The University Mall is located about six hours from Chicago in the college town of Carbondale, Illinois. This is a very active mall currently anchored by JCPenney, Macy's, and junior anchors Ulta Beauty, Ross Dress For Less, Old Navy, Bed, Bath & Beyond, an AMC theater and about 60 inline tenants. This was a special trip as a total eclipse commenced throughout the country and was inline to be directly seen in Carbondale. I have been wanting to visit this mall for years, and a once in a lifetime scientific wonder brought me here finally!
The malls history began in 1971, when JCPenney opened a store along Route 13, where the mall would build off of several years later. By 1974, University Mall officially opened with Sears, Roebuck & Co. and a second anchor followed with Meis department store. In November 1988, a $35 million dollar expansion and renovation was planned, and Meis was purchased by and converted to Elder-Beerman in 1989. In 1990 and 1991, the expansion was underway that included the addition of Famous-Barr, the only Venture discount department store in Southern Illinois, and a food court. A new mall being constructed down the road in neighboring Marion, IL, talks of Sears closing and moving to the new mall was in the air. The rumors were true, because Illnois Centre Mall opened in 1990 with Sears as an anchor store, resulting in the closure at University Mall. Montgomery Ward opened in the former Sears in 1992, and Venture closed its store in 1993 (most likely too far from any distribution center), and was replaced by K's Merchandise.
Approaching the new century, in 1997, Elder-Beerman closed and was replaced by a medical center not far after closing. Old Navy was added in May 2002, and Montgomery Ward, which closed in 2001, was being demolished for Kerasotes movie theater, later turning into AMC. Several other junior anchor stores included Bed, Bath & Beyond, Goody's Family Store, Steve & Barry's, and Michael's craft store were all added. The food court was later relocated to the former Elder-Beerman wing by 2004, which seemed like a bad move to place the food court in the medical office wing, like you needed to attract customers to there. In 2005, Famous-Barr was converted to Macy's due to The May Co. and Federated Department store merging with Macy's.
In 2007, K's Merchandise closed with the rest of the chain, and Michael's followed shortly afterward. Goody's and Steve & Barry's both closed in 2008, and Ross Dress For Less opened around October 2012.
Here are the photos I took of the mall during my visit, although it was disappointing to not have seen the eclipse in totality, at least seeing this mall and Illinois Star Centre made the trip worth it. These were the last malls in Illinois I have not visited, and I have officially achieved my goal.
The old K's Merchandise sign seen from the Macy's entrance.
This is the former Venture/ K's Merchandise wing.
All the food court tables and chairs are lined up in rolls along one of the wings.
The former Elder-Beerman that is now a medical center.
The food court doesn't currently appear to be operational. It seems like a decent space to maybe put some kind of children's play area in, or maybe a few kiosks, just being blocked by a wall of benches and chairs isn't helping the mall much.
Former Famous-Barr, currently Macy's.
This is the former Venture, later K's Merchandise. Kind of interesting to see there was a Venture so far from the Chicago market and St. Louis market, as most of there stores were located around.
Former Venture/ K's Merchandise
The first and only original store to the mall.
Some of the former Elder-Beerman anchor.
The former "Food Hall" food court entrance.
Much of this side of the mall was the former Sears/ Montgomery Ward anchor store that was demolished and new stores like Bed, Bath & Beyond, Steve & Barry's, Michael's, and Goody's have opened around the early 2000's and currently BB&B and a Ross Dress For Less remain.
Lane Bryant in the former Goody's and Ulta Beauty in the former Steve & Barry's.
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