RANDALL PARK MALL
Northfield and Emery Roads
North Randall, Ohio

Hailed as the largest enclosed shopping center in the Buckeye State...let alone the planet... upon its completion, Cleveland's RANDALL PARK MALL has experienced a dramatic rise and fall over its thirty-plus years of business. Today, it lingers in a state of suspended animation, with the dubious distinction of being the nation's largest dead mall.

However, back in 1973, things looked rosy. Youngstown's Edward J. DeBartolo proposed a gargantuan retail center for the small Cleveland suburb of North Randall. The super center was to occupy a 117 acre plot, 15 miles southeast of Public Square, which had been the site of the Randall Race Track (a horse racing park).

DeBartolo's "City within a City" was to be the nucleus of a grand development, which was to include three apartment buildings, two office towers and a performing arts center...none of which ever came to fruition. What did come to pass was a 1.5 million square foot, bi-level shopping center.

The one hundred and seventy-five million dollar complex, designed by DeBartolo's brother Frank, was anchored by a 2-level (285,700 square foot) Sears, 2-level (207,000 square foot) J. C. Penney, 2-level (176,300 square foot), Cleveland-based May Company of Ohio, 2-level (170,000 square foot), Cleveland-based Higbee's and 3-level (201,000 square foot), Pittsburgh-based Joseph Horne Company.

A potential sixth anchor, promoted by DeBartolo as a Cleveland-based Halle's ["Hal-eez"], was never built. In fact, the department store chain never entertained any notion of locating at RANDALL PARK MALL.

The grand opening, officiated by actress Dina Merrill, was held August 11, 1976. The gigantic shopping center featured two separate stores for Fanny Farmer Candies, Thom McAn Shoes, Hot Sam Pretzels and the Fun-N-Games arcade. Among the one hundred and fifty-two charter tenants were Petrie's apparel, Camelot Music, Things Remembered, World Bazaar, Toyco, Diamond's men's apparel, J. Riggings and the Randall Park Mall I-II-III Cinemas.

The primary commercial competitor of RANDALL PARK MALL was SOUTHGATE CENTER (1955) {.9 mile south, in Maple Heights} which lost two of its anchor stores to the newer retail complex. Eventually, the tide turned and a greatly-expanded SOUTHGATE USA put the hurt on its retail adversary. Moreover, BEACHWOOD PLACE {4.7 miles northeast, in Beachwood} was completed in 1978.

In spite of this, RANDALL PARK was enormously successful during its early years. Things had started to change by the mid-1980s. The mall became notorious for car thefts, muggings and gangland violence. Shoppers stayed away in droves.

The first anchor alterations transpired in 1992. Horne's closed; its upper level re-opening as a Burlington Coat Factory. Also, Higbee's was rebranded by Dillard's. In 1993 May Company became a Pittsburgh-based Kaufmann's. October 1998 brought the down-sizing of J.C. Penney into an Outlet Store.

In March 1996, the DeBartolo Realty Group had been acquired by the Indianapolis-based Simon Property Group. Simon DeBartolo embarked upon a twenty million dollar renovation of the RANDALL PARK property in the summer of 1998. This included the installation of a new Food Court and construction of a Magic Johnson 12-plex cinema.

The project, completed in the following year, did not cause a retail resuscitation of the struggling shopping center. By August 2002, Simon had unloaded the albatross. It fell into the hands of Raleigh, North Carolina-based Whichard Realty in 2004...who did not pursue any sort of revitalization.

Meanwhile, to add insult to injury, a new lifestyle center had been built in the vicinity of RANDALL PARK MALL. LEGACY VILLAGE {4.9 miles northeast, in Lyndhurst} was completed in 2003. The RANDALL PARK property now had two vacant anchors and well over one hundred empty store spaces. J.C. Penney had pulled out in January 2001. Dillard's threw in the proverbial towel in 2002.

Things got progressively worse. By mid-2008, the Magic Johnson Cinema and Macy's (a 2006 rebranding of Kaufmann's) were defunct. However, the Penney's space had been retenanted in 2007. Ohio Technical College utilized the store and freestanding Auto Center as the Power Sports Institute. Moreover, the multiplex re-opened as O Theatre at Randall Park.

A deal with Cincinnati-based United Contractors / United Church Builders to purchase the mall hit hurdles in late June, 2008. The deal would never be finalized. Inline stores in operation within the mall closed in March 2009, with a formal closure conducted in May. Sears shuttered their store June 14, leaving only the exterior-entranced Burlington Coat Factory, Furniture Mattress Liquidators, Power Sports Institute and O Theatre in business. These would soon throw in the towel, as well.

The final RANDALL PARK MALL redevelopment scenario surfaced in October 2010. Proposed by Devland Holdings, a New York City-based branch of a South African concern, it was spearheaded by Neill Bernstein and Terry Brenner. They proposed a reinvention of the moribund mall as DEVLAND CITY, a center for light industry, education and research and development. Unfortunately, these plans were merely talk. No redevelopment ensued.

In March 2014, it was announced that RANDALL PARK MALL would be demolished, leaving Sears standing. Work was scheduled to get underway in June 2014. The mall site was to be made into an industrial park.

Sources:

"Randall Park Mall" article on Wikipedia
Cuyahoga County tax assessor website
www.deadmalls.com
www.greatamericaparks.com
www.labelscar.com
Cleveland Plain Dealer
www.cleveland.com
Cleveland Business Journal
www.cinematreasures.com
Comment post by "Go Nordrike!"
www.newsnet5.com

17 comments:

Anonymous said...

Its not accurate to say Randall Park closed up on June 12; myself and others have visited it since then and its still very much open, although there are only about 5 or 6 shops open inside besides Sears, Burlington and the theatre. I was there on August 30 and got a number of pictures inside.

The Curator said...

Anon,

Thanks for posting the info.

The RANDALL PARK MALL article here has been revised to show that, as of Aug-Sept 2008, the mall is still open.

Cheers,

Paul said...

It is a cool mall, it just happens to be the victim of a declining neighborhood and people wanting newer and better things.

The Curator said...

Paul,

RANDALL PARK, Edward J. DeBartolo's "showplace".

It's a good thing that he's not around to see what it has become. He might not believe it.....

Thanks for perusing and posting,

Cheers

Anonymous said...

The mall was proposed in 1960, when DeBartolo bought the Randall Park, a thoroughbread horse racing track that played second fiddle to the bigger and more nationally known Thistledown track across the street. The stumbling block was moving Randall's race days to Thistledown (racing days for horse tracks typically belong to a particular park and are notoriously difficult to move, regardless of state). This took many years. Many people in surrounding towns fought construction of the mall and used the race days as away to do this.

In the meantime, Southgate (in Maple heights) developed into a mega plaza with over 100 stores, just a couple miles away. The need for a big shopping center became less and less. Also, the demographics of the area began to change in the early 60s, with panic selling of houses in nearby Warrensville Heights and in the Lee-Harvard area of Cleveland. Still, the area around Randall was considered a desirable retail place to be through the 60s and into the 70s--there were a number of major car dealerships (a couple remain) and branches of various discount department store and furniture chains.

The mall initially did well, in part, because it had branches of national chains that otherwise had no branches in the Cleveland area. Still, it was dogged with racilaly tinged rumors about car theft and other problems that had no real basis in fact. the real problems came later...

Construction of the upscale Beachwood Place (opened in late 1978) probably didn't help Randall Park as it had a more upscale Higbee's and a number of stores also unique to the Cleveland area. this would have siphoned off the kind of shoppers that Horne's and Higbee's were meant to attract. Actually, the eastern suburbs became overmalled in the late 70s (now dead Euclid Square opened in '77) and the economy declined through the 70s and into the 80s. Randall was probably a mall that never should have been built.

The Curator said...

Anon,

I have to agree.....it would have been better had this poor mall not been built.

I wonder what they're going to do with it....

Thanks for posting.

Happy holidays

Jonah Norason said...

The mall is now closed as per eyewitness accounts (see Labelscar). Interesting how the "masterpiece" malls of developers (de Bartolo's RANDALL PARK MALL, von Frellick's CINDERELLA CITY MALL, and Gruen's MIDTOWN PLAZA) fall by the wayside more than any other. There may be more fallen masterpieces that I'm not aware of.

Jonah Norason said...

Correction, the mall is still open, but Burlington and Sears no longer open into the mall and planning to leave.

The Curator said...

Jonah,

Thanks for the info.

I take it that the purchase of the mall by the Cincinnati Church Builders Company fell through (?).

I'm amazed the mall is still open.....

Jonah Norason said...

Hey

Sears is gone now (or at least on its last legs) and Burlington no longer opens into the mall interior. I believe the theater is finally gone.

The "city-within-a-city" concept sounds suspiciously like SOUTHDALE CENTER...but was RANDALL PARK MALL really going to have all of those connecting to it, or just nearby?

Finally, an exciting thing has been posted to the Internet...a vintage (1970s) directory to Randall Park. I think you'll enjoy it. I did!

http://www.greatamericaparks.com/images/thumbnails.php?album=164

The Curator said...

Jonah,

Can't thank you enough for linking me to the marvelous RANDALL PARK directory. If only I had this kind of info for every mall on here!

I dunno much about the "city within a city" thing. With a mall site as big as Randall Park's...maybe DeBartolo was planning on putting everything there.

Cheers,

Anonymous said...

Sears has closed leaving only Burlington Coat Factory and the Furniture liquidators.

The Curator said...

Anon,

Thanks for the info. I went ahead and tweeked the existing article.....making it more current.

askthecoolcookie said...

I'm joining this discussion late.

One of the problems with Randall Park is that it was a good 10 years late to the retail party.
Northfield Road, from Shaker Heights to Bedford was already played out by the time this mall came online. In fact, Northfield Road expirienced hyper development in the late 1960s with Discount Department stores like Uncle Bills, Giant Tiger, Gaylords (GT's replacement), Zayre, etc. Then the I480 project, ran almost twenty years behind schedule and decimated the areas to the south of the mall. It also didn't help matters that there was a "top secret" NIKE Missle base west of Warrensville Center Road.

Add to this the racial instability of Cleveland following the 1964 and 1968 riots and urban renewal and Randall Park was already a failing business model before they turned the first shovel. Had they located the Mall at the corner of Wilson Mills and Richmond Road (Where Richmond Mall is located) it would have been a real block buster. But where it was, failed to attract the money from Shaker Heights, South Euclid, Beachwood, etc.

The Curator said...

ATC,

Thanks for posting.

We've heard of being "in the wrong place at the wrong time"....

This surely applies to RANDALL PARK MALL.

What was DeBartolo thinking?

Go Nordrike! said...

Hey man, I just seen in Facebook via my friend in Live Mall's page, it seems Randall Park Mall will be torn down; this is the link:

http://www.newsnet5.com/news/local-news/oh-cuyahoga/majority-of-randall-park-mall-to-be-demolished

It's sad to see such a mall like this die and go in such a manner, at least it seems Sears will remain standing, everything else will be torn down since vacant lots are selling for industrial space.

The Curator said...

Go!,

Yup..sad to see it go..but it seems like they are putting the place out of its misery..."mall euthanasia" I guess.

Thanks for posting, as always.