Randall Park Mall, an enclosed shopping center in the village of North Randall, Ohio southeast of Cleveland, boasted the motto, “Much More Than Everything.”13 After years of decline, the mall closed in March 2009. Demolition began in December 2014.


Proposal and Construction

Dominic Visconsi proposed the construction of Garfield Mall in nearby Garfield Heights in 1966. Voters gave their support to the project in 1968 and a proposal was unveiled in the following year. The indoor mall was to feature heated underground parking, and elevator and escalator access to Halle’s, Higbee’s, JCPenny, Sears.

Further east in the small village of Randall Park, Youngstown developer Edward J. DeBartolo had proposed an $85 million, one-level, 825,000 square-feet mall on the site of the Randall Park Race Track in 1964.9 15 19 The plans included three department stores, 80 stores and restaurants and four high-rise office buildings.19

DeBartolo had first attempted to purchase Randall Park Race Track in 1959, but his offer was rejected.16 DeBartolo instead purchased Thistledown in 1960 for $5.1 million.17 20 A later bid of $4.2 million in October 1960 was approved. He eventually moved all meets from Randall Park to Thistledown in 1967.15 17

Demolition began on the Randall Park Race Track on February 8, the same day that DeBartolo proposed a $15 million race track to replace Randall Park, contingent on the state approval of Sunday racing.12 17 19 Just a day later, DeBartolo announced preliminary plans for the largest shopping complex in the United States on the site of the race track. Extensive plans were released on March 7.

By then, DeBartolo had upped the stakes, proposing a two-level mall with over 200 stores and 2.2 million square-feet of total retail space, along with two 20-story office buildings, three 14-story apartments and a 4,500-seat performing arts center, the latter which was intended to compete with Front Row Theater.9 The $235 million plan was designed to compete with downtown Cleveland.12 As a result, Garfield Mall was scaled down into a smaller strip mall and the proposed department stores signed on with DeBartolo’s project.9 DeBartolo later revised the plans to include the theater, four, 14-story office buildings, and high-rise condominium and apartment buildings with 2,000 housing units.14

“I am not attempting to downgrade downtown. I’m just challening them. People who want to keep the downtown intact had better get on their horses and ride.”15
-Edward J. DeBartolo

During the building of the center, DeBartolo was very flamboyant, and would often arrive at the work site in a helicopter. Over 400 workers were on site each day.14 He also entertained the media with expensive Italian dinners during tours of construction.


Opening

The first part of the project to open was a Holiday Inn on the northeast quadrant of the mall’s property had opened in 1971 at a cost of $3 million.19 JCPenny opened their store in February 1975.13 15 The mall’s architect, Frank DeBartolo, Edward’s younger brother, opened Randall Park Mall at 9:40 a.m. on August 11, 1976.9 13 The $175 million, 2,196,161-million square-foot mall opened with 100 stores and Higbee’s, Horne’s, JCPenny, May Company.13 15 It was considered the world’s largest shopping center at the time of its completion.6 13 Sears opened in February 1977.13 15 Halle’s maintained an option to build a store,15 but the chain went out of business in 1982. Additionally, the center featured a three-screen movie theater operated by the General Cinema Corporation (GCC).

At the opening, more than 5,000 guests were treated to champagne, 1,200 pounds of fresh shrimp, crab, cold roast turkey, hot corned beef, and ham, along with melon and cheese, small crepes filled with chicken and spinach, and coffee and desert.13 An orchestra in the center of the mall was led by Tommy Dorsey. The guest of honor was actress Dina Merrill, wife of actor Cliff Robertson and daughter of the late Marjorie Merriweather Post, then one of the world’s wealthiest women.

In its first year, Randall Park Mall brought in sales of $140 million.9 Although it caused other nearby malls to struggle, it did not cause any to close due to its location on the far southeast part of the city.

In 1991, the movie theater operated by GCC became a second-run facility and closed in 1993. It was then used for storage for Diamond’s Men’s Store. Horne’s, a regional department store chain based out of Pittsburgh, closed in 1992. It was part of a deal reached after Dillard’s attempted to acquire both Horne’s and Cleveland-based Higbee’s in 1988 only to pull out of the deal, which resulted in years of litigation. Dillard’s eventually settled on acquiring five Ohio Horne’s stores. It closed the Randall Park location due to the presence of Higbee’s, which became Dillard’s.

In October 1996, Loews Cineplex Entertainment announced a proposal for a 14- to 16-screen Magic Johnson Theaters on the site of a vacant discount store in Warrensville Heights.21 Loews Cineplex Entertainment opened the 12-screen, 3,000-seat Magic Johnson Theaters in the space originally designated for the never-constructed Halle’s department store on December 9, 1999.6 24 26 Magic Johnson Theaters, a mini-chain of theaters specifically geared toward inner cities, featured first-run showings.

Anchors

Decline

Crime

The decline of Randall Park Mall was brought upon by new mixed-use shopping, office and residential projects in the Cleveland metro area, petty crime and high profile violence.4 As the mall declined, so did the surrounding neighborhood and familiar storefronts, restaurants and hotels began to close.

In 2000, gunfire erupted in the lobby of the Magic Johnson Theaters, barely a month after it had opened.25 In 2002, a suspected shoplifter died from injuries sustained during his apprehension within Dillard’s. During the incident, an off-duty police officer who was moonlighting as a security guard apprehended the suspect and injured him. The suspect was treated for his injuries and released, where he died shortly after. Dillard’s ultimately closed their store shortly after, not because of the death, but because of falling sales.

Store Closures

In October 1998, JCPenny’s was converted into an outlet store format but closed in January 2001 due to declining sales.1 By 2003, Randall Park Mall was nearly half-vacant.

Whichard Real Estate acquired the mall for $6 million in October 2004 only to split portions of the center for sale.4 27 It put up the attached Magic Johnson Theaters for sale for $5.3 million but it received no interest. Whichard later defaulted on more than $200,000 in unpaid property taxes and on several mortgages.8 Cuyahoga County sold tax certificates on the mall to Plymouth Park Tax Services in 2007, which then filed to foreclose on the mall.

After years of declining receipts, Magic Johnson Theaters was sold by Loew’s successor, AMC Entertainment, in March 2007 and became just the “O Theater.”24 The re-branded O Theater offered first-run movies at matinee prices. In June, Cleveland-based trade school Ohio Technical College announced they would acquire the former JCPenny and Firestone Complete Auto Care facility for their PowerSport Institute.2 Shortly after,Plymouth Park Tax Services transferred the tax certificates to a subsidiary of the Industrial Realty Group, owned by developers Stuart Lichter and Chris Semarjian.

Another anchor, Kauffman’s that was rebranded into Macy’s in 2006, closed their Randall Park Mall store in February 2008 due to lagging sales.3 On May 21, Whichard announced that the mall would close by June 12.4 Two anchors, Burlington Coat Factory and Sears, the PowerSport Institute and the movie theater, all of which could be accessed from outside the mall, would remain open.

Whichard announced on June 5 that the shopping center would be sold to United Church Builders, and that the complex was best suited as a residential, educational, research and medical facility.7 The deal with United Church Builders was never finalized.

Sears announced on February 26, 2009 that it would close its Randall Park location by June 14. O Theaters followed suit. By March, the last remaining interior stores closed and all power to the interior, sans Burlington Coat Factory, the PowerSport Institute and Furniture Mattress Liquidators, was turned off.

In February 2010, a redevelopment scheme by Devland Holdings, a New York-based firm with South African roots managed by Neill Bernstein and Terry Brenner, consisted of industrial, education and research space branded under “DEVLAND CITY.”22 The proposal never had any formal consideration.

Industrial Realty purchased the remainder of the mall out of foreclosure in June 2013, taking possession of the building in July.6 8 11 The company then acquired the vacant Dillard’s store from the village in September.11 The village had gained control of the parcel via the Cuyahoga County Land Reutilization Corp., a land bank of blighted properties and foreclosures. It then purchased the Magic Johnson movie theater building in October for $162,500 and Sears in March 2014 for $1.7 million.11 Industrial Realty attempted to buy out the Macy’s building but it was tied up in tax-foreclosure and bankruptcy litigation.


Demolition

It was announced shortly after the Sears building acquisition that Randall Park Mall would be demolished for an industrial park.5 6 The converted 100-acre site is projected to support 700,000 to 1.2 million square-feet of construction utilizing both the existing mall facility and new construction. The former JCPenny, now owned by the Ohio Technical College, Macy’s, Burlington Coat Factory, Sears and the movie theater will not be demolished.

Selective demolition began on December 29.10 After the salvaged scrap is removed, the movie theater will be renovated into an industrial building while the Sears will become a warehouse.6

Further Reading
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