Randall Park Mall
Randall Park Mall is a now-demolished enclosed shopping centre in the village of North Randall, Ohio. It boasted the motto, “Much More Than Everything.” After years of decline, Randall Park closed in March 2009, with demolition beginning in December 2014.
Garfield Mall, in Garfield Heights, was proposed by developer Dominic Visconsi in 1966. Voters gave their support to the project in 1968, and a proposal was unveiled in the following year. The plan included heated underground parking, and elevator and escalator access to Halle’s, Higbee’s, JCPenny, and 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 plan included three department stores, 80 inline 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 bought Thistledown in 1960 for $5.1 million. 17 20 A later bid of $4.2 million for Randall Park Race Track 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 replacement race track on the site of Randall Park Race Track, contingent on the state approval of Sunday racing. 12 17 19 Just a day later, on February 9, DeBartolo announced preliminary plans for the most massive shopping complex in the United States on the site of the Randall Park Race Track. Extensive plans were released on March 7.
DeBartolo had upped the stakes, proposing Randall Park Mall, a two-level mall with over 200 stores and 2.2-million square-feet of retail space, along with two 20-story office buildings, three 14-story apartments, and a 4,500-seat performing arts centre, the latter which was intended to compete with Front Row Theater. 9 The $235 million plan was designed to provide the same level of amenities as downtown Cleveland. 12
As a result of DeBartolo, Garfield Mall was scaled down into a small strip mall. The department stores that were proposed for Garfield Mall signed on with Randall Park. 9 DeBartolo later revised his plans to include a movie theatre, 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 challenging them. People who want to keep the downtown intact had better get on their horses and ride.” 15
-Edward J. DeBartolo
During the construction of the centre, DeBartolo was very flamboyant and would often arrive at the work site in a helicopter. Over 400 labourers were on site each day. 14 DeBartolo also entertained the media with expensive Italian dinners during tours of construction.
The first part of the project to open was a 300-room Holiday Inn on the northeast quadrant of the mall’s property in October 1972 18 at the cost of $3 million. 19 J.C. Penny opened 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 featured 100 stores, Higbee’s, Horne’s, J.C. Penny, and May Company. 13 15 The centre boasted a three-screen movie theatre operated by the General Cinema Corporation (GCC). It was considered the world’s largest shopping centre 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 department store chain went out of business in 1982.
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 dessert. 13 Tommy Dorsey led an orchestra in the centre of the mall. The guest of honour 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 in the far southeast part of the Cleveland metropolitan area.
In 1991, the movie theatre operated by GCC became a second-run facility before closing in 1993. It was then used as 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 agreement, 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 opted to open a 12-screen, 3,000-seat Magic Johnson Theaters in the space originally designated for the never-built Halle’s department store on December 9, 1999. 6 24 26 Magic Johnson Theaters, a mini-chain of theatres specifically geared toward inner cities, featured first-run showings.
The decline of Randall Park Mall was brought upon by new mixed-use shopping, office and residential projects in the Cleveland metropolitan area, petty crime and high profile violence. 4 As the mall declined, so did the surrounding neighbourhood. Familiar storefronts, restaurants and hotels began to close.
In 2000, gunfire erupted in the lobby of the Magic Johnson Theaters, barely one 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, although he died shortly after. Dillard’s ultimately closed their store because of falling sales.
In October 1998, J.C. Penny’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 centre for sale. 4 27 It put up the attached Magic Johnson Theaters for sale for $5.3 million but received no interest. Whichard later defaulted on more than $200,000 in unpaid property taxes and 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 shopping centre.
After years of declining receipts, Magic Johnson Theaters was sold in March 2007 by Loew’s successor, AMC Entertainment, becoming just the “O Theater.” 24 The re-branded O Theater offered first-run movies at matinee prices. Cleveland-based trade school Ohio Technical College announced in June they would acquire the former J.C. Penny 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 store in February 2008. 3 On May 21, Whichard announced that the mall’s interior concourse would close by June 12. 4 Burlington Coat Factory, Sears, PowerSport Institute and the movie theatre would remain open.
Whichard announced on June 5 that the shopping centre 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 finalised.
Sears announced on February 26, 2009, that it would close by June 14. O Theaters followed suit. By March, the last remaining concourse stores closed and power to the mall, sans Burlington Coat Factory, PowerSport Institute, and Furniture Mattress Liquidators, was turned off.
Industrial Realty purchased the remainder of the mall out of foreclosure in June 2013, taking possession of the entire complex in July. 6 8 11 The company then acquired the vacant Dillard’s store from the village of Randall Park in September. 11 The town had gained control of the parcel via the Cuyahoga County Land Reutilization, a land bank of blighted properties and foreclosures.
Industrial Realty then purchased the Magic Johnson movie theatre building in October for $162,500 and Sears in March 2014 for $1.7 million. 11 The company then attempted to buy out the Macy’s structure, but it was tied up in tax-foreclosure and bankruptcy litigation.
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 was projected to support 700,000 to 1.2 million square-feet of construction utilising both the existing mall facility and new build. The former J.C. Penny (Ohio Technical College), Macy’s, Burlington Coat Factory, Sears, and the movie theatre would not be torn down. After the salvaged scrap was removed, the movie theatre would be renovated into an industrial building while Sears would become a warehouse. 6
Selective demolition began on December 29. 10
On August 24, 2017, Amazon finalised a lease deal on a planned 855,000 square-foot building on the site of the former mall. 29 Seefried Industrial Properties of Atlanta is constructing a $177 million fulfilment and distribution centre that is set to open in mid-2018.