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, 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 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 of the same year. Charter tenants included Gray Drug, Jo-Ann Fabrics, Lane Bryant, Rivet Jeans, Chess King, Camelot Music, a Kroger supermarket and F.W. Woolworth 5 & 10.

The Chapel Hill Cinema I & II had showed its first features October 6, 1966 and was the first twin movie house in the state of Ohio. It was split into a triplex in 1973, eventually being divided into a five-screen venue. The theater closed in the late 1980s, as the Plaza 8, in the vicinity of the mall, was dedicated. Another CHAPEL HILL area cinema, the Regal Independence 10, opened October 18, 1996.

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 first announced in 1988. This project was to add a new Higbee's and several inline stores, but was eventually abandoned.

A bona fide remodeling did get underway in March 1994. A 12-bay Food Court, encompassing 23,000 square feet and including a hand-crafted Carousel, was constructed in front of the Main Entrance. The existing mall structure was also given a facelift, which included a new water feature, as well as lighting and ceilings. 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 dedicated another  mall-wide facelift 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 mall 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 have left the shopping hub over the past few years, 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 early 2017.

Sources:

"Chapel Hill Mall" article on Wikipedia
www.cinematreasures.org
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"