Kalamazoo’s Mall History: What Does It Mean For Crossroads?
What many people may not know about the Kalamazoo/Portage area is the fact that we were on our way to becoming the Mall capital of Michigan. During the 80’s Kalamazoo had a minimum of 4 malls. Today, there is only one, excluding the outdoor mall. Is the Crossroads Mall going to be the exception, or will it too join these abandoned and demolished malls of Kalamazoo’s past? Let's take a look back at some that weren't able to stand the test of time:
Located near Gull Road and Sprinkle in Kalamazoo.
Built in 1977, the Eastowne Mall in Comstock Township provided hundreds of jobs throughout their various stores. Some might say that the closing of Kmart nationwide in 2005 was the beginning of the end for this mall. What had stood as a retail center for 35 years in Kalamazoo, was demolished in 2013. The once 224,732 sqft retail center was torn down to make room for a new Menards; which is still on Gull Road today. Menards was estimated to only provide roughly 200-300 jobs compared to the hundreds that the Eastowne Mall supported.
West Main Mall
Located near Drake Road and West Main in Oshtemo Township.
Many consider West Main Mall doomed since its start in 1969. Though the building was designed well, the lack of anchor stores and surrounding shopping centers made this mall one not frequently visited. When Maple Hill Mall was built DIRECTLY across the street from West Main Mall in 1971, the customer foot traffic decreased significantly. With surrounding shopping centers taking customers away, and the company Federal’s (who owned the property) liquidated by 1980, the mall was soon to follow with its own closure. Due to the short period of operating time for this mall, one might say the closure of this center didn’t directly affect the economy of Kalamazoo. However, the number of jobs the mall would have provided would have been higher than the few current establishments on that block.
Maple Hill Mall
Located near West Main and Drake in Oshtemo Township.
Maple Hill Mall is rather an interesting story. Built in 1971 on West Main Street in Kalamazoo, this 64,162 sqft indoor mall has gone through a few transformations in its time. In the mid-1980s when one of the founding stores closed, Meijer took over a few sections of the building as a department store and quickly found itself failing without a grocery section. In the early 90s Meijer relocated to where it stays now on West Main and 9th Street.
By 2003, Maple Hill Mall had lost each of their anchor stores, customer traffic, and many building tenants. Kimco Realty then bought the property in 2003 in hopes of renovating, and due to a promise of renovations they were able to sign a few new businesses to the building. The renovation of the Maple Hill Mall made way for the Maple Hill Pavilion that stands today. The overall renovation of Maple Hill Mall consisted of demolishing the front of this once indoor mall, until just the back half remained as a strip mall. Today, the Maple Hill Pavilion houses Target, Old Navy, Marshalls, Burlington, Dollar Tree, Pet Smart, ULTA Beauty, and more.
Rather than destroying the entirety of the building, the portion of the businesses that weren’t filled or earning enough was torn down to make the selection of busy stores have easier access to their customers. This process didn’t destroy jobs in the community, and kept duplicate stores from popping up at the Pavilion compared to Crossroads.
If you were to look through Kalamazoo’s history, malls hold a pivotal role in the development of this city. While these three previous malls fell to different fates at different times, the Kalamazoo community and economy was able to push through with the success of Crossroads Mall. However, times have changed, and even though malls are still desirable for shopping, online ordering and other one-stop shops are putting Kalamazoo’s largest and most successful mall at risk. Will Crossroads be able to withstand the test of time? Or will it succumb to a similar fate as these previous Kalamazoo malls; and if it does, where does that leave the state of Kalamazoo’s economy and job market?