Dorset Street and Williston Road
South Burlington, Vermont

Syracuse, New York's Pyramid Companies were the first corporate entity to propose a regional-class shopping mall for Burlington, Vermont and its environs. Their plan for PYRAMID MALL WILLISTON would have developed a 494,000 square foot complex on a site situated in the Town of Williston, a community 6 miles southeast of Downtown Burlington. Unfortunately for Pyramid, their mall proposal was rejected by the local governing body in October 1978.

By this time, a more modest mall was being built by a joint venture of Greater Boston's Finard Properties and Rand Industries, on a 56 acre plot. This was located 2.3 miles southeast of center city Burlington, in the suburb of South Burlington.

UNIVERSITY MALL was added to freestanding Zayre and Almy's stores. Originally housing approximately 320,000 leasable square feet, the fully-enclosed, single-level complex was dedicated April 5, 1979.

The shopping facility was anchored by a 1-level (79,800 square foot) Zayre discount mart and 1-level (60,000 square foot) Salem, Massachusetts-based Almy's department store. There were twenty-seven tenants in operation at the official grand opening, with a grand total of forty-seven in the fully-leased complex.

The primary shopping options in the "U-MALL" trade area were BURLINGTON SQUARE / TOWN CENTER (1976) {1.6 miles northwest, in Downtown Burlington} and a collection of small strip plazas situated 1.4 miles southwest of U-MALL, in South Burlington. These were BURLINGTON PLAZA and MALL 189 (which were eventually morphed into SOUTH BURLINGTON FACTORY OUTLET CENTER and SHELBURNE ROAD PLAZA). 

A renovation and expansion of U-MALL got underway in 1987. A new Zayre was built, as a freestanding structure, on the south end of the site. The 1-level (86,600 square foot) store was dedicated in 1988.

Following the completion of the new Zayre, the south mall corridor was extended through the original store. A 29,000 square foot expansion connected the old and new Zayres. This remodeling, completed in 1989, brought the square footage of U-MALL up to approximately 435,600 square feet. Its retail roster now listed seventy-seven stores and services.

The first anchor change at UNIVERSITY MALL was set in motion with the shuttering of Almy's, in May 1987. The store sat vacant until Asbury Park, New Jersey-based Steinbach opened a store there, in 1992. Meanwhile, stores in the Zayre chain were rebranded by Rocky Hill, Connecticut-based Ames. The transition was completed on October 26, 1989.

A second expansion of the retail hub brought a 1-level (85,500 square foot) J.C. Penney. This store, which utilized gutted mall space and a small addition, was dedicated November 11, 1992. In November 1997, a third expansion got underway. This added a 2-level (126,500 square foot) Sears and multilevel parking garage. These were completed in November 1998. U-MALL now encompassed around 610,700 leasable square feet.

Subsequent anchor rebrandings took place after the closing of Steinbach, in the spring of 1999. The store re-opened , as a York, Pennsylvania-based The Bon Ton, in November 1999. Ames, shuttered in late 2002, re-opened, as a Wisconsin-based Kohl's, in April 2004. An indoor-outdoor face lift was done between May and November 2005. During this project, new ceilings, flooring, lighting and soft seating were installed. Mall entrances were also rebuilt.

Finard Properties, who had established full ownership of U-MALL, defaulted on their loan. The property was foreclosed on in July 2016. It was placed under control of Miami Beach, Florida's LNR Properties, with Burlington, Massachusetts' Key Point Partners hired to manage and lease the facility.

The new management company completed a renovation of the mall's interior during 2018, as The Bon Ton was closing down. The store went dark on January 31, 2018. Its space was renovated, with a small format Target welcoming its first shoppers in October 2018.

Sources: / "Caldor"
"University Mall" article on Wikipedia