange not to see Santa Claus in the central court.

All sorts of possible fates for the mall were thrown around for a couple of years, but it was in 2004 that it was purchased by a local doctors' group and converted into a "medical mall." The Ames was given a spiffy new white glass and stucco-ish exterior (which looks verrry out-of-place in the middle of very run-down Altoona), though I'm pretty sure the rest of the mall still looks the same. For a long time, the old Station Mall sign still stood, complete with the choo-choo logo, but with a black bar over the "Station" part of the name. :P It's now called the Station Medical Center. The Ames and I think part of the mall have been converted into doctors' offices.

As part of the arrangement made when the doctors bought the mall, the remaining retail outfits were allowed to stay, though I have recently heard rumor that their leases have not been renewed, so how long they actually stay open at this point is beyond me.

Still remaining are the Bilo, the McDonalds outparcel, the drugstore (now a CVS), and I think the Dollar General, plus a hair salon, a Chinese Restaraunt, a pizza place, and the Dairy Queen. The pizza place and Dairy Queen in particular are pretty cool. They've looked exactly the same since probably the late 70s. :P If you want to go roam the halls of a pretty much empty mall, this is the place to go.


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