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Thursday, August 31, 2017

University Mall- (Carbondale, IL)

     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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Illinois Star Centre Mall- (Marion, IL)

     This has been a mall I have wanted to visit for years, as it was a goal to visit every mall in the state of Illinois, completing that goal relied on coming to the cities of Carbondale, and Marion, IL. What seemed like a global celebration, more like a national observation, a total eclipse of the moon and the sun happened across the country nearly two weeks ago. The city it passed through in Illinois was Carbondale, so this once in a life time occurrence was enough of a push to finally make it to these malls. Illinois Star Centre Mall is located in Marion, Illinois, about five hours from Chicago. The mall is not very busy, only a few inline stores remain, and its anchor stores are Sears, Dillard's, and Target.

     Originally called Illinois Centre Mall, most of the mall opened in spring of 1990 and original anchor stores include Dillard's and Target, while Sears and Phar-mor opened in July 1991. There was already a mall very close to where Illinois Centre was built, University Mall in Carbondale. This caused retail analyst's to assume the close proximity of the two malls would create some pretty fierce competition. This was true as the Sears anchor at University Mall relocated to Illinois Centre in the summer of 1991. A law suit was filed about the state finance program that allows state tax rebates to stores that generate a copious amount of sales tax to the city. This suit was later dropped as not being proven to have been the city's decision and Sears choosing to move to this new mall. Dillard's opened in September of 1991, and Target followed in October.

     Phar-mor did not last to long as it closed in 1993, and the building later housed a Blue Cross insurance center and later a radio-controlled car racing track around 2004. The mall was sold by its original developer Edward J. DeBartolo in 1996 and was sold again in 2011, this time the mall changed names to Illinois Star Centre Mall.

     Here are the photos I took during my trip down to Carbondale for the total eclipse, which sounded very impressive to the people we talked later in the day. We did not see it completely as we were driving still and too far to view it. Thank goodness for this scientific phenomenon, as without it occurring, I may have never seen the last two malls in the states I have not yet documented on this site.

Malls few and far between around the Midwest have palm trees growing in them. Something I appreciate is to still see lives trees in malls, despite very few people walking around to appreciate them.

A vintage looking GNC store.

The really "dead" looking corner of the mall, complete with eclipse viewers sleeping in there car in the lot overnight.

A rather old Target with an updated look.

This wasn't the malls only sign, but I can't imagine anyone being able to really read this if they wanted to.

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