BELDEN VILLAGE MALL
Everhard Road Northwest and Whipple Avenue Northwest
Stark County (Jackson Township), Ohio

The Hall of Fame City's second fully-enclosed retail hub was developed by a joint venture of the Belden family and Herbert Strawbridge (CEO of the Cleveland-based Higbee's chain). The single-level shopopolis was built on a 63.9 acre parcel, located 5 miles northwest of center city Canton. The site was in an unincorporated section of Stark County known as Jackson Township and was adjacent to the Interstate 77 expressway.

A 2-level (191,000 square foot) Higbee's was the first structure built at the site. The store opened in August 1968 and was followed by BELDEN VILLAGE MALL, whose official grand opening was held October 1, 1970. In addition to Higbee's, the complex was anchored by a 2-level (131,000 square foot), Akron-based O'Neil's and 1-level (126,900 square foot) Sears.

Charter tenants included a boutique-type -Cleveland-based- Halle's ["Hal-eez"], Canton-based Stern & Mann, Thom McAn Shoes, Vicary's for Men and Fleischer's Shoes. The center also had a theatrical venue in its periphery. The Belden Village Twin, an across-the-street outparcel, was in operation between 1973 and 1997.

During its first 30 years, the 761,900 square foot shopping venue had only slight modifications. Facelift renovations were done, with a Food Court installed in previously-existing space. Sears also added a partial second level in 1995, increasing the store's size to 188,100 square feet. The mall now encompassed 823,000 leasable square feet.

BELDEN VILLAGE competed with the original major shopping center in the region, MELLETT MALL {4.1 miles south, in Canton}, but eventually gained prominence. In late 1996, a more formidable retail rival came on the scene. THE STRIP {.8 mile northwest, in Stark County} was a power-format complex that was definitely too close for comfort to the BELDEN VILLAGE property.

The first anchor rebranding at BELDEN VILLAGE had taken place in late 1992, when stores in the Higbee's chain were rebranded by Dillard's. O'Neil's became a Cleveland-based May Company of Ohio on January 27, 1989. On January 31, 1993, Pittsburgh-based Kaufmann's installed their nameplate on the store. This chain succumbed to that famous Manhattan -now Cincinnati- merchandiser September 9, 2006.

BELDEN VILLAGE MALL was acquired by Australia-based Westfield Holdings (now the Westfield Group) in December 2001. Its new moniker WESTFIELD SHOPPINGTOWN BELDEN VILLAGE was shortened (sans the  "Shoppingtown" reference) in June 2005.

In the early 21st century, the center had one hundred and seven inline stores and several outparcels, including Sears Auto Center (1970), Chili's Grill & Bar (1986), Max & Erma's (2005) and Bravo! Cucina Italiana (2006).

An outdoor "Main Street" promenade, with 110,000 square feet of new retailers and sit-down restaurants, was proposed by Westfield in 2007. This project, which was to be added to the north-facing facade of WESTFIELD BELDEN VILLAGE, was to include a southwest parking deck. Plans for the expansion were abandoned as a result of The Great Recession.

In fact, Westfield placed the mall, and sixteen other "B-grade" United States properties, on the selling block in April 2011. It was hoped that proceeds from these sales would fund improvements to "A-grade" Westfield malls, such as CENTURY CITY {Los Angeles, California}, VALLEY FAIR {San Jose, California} and GARDEN STATE PLAZA {Paramus, New Jersey}.

Westfield sold BELDEN VILLAGE in October 2013, with the buyer being Starwood Retail Partners, an affiliate of the Greenwich, Connecticut-based Starwood Capital Group. Soon after the transaction closed, the official name of the shopping hub reverted back to BELDEN VILLAGE MALL.

Sources:

"Westfield Belden Village" article on Wikipedia
Stark County, Ohio tax assessor website
www.eyecorp.com
www.westfield.com
Malls of America Blogspot / Keith Milford webmaster