Morse and Karl Roads
Franklin County (Columbus), Ohio

NORTHLAND CENTER, Columbus' first mall-type shopping complex, was one of three directionally-designated centers that were built in the rapidly-expanding metro area during the 1960s. EASTLAND, which was Greater Columbus' first fully-enclosed mall, was dedicated in February 1968. WESTLAND, added to a freestanding Lazarus store, was completed in February 1969.

Originally open-air in format, NORTHLAND CENTER was built on an 84 acre tract, located 6.5 miles north of the Ohio State House. The mall site was originally within unincorporated Franklin County (Mifflin Township), but was eventually annexed into the Columbus city limits.

Designed by the Grossel & Jensen firm, NORTHLAND CENTER was developed by Cleveland's Visconsi, Mead-Jacobs Company (a precursor of today's Richard E. Jacobs Group). The shopping hub opened for business August 13, 1964.

There were two anchors in the 710,000 square foot complex; a 3-level (185,000 square foot), Columbus-based F & R Lazarus and 2-level (212,900 square foot) Sears. Junior anchors were a Columbus-based Union Company and F.W. Woolworth 5 & 10.

Among the forty-three original stores and services were Rogers Jewelers, Lerner Shops, Madison's ladies' wear, Gray Drug and an Albers (later Big Star) supermarket. The Modern Theatres Northland Cinema, an in-mall venue, showed its first feature as part of the mall's August 1964 grand opening. The movie house was twinned in 1975.

A major mall renovation was done in 1978-'79, with courts and concourses being fully-enclosed. A 2-level (175,000 square foot) J.C. Penney and 10-bay Food Court were added to the south side of the complex. Likewise, Lazarus, which had been enlarged in 1968, was expanded to 228,000 square feet.

Now known as NORTHLAND MALL, the facility encompassed approximately 986,800 leasable square feet. Its original cinema was shuttered April 21, 1985. A freestanding multiplex was built in the southeast parking area. It opened, as the General Cinema Corporation Northland 8, in December 1985.

NORTHLAND MALL was on a downward trajectory by 1997, when MALL AT TUTTLE CROSSING {8.1 miles northwest, in Columbus} was dedicated. Other rival shopping hubs included COLUMBUS CITY CENTER (1989-2009) {5 miles south, in downtown Columbus} and EASTON TOWN CENTER (1999) {3.5 miles east, in Columbus}.

The final blow to NORTHLAND MALL came in 2001, with the completion of POLARIS FASHION PLACE {5.5 miles north, in Delaware County}. This fully-enclosed, upscale mall snatched all three anchor stores from NORTHLAND.

The mall was left anchorless and was populated by several mom & pop-type businesses. Most of the major, national chain stores had moved to either EASTON or POLARIS. The final retailer at NORTHLAND closed in October 2002. By this time, the mall had been bought by the Columbus Urban Growth Corporation, a consortium of city officials and local businessmen.

Their plan, referred to as NorthPARK, proposed to redevelop the greyfield site as a mixed-use retail, office and residential complex. Demolition of the mall started in January 2004, leaving the Sears, J.C. Penney and Lazarus buildings; the latter being renovated into offices for the Ohio Department of Taxation. The Sears structure was eventually demolished.

The land parcel was to be dissected by new city streets. Traffic signals were to be installed, along with sidewalks and landscaping. Unfortunately, the NorthPARK project never got off the ground. Home Depot, plotted to anchor the new complex, backed out of the deal in late 2006.

The 8-screen cinema, which had closed in 2000, was purchased by Vaud-Villities, a local theater group. It became a venue for live productions and rehearsals. In 2010, the theater, which had been renamed the Northland Performing Arts Center, moved into a new space in the old J.C. Penney structure. The remainder of the building's area was renovated and retenanted by the Franklin County Department of Job & Family services.

Columbus Urban Growth sold the NorthPARK site in March 2008; the buyer being the Gahanna, Ohio-based Stonehenge Company. They announced a revised plan for redevelopment. In the new proposal, an 80 million dollar retail and office center, known as NORTHLAND VILLAGE, would be implemented in three phases.

Eau Claire, Wisconsin-based Menards broke ground on a 1-level (220,000 square foot) Mega Store in May 2010. The grand opening was held April 12, 2011. Several freestanding structures were added to the site. These included McDonald's, Taco Bell, Telhio Credit Union, Tim Horton's, Chipotle Mexican Grill and John's Gourmet Sandwiches.

The final phase of the NORTHLAND VILLAGE project entailed construction of a 1-level (108,000 square foot) Kroger supermarket. This store opened its doors October 19, 2016.

Sources: Branch Store.doc
The Columbus Dispatch / "NorthlandPARK" / Vaud-Villities Productions / "NorthlandPARK"
"Lazarus" article on Wikipedia
"Eastland Mall" article on Wikipedia
"Franklin County" (Ohio) website


The photographs from The Columbus Metropolitan Library illustrate a key moment in the mall's history that is described in the article. The images are not replaceable with free-use or public-domain images. The use of the images does not limit the copyright owners' rights to distribute the images in any way. The images are being used for non-profit, informational purposes only and their use is not believed to detract from the original images in any way.