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  • Tear Down Jamestown Mall

    Posted on October 4th, 2009 Toby Weiss 31 comments
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    jamestown-mall-01

    Christmas Eve 2008, the night Sears closed for good.

    Jamestown Mall, Lindbergh & Old Jamestown Road
    Florissant, MO

    At the end of September 2009, The Urban Land Institute presented some ideas on what to do with a dying mall.  In a pdf of their presentation, they advocate tearing down the existing building and creating a new, mixed-use destination.  This proposal comes after the 2008 idea of turning the southwest (former Dillard’s) portion of the mall into senior housing and office space fell through due to, supposedly, national economic misfortune.

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    Jamestown Mall originally opened in 1973, shortly after my Mother and I moved into near-by Black Jack.  There were plenty of places to eat, (including a Pope’s cafeteria and a restaurant inside the Walgreens), a movie theater and all the stores my Mother already had credit cards for, so we went there a lot.

    I have good memories of the place, like hanging out at the Camelot music store, which  got most of the grade-school and teenager money I had.  There’s also not-so-good memories, like having to pick out clothes in the Pretty Plus department at Sears, which was located right near the mall entrance, so I was in plain sight of high traffic.

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    There were high school midnight movies where we were so stoned we could barely walk, so I barely remember The Song Remains the Same or Rainbow Bridge.  There were periods of intense longing over toys in KayBee, gag gifts at Spencer’s and boys in my classes that I never thought twice about until I ran into them outside of school at the mall.

    But these are all memories that I can conjure at will as I sit at home.  The last few times I stopped at the mall, none of those thoughts went through my head while walking the mall.  Instead, I was taken with the stainless steel and bronze sculptures that have been there since Day One, and meant nothing to me at the time, but now I think they’re beautiful, and I worry what will become of them if the mall is torn down.

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    Plaster bust of the late Fred Wehrle, property of the downtown Famous-Barr display department, which eventually made its way out to Jamestown Mall.

    Buildings are historical proof that hold memories , which is one of the reasons people get upset when certain buildings are slated for demolition.  In the case of Jamestown Mall, it denotes a distinct period of Boom Town development in far North St. Louis County, and it holds plenty of memories, but the structure itself is unmemorable because it was purposely designed for all the action to be internal, so how it looked from the outside was an afterthought.

    I loved everything about re-purposing a portion of it for senior housing, but since they’ve let that useful and innovative idea go, I’m completely on board with them leveling the existing mall and starting anew.  But I am completely against the suggested new use for the land.

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    Take a look at the aerial view of the mall and the surrounding area and note how much green there is around it.  Even with decades of new housing going up, this part of North County – out where the mighty Lindbergh Boulevard ends with a lackluster whimper – is still awesomely rural, verdant and never completely tamed.  High density retail and residential kind of peters out northeast of the New Halls Ferry & Lindbergh intersection, and large swaths of rolling hills still hold working farms (there’s still a barnyard animal feed and supply across from the mall on Lindbergh because the area needs one).  The Bubbleheads thrive out there for a reason – it’s woodsy seclusion sometimes interrupted by suburbia.

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    A concrete abstract sculpture that stood outside Stix/Dillard's is now missing. Where did it go to?

    It was a weird gamble to put a mall in an area so far off the density grid.  For the first 15 years of its existence, the only other non-Lindbergh way to get to the mall was via a winding, hilly back road with dangerous curves and a rickety bridge over a snake-ridden creek that only us locals used.   “Over the river and through the woods to Grandmother’s mall we go…”

    But it was a successful gamble for awhile, because there was nothing else like it in this remote area.  It was truly a shopping destination for St. Louis North Countians and those over the bridge in Alton, Illinois… until they got their own Alton Square.  And Northwest Plaza had more of the big stores, and wasn’t all that much further the other way up Lindbergh. And then retail trends changed to several Big Box lots spread throughout a municipality and Jamestown Mall became the remote island of Misfit Stores.

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    The dead end of Jamestown that was slated for senior housing and office space.

    The ULI proposal recognizes how remote this location is, so logically suggests that it be turned into a bells and whistle mixed-use destination, a place so chock-full of everything and the kitchen sink that folks from all over the region will be itching to go there… until the newness fades away into the next Retail Destination dog and pony show that’s easier to get to.

    They also propose that the new use have a Vegas-like reenactment of urban density, which is flat-out silly when you glance at the distinctly rural qualities of the areas surrounding it.  Florissant shouldn’t spend millions on a New Town, Part II.

    I propose, instead, a totally original mixed-use idea that takes into consideration the area and its flavor and gives people something they can’t get anywhere else so that they are totally willing to come from all over to have a crack at it, repeatedly.

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    From the current proposal I’d keep the ice hockey pond and the farmer’s market.  To stick with the sports theme, let’s go extreme: could someone finally give our area a full-blown skateboard park, please?  Also add a bicycle motocross course.  Some of the original building foundations could be left in place for both of these items, and because we don’t have anything like this currently, they’d pull a steady stream of people all year long totally willing to pay to play.

    If one or both is too radical an idea to consider, maybe pay homage to the horse culture still existent in this part of North County, with something similar to Pere Marquette Stables?

    Expand the farmer’s market idea by also creating a pick-your-own vegetable garden.  Think Eckert’s apple orchard, with people paying to pick their own local vegetables that they know comes right from the ground.  There’s plenty of room for seasonal harvests like strawberries in the spring, pumpkin patches in the fall, and just like Waldbart Nursery nearby (let them sponsor it and support local business), chop your own Christmas tree in the winter.

    Right on the Old Jamestown and Lindbergh corner I’d slap down a restaurant that naturally features seasonal food that comes from the gardens, and a cafe for hot or cold beverages and treats, depending on the time of year.  And so I don’t have to worry about the fate of the Jamestown Mall sculptures, move them into an outdoor sculpture and water garden for a unique dining-outdoors experience.

    Any or all of these ideas would cost far less to develop than what is proposed, and promotes a sustainable, outdoors, healthy agenda that is not dependent on fickle retail trends or just-add-water urban islands inappropriate to the area.  Even with our crap economy, they could begin with the gardens on existing empty land while demolition happens on the mall, so that everyone can see innovative progress happen in stages, and even take part in the process.

    Are these far-fetched ideas, or is it do-able?  Do you think it could pull people from all over the metropolitan area and contribute meaningfully to the area’s tax base?  And what are some other uses for the land other than the cliched ideas being proposed?

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    31 Responses to “Tear Down Jamestown Mall”

    1. As a child living in Alton, Il, the opening of Jamestown was as welcome as if they had built Six Flags. On the weekend the family would pile in the car for a day of bad food, arcade games, and shopping for unfashionable clothing. This was of course before Alton (and everywhere else) got their own mall.

    2. ..Tearing down such nice stores is so worthless in every aspect it is intended for.
      Can people not see what has happened to the other stores that they have tried to rebuild, to be suited best with other competition. Look at Northland Shopping center, now a strip mall,and ugly. The same little shops that are down the street from them but under a different name. Northland was our weekend hangout, we lived a few blocks from it off Huiscamp. The stores were wonderful and people came from all over to shop, eat, and listen to the bands on the parking lot. Northwest Plaza, now there is a joke. Millions of $$$$ spent and for what? The neighborhood is so bad, you don’t go after dark. Cars have been broken into, people mugged on the lot, and they thought closing it in was the solution, the security sucks for what there is, which isn’t much. Quit worrying about “clothing, fashion” stores, put in skating rinks (hodges roller rink was great by the way)build it so anyone would love to come there, big & open, bright lights, music of all kinds, food/juice bars, use your imagination. You can still have offices on top level, but put some value in what is needed for the community. Walmart is right around the corner,as they are everywhere, they can’t do it. How about another inside trampoline fun spot. In all reality though, the mall might be at its end. It is though quite sad that when a building is being vacated, the first thing everyone wants to do is tear it down and rebuild, instead of a new face. I know the reason for all the brick exterior, but when the glass was taken away it made all look like crap and unapproachable. I mean, we are just country folk out here.

    3. Growing up in Michigan, there was Fashion Square Mall in Saginaw, and they had those same cool sculptures. So did Chesterfield Mall, and they have disappeared. I have bad feeling they were scrapped, which is really too bad as they’re really, really cool. We should work to save them if possible.

    4. richard stupidhead

      should never have been built in the first place… hrumph

    5. You should consider contacting the Gateway Foundation and see if there is interest in getting the sculptures. If nothing else, Gateway has the capacity to store them properly until a place is found for them.

    6. I’m with you Toby — the New Urbanism formula is a laughable solution to Jamestown Mall. besides, the mall has always been an anomaly in a lovely green belt. Let’s build up the city and leave this area as a close-to-the-city slice of the country.

    7. What great ideas! As the mother of two boys who skated, I especially love the idea of a skatepark. And stables! And a vegetable garden!

    8. This breaks my heart–I practically grew up at Jamestown Mall. My mom did all of her shopping here, and as a teenager this was THE place to be seen. I got my first french kiss at Jamestown Mall! It was right by the former Pass Pets…ah, good times.

    9. I have never been to Jamestown, but I remember my parents driving us to what at the time seemed like waaay out to Chesterfield Mall in the late 70’s a few years after it opened. Highway 40 was still like a roller coaster of rolling hills, two lanes each way. The mall had strikingly similar sculptures and interior features like big sunken conversation pits. I haven’t been there in over a decade, but I recall that an early-mid 90’s makeover wiped out all these features. Its amazing that the original interior survives intact at Jamestown.

      The senior housing & office re-use idea sounded very interesting. Who proposed that? I remember when Pyramid was contemplating uses for River Roads, I suggested re-using the SBF building as senior housing by cutting a courtyard out of the middle and keeping the east terra cotta facade intact. They thought I was crazy, and now it is still a prairie.

      Super high density does seem kind of silly there. The skate/sports and stable ideas are intriguing. Seems like either could re-use portions of the existing building.

    10. […] STL: River Roads Returns to Nature UrbanReviewSTL

    11. I grew up right next door to Jamestown Mall and recently attended the ULI public forum. I’m not crazy about seeing the mall demolished (what a waste), and I definitely want to see those sculptures saved, but I think the new concept could be interesting.

      I’d love to see North County take the lead on something and produce a place that is just as unique and interesting as the people who live here.

    12. I grew up in North County and we went to Jamestown frequently. Wehrenberg just left the theater to the mall to run and Sears is gone. You can’t go in the Dillards end anymore. I remember when Stix was there they had icicle lights hanging between the escalators and a fountain outside the store in the mall. The place is going downhill.

    13. Oh i just love it, it’s so great.

    14. Lots of fond memories of Jamestown… Grew up in North County and graduated EHS 1992. The dollar movies were epic…. Went to see the Doors there like 50 times. Used to pound down some beers and head to the mall for what we used to refer to as “Going Public”.

    15. My Jamestown Mall story:

      I was about 9 years old with my mom and her shopping galpays and their kids eating at Jacks-or-Better, the place whose gimmick was letting you throw your peanut shells on the floor, and some stupid teenage waitress slid on a cluster of shells and dumped 2 pitchers of rootbeer over my head and into my lap.

      My mother made me “shop sticky”. Thanks Mom! Other than that, fond memories of Jamestown Mall. Many more fond memories of Northwest Plaza…for kids this was a mecca for running and playing. With the eventual flop of RiverRoads, Jamestown, Northwest Plaza, St. Louis Center…it just makes you wonder when and what will bring down Galleria, Frontenac and West County.

      If this site is still up, check out: deadmalls.com

    16. Oh yeah, Jacks or Better! Never ate their enough – loved it! Throwing peanuts on the floor is such a kid lure, yet the theme of the place was gambling. Guess that was to make the parents feel better?

    17. Wow,talk about flashbacks!!! I went to Jamestown every Friday or Saturday night from 1985-1995. I bought pretzels,with hot choclate sauce, from Hot Sam’s; tapes,remember those?, from Camelot; played endless games at Aladdin’s Castle; checked out the animals at Pass Pets; Spencer’s gifts was always fun; Waldenbooks; getting Airwalk’s at Journey’s,etc. I remembering if you watched late movies,you went out the back entrance. Around 1994, it was becoming a ghost town. I went in the Army in March of ’96 and came back on leave in July ’96. They had put in the food court. (Chick-Fil-a rules!!) It was even worse. Musicland was the cd store at the time. They,along with Sam Goody, were always higher than Camelot Music. Can anyone name more stores from those years? I’m drawing a blank. Thanks. :-)

    18. Da-Da from Alton

      I can only imagine the kids these days that may read this and just laugh, but this and other Malls of the region, and of its kind, were wrinkles in time that will never be re-created, literally. The sculptures at Jamestown are still there because they were built to last, true craftsmanship and materials. “True Art” as opposed to the cheesy trend of todays temporary “Dry Wall” and “Vinyl” construction found in newer malls in the region. I can still remember the distinctive scent of the fountains when walking in the mall. Anyway, I remember one winter at one of the antique shows, with my parents, they demanded that I stop climbing the marble fountains and behave…… Well…
      I slipped….. Completely under water, in fullbodied snowsuit, shoes, gloves, and hat. “LOL!!!” Needless to say they were very mad, not to mention it was 15 degrees outside. I remember eating at Wag’s with my mom and Karmel Korn was always able to be smelled up and down the walkway. I used to love watching the old guy’s at the Keyboard / Piano store out front, just a jamming away old lounge tunes from decades before…. They would really get in to it :)
      I remember the first “Journey’s” shoes in STL opened here as well. Does anyone remember the little Zippo lighter shop under the escalator in Sears?
      Ahhhh… Good times….. :)

    19. FYI, the restaurant in Walgreen’s was Wag’s :)

    20. Not once did I remember the tiny Zippo store under the escalator. Then you bring it up and BOOM, the film reel starts spinning!
      It was always so fascinating to a small kid, wasn’t it?
      Thank you for bringing that memory out from mothballs!

    21. From bad to worse to even worse. The P-D reported today that Jamestown Mall was closed by the county because there was not enough heat. It seems the gas bill hasn’t been paid in a while and the county forced the mall to close for the day. It also appears the movie theater has also closed recently, although I don’t know the exact date. Here’s the link to the story about the lack of heat:

      http://www.stltoday.com/business/local/lack-of-heat-prompts-county-to-close-jamestown-mall/article_9f47d223-2123-59d6-9f42-bce1c3b45766.html

    22. Here’s another article about Jamestown Mall, that was published on Oct 13, 2013. This article states the movie theater was open at that time, but I recently checked the website of the company that supposedly runs it (Nova Cinemas) and there’s no link for the Jamestown Mall Cinema there. This article also mentions lack of heat has been a recurring problem at the mall.

      Here ya go:

      http://www.stltoday.com/business/local/exodus-continues-at-jamestown-mall/article_d1de8169-0ecb-5705-894f-f654bb363eb1.html

    23. Its SO sad to see what this once great mall has become over the past 30 some years, as a young kid me and my family went to this mall often even thou we lived in IL and malls like St Clair Square were so much closer. My Dad really liked it and so did we. I went there long before the mall was expanded into that newer section. Like another writer posted, I remember the smell of the water fountain, I loved those so much, seeing the lights glow under the water and the reflection on the ceiling above, and the sound of the water. I remember going to the small theater they had, the cool arcade, I remember a tabacoo shop that always smelled so good just walking by. The mall was always so full of shoppers walking around. I remember the entrances were so cool looking back then.. then they changed them. I also will never forget sometime back in the mid 80’s there was this tv, electronics store in the mall, they had this big screen tv sitting outside of the shop and it was playing Star Wars the Empire Strike Back, the scene when the walkers were attacking hoth, and the transports were trying to escape and the huge ion cannon was firing so they could escape… Ill never forget the huge crowd of people just standing around watching it… I was just like WOW. It was so surreal. Then my mom and dad got divorced in like around 1988.. I didnt go back until like 1990 or 91.. the mall had changed a lot, thugs roamed the mall, on the way out fo the mall a few thugs in a stolen car jumped from the car when a cop tried to pull them over and they ran into the mall, seemed like a hundred cops chasing them, they even had a helicopter… it was no longer a safe place… I went there less and less, and now… the place is a ghost town. So many great memories, I really hate to see it torn down. Really saddens me.

    24. I totally forgot about that ZIPPO lighter store under the Sears escalator, and I thought I remembered everything! Thanks for the memories.

    25. I’m really surprised the doors haven’t been locked up yet; the once beautiful Dillards is now a store that sells old hotel furnishings; JC’s 5 Star Outlet now gone, too, leaving Macy’s as the only anchor left, and they have now closed their mall enterance. A friend of a friend of mine actually did just open a store in there selling music memoribilia and whatnot; they gave him 3 store fronts for a really cheap price, but even at a giveaway price; can’t imagine any business can be done there anymore. There is an insurance man, a head shop, and this memoribilia place inside the mall, and that’s really about it. Can’t imagine it worth the expense for lighting, heating, and cooling the place for just a few little places in the mall. Its sad, but Jamestown Mall was already dying 15 years ago. Between the changing demographics of the areas adjacent like BlackJack and Spanish Lake into poor areas, and the remote location; Jamestown Mall could become the next Dixie Square Mall (for those who have never heard of the mall, its the one the Blues Brothers drove through and wrecked in 1979 – it sat vacant and rotting over 30 years before being torn down.

    26. Just saw this on Facebook: Macy’s at Jamestown Mall will close later this year. Looks like the end is coming faster:

      http://m.bizjournals.com/stlouis/blog/2014/01/macys-to-close-jamestown-mall-store.html?ana=e_stl_bn&r=full

    27. I find it sad, my fathers cousin owned the property that the Mall is built on, and they sold it to who ever they did so the Mall could be built. I have a picture of me on a horse at the farm they owned before it was sold. I lived in Florissant for 22 years, and went to the Mall very often. Loved N C very much, my daughter went to Townsend Elementary, Jury, Hazelwood Jr High and then to Hazelwood East. Lots of very fond memories.

    28. Jamestown Mall could again be a great place to shop without all the crowds and traffic of other big malls. Just give us a few quality stores and restaurants for shopping and leave the open space and natural surrounding around the mall for a farmer’s market, community gardens and other neat nature things for school children and residents to enjoy.

    29. I love looking at these old pictures of the interior of the mall. I spent so many weekends and weeknights at Jamestown, always running over there with my mom to pick something up or for her to pay a bill. I used to get my hair cut at the Salon in Stix Baer & Fuller; when it converted to Dillard’s, the salon remained. My girl was Cheryl, and she was fabulous! Some of my favorite shops inside the mall were Camelot music (imagine I spent too much allowance money here buying cassettes), Thom McAnn Shoes, Paas Pets, Baskin Robbins, Claire’s, Casual Corner, Waldenbooks. We ate at Pope’s cafeteria. I remember sitting in the open areas by the water, looking at all the coins people had thrown in the fountains. I think the last time I was at Jamestown Mall was shortly before my wedding in 2005… mom and I went to pick up mother-of-the-bride shoes or something, and we walked through the mall. There was a kiosk in the middle that would take your photograph and then convert it, via a computer program, into what appeared to be a “hand-drawn sketch.” So we paid the $5 and sat to have our portrait “sketched.” We were laughing when the photo was taken. I still have the “sketch.” So sad to see that Jamestown has declined to where it is.

    30. Although my family lived in Granite City, we often shopped at Jamestown Mall. I LOVED the sausage pizza at Orange Bowl. I saw Star Wars for the first time there in 1977. Other places I remember well:

      Jacks or Better (we ate there sometimes)
      Camelot Music
      Tinder Box
      Kay-Bee Toys
      World Bazaar (I bought a sword there once)

      My dad worked for a store fixture company and had helped build the displays of many of the shoe stores like Buster Brown and Regal Shoes.

    31. Ken, I, too saw Star Wars in ’77 at Jamestown. About 4 times! And it’s the ONLY of the movies in that series I’ve ever seen.
      And jacks or Better – throw the peanut shells on the floor!
      Next to the Orange Julius was a T-shirt transfer shop. I still have 3 baseball jerseys with rock band logos on them, from there, and they still fit!