CHAPEL HILL MALL
Brittain Road and Howe Avenue
Cuyahoga Falls, Ohio

The story of Akron's second shopping mall goes back to The Great Depression and Julius Johannes ("J.J.") Buchholzer, who owned the local Hower's department store. He envisioned the family farm, situated 4.5 miles northeast of the center city, as a prime spot for a branch location.

By the early 1960s, it was clear that the site could support a large suburban shopping center. Buchholzer's son Richard teamed up with Cleveland's Forest City Enterprises. Ground was broken for CHAPEL HILL MALL in 1965. The single-level shopping hub would encompass 80 acres and contain approximately 858,600 leasable square feet.

The first operational store, a 1-level (200,000 square foot) Sears, began business in 1966. It was followed by a 2-level (165,100 square foot), Akron-based O'Neil's, which welcomed its first patrons February 16, 1967. A 2-level (194,100 square foot) J.C. Penney held its grand opening August 17, 1967.

An official grand opening for the mall was held October 12 1967, with twenty-one stores in operation by December. When fully-leased, the shopping center housed seventy five. Charter tenants included Gray Drug, Jo-Ann Fabrics, Lane Bryant, Mode O'Day Frock Shop, National shirt Shops, Winkelman's ladies' wear, Zales Jewelers, a Kroger supermarket and F.W. Woolworth 5 & 10.

The General Cinema Corporation Chapel Hill Cinema I & II had showed its first features October 19, 1966 and was the first twin movie house in the state of Ohio. It was split into a triplex in November 1973, eventually being divided into a five-screen venue.

A freestanding theater, the General Cinema Corporation Plaza 8, was built .5 mile northwest of CHAPEL HILL MALL and was dedicated in September 1988. Another movie house, the Regal Independence 10, was situated directly southwest of the mall. Its first features were shown in October 1996. With the completion of this venue, the original in-mall theater was shuttered.

Other regional-class shopping centers in the CHAPEL HILL trade area were SUMMIT MALL (1965) {7.6 miles northwest, in Fairlawn} and ROLLING ACRES MALL (1975) {7.2 miles southwest, in Akron}.

Like other stores in the O'Neill's chain, the CHAPEL HILL location was rebranded as a Cleveland-based May Company of Ohio January 27, 1989. Pittsburgh-based Kaufmann's took over January 31, 1993, followed by Macy's, on September 9, 2006.

A prospective expansion of the CHAPEL HILL property was announced in 1988. This project, which would have added a Cleveland-based Higbee's and several inline stores, was eventually abandoned.

A bona fide remodeling did get underway in March 1994. A 12-bay Food Court, which included a hand-crafted Carousel, was built at the Main Entrance. The existing mall was also given a face lift, which included new lighting, ceilings and a water feature. The remodeling, completed in November 1994, increased the GLA of CHAPEL HILL MALL to 861,000 leasable square feet.

Chattanooga-based CBL & Associates Properties acquired CHAPEL HILL MALL in May 2004 and completed another refurbishment on November 4, 2006. Soon after, the shopping hub began a downward spiral, caused by changing neighborhood demographics, crime and competition from other area malls...namely SUMMIT.

CBL defaulted on their 77 million dollar loan in June 2014, with ownership of the struggling shopping hub reverting to US Bank. They brought in Ann Arbor, Michigan's McKinley Management to oversee operations.

Several key inline tenants left the shopping facility, including The Gap and Game Stop. More serious losses were incurred when Macy's and Sears closed their CHAPEL HILL stores. Macy's went dark March 26, 2016. Sears followed suit in March 2017.

Sources:

"Chapel Hill Mall" article on Wikipedia
www.cinematreasures.org
http://www.movie-theatre.org / Mike Rivest
The Akron Beacon Journal
http://www.thedepartmentstoremuseum.org
Summit County, Ohio tax assessor website
www.cblproperties.com (CBL & Associates Properties)
Chapel Hill Mall memories of "BM67"
www.yourpublisher.com / "Akron History Trails"