All who have accomplished great things have had a great aim, have fixed their gaze on a goal which was high, one which sometimes seemed impossible....

December 9, 2008

Looking Back and Looking Forward

On Sunday I sat down with the Post Dispatch and a front page article caught my eye. The title was "The Fight to Save the Dying Mall" by Todd C. Frankel. I read the first few lines and went to turn the page when I read a small sentence right next to the photo that went along with the story "Northwest Plaza once had 210 stores. Now it has fewer than 40". Northwest Plaza is located about 15 miles from my home in St. Ann. For those of you who don't know I live in Maryland Heights and St. Ann is no further away from us than upscale Creve Coeur and Chesterfield. Maryland Heights borders Creve Coeur, St. Charles, Chesterfield and we also border Bridgeton and St. Ann so this article hit home for me. Though I have never shopped at this mall I have driven by it and after reading the article which can be found here, I wondered how I felt about the possibility of the idea of reinventing it and pouring money into it to save it. $96 Million to as high as $250 Million to be exact. Some Tax Payer money no less. I wondered about how good of an idea this could possibly be. I wondered about the affect it might have on my area. Good or Bad.

A little history on the Northwest Plaza Mall: It opened in 1963 and is St. Louis largest mall spanning 1.7 Million Square Feet. Since it's opening it has changed ownership and names quite a few times and many stores have come and gone, leaving empty stores and and almost empty food court. The Mall is now owned by Somera and managed by General Growth Properties with a plan to turn Northwest Plaza into Lindbergh Town Center.

Last night I logged on to find an interesting blog post in my Google Reader from one of my favorite blog 56 Houses Left entitled "A Dying Mall....and the ill STL". I was engrossed in the blog entry from the first paragraph and for the next few minutes I read about this mall from the Authors point of view. It got me thinking and I did a little research.

I decided to see what it was with this particular mall in this particular area and it's real reason for it's demise. I wont beat around the bush. I am a nervous person by nature and parts of St. Ann scare the crap out of me. All cities have crime, I'm not oblivious to that. I've shopped at Walmart across from NWP and had the door closed locked on several occasions due to shoplifters and once a very suspicious "emergency" that has caused me not to go back. This is the same Walmart they plan to merge into the new NWP as early as 2010. I decided to do a little investigating and reach outside of my own experience with this area.

I have been made aware of the problems this area faces just by going there but what happened in the past? Has it always been like this? Are the problems that Walmart has today the same problems that NWP had that eventually led to its demise? Or did it play only a small role? The story in the PD says nothing much about why the mall is what it is now or it's crime history and how it might have played a part. It contributes it to the economy but only briefly and talks more about it's future. I had to ask myself, if it really is the economy then why try and bring it back to life during a recession? It's no secret malls aren't doing as well as they were only a few year ago but you don't see West County Mall or Galleria as empty and as dismal as NWP.

After I Googled the mall I was met with tons of stories on the crime the mall and surrounding area endured. I read about mall shootings and fights. Gang violence and shoplifters. On Christmas Eve in 94 a murder occured in Famous Barr.

As I read some contribute it to demographics, others to the Management Co, other to the economy. All don't seem to have changed. This mall will still be owned by this company after the renovations, it will still be located in the same area and as of right now the economy isn't getting any better. At least not to a place where it can support another mall and bring in the income it takes to make a mall of this magnitude thrive.

Could this renovation and restructure be a good thing for this area? In a struggling economy is it the right thing to do? Would this bring more life to the area that sits only 15 miles from my home? Or is this a waste of time and money? With the economy the way it is and the clear problems with crime in this area, will it hurt the town of St. Ann or help it?

Here is a picture of the mall during it's prime:

Here is the mall as of now:

At this point it's clear this mall is in trouble but I'm not sure a remodel will help. I'll be watching as plans move forward. I'm interested to see the outcome.


Maria said...

I just read the article in the P-D today and then proceeded to read the 40 pages of comments. It got pretty heated on there.

I used to go to NWP during lunch every now and then and I felt relatively safe. You couldn't pay me to go at night though. I don't go anymore because there is nothing there.

I'm not sure a new mall would be the answer, but if they do proceed with it, the "lifestyle" center is the best route. I don't know if moving Walmart there is the best move though.

It will definitely be interesting to see what happens.

sarah said...

I personally wish they would revamp NWP - take the roof back off and make it an outdoor shopping area like it was originally. I shopped at NWP and played in the arcade (Tilt) a ton as a child. Now, I live no more than 7 miles from it and am disappointed with how the community let it go. Crime is preventable. It doesn't matter if you are black, white, hispanic or any other race - crime is universal. If a community doesn't put its foot down, what can you expect but for crime to get out of hand?

I think it's sad that race has to play such a big part in most people's impression of a given area. I am not in any way saying that is what you were inferring, but it's clear that many people feel that way about the area in which I live. St. John and its surrounding communities (St. Ann, Breckenridge, etc.) are definitely diverse - but that's why I love living there.

I think the area as a whole needs to be rejuvenated, and I do think that renovating the mall could be a positive change. If it's done the right way, it could add jobs to the area and increase disposable income, thereby positively influencing the entire surrounding economy. I know it's not that cut and dry, but I do think that it could be beneficial.

Coree said...

Interesting post. I used to go to Northwest Plaza ALOT when I was a kid. I can't believe how much that it has changed. It's quite sad.

Trisha said...

I only have an answer to one of your questions. It definitely was NOT like this when I was a kid. I can remember going there when I was a kid frequently. Even though we lived in a small town in IL with a 40-45 minute drive, it was a popular place to go, especially when it was an outside shopping center. (GOSH, that was LONG time ago!) Then it became an inside shopping center. Like pp said, I can remember going to Tilt all the time with the family and for b-day parties. (I remember finding a $20.00 bill on the floor one time when we were there and asking if anyone had reported it missing, no one did so it was MINE to keep. Heck $20.00 was a LOT to me back then! ha)

Anyway, I don't know if you could pay me to go to that mall anymore.

Same goes for Union Station and the mall downtown STL. It's a shame!

Amanda, Mandy, Manda, Tomato said...

There was a rumor not too long ago that Ikea was looking to go in there. I don't think it's happening now.