GREAT LAKES MALL
Mentor Avenue / US 20 and Plaza Boulevard
Mentor, Ohio

The first shopping mall developed by Youngstown, Ohio's Edward J. DeBartolo Corporation was built on a 95 acre parcel, located 20.9 miles northeast of Cleveland's Public Square, in suburban Mentor. The single-level center, which consisted of two open mallways that extended from an enclosed center section, was christened in September 1961.

Originally a community-sized complex of approximately 275,000 leasable square feet, GREAT LAKES MALL did not originally have a full-line department store, or stores, as its anchors. The center was situated around a (60,900 square foot) J.J. Newberry 5 & 10 and 1-level (58,200 square foot) J.C. Penney. This store had been dedicated July 13, 1961.

Charter inline stores included Gray Drug, Nobil Shoes, Watkins Furniture, Sherwin-Williams Paints, Richard's apparel, Kinney Shoes, Record Carnival, Bond Clothes and Stambaugh-Thompson Hardware. In addition, there were Fisher Foods and Kroger supermarkets at opposite ends of the complex.

The first expansion, completed in April 1964, added a 2-level (165,000 square foot), Cleveland-based May Company of Ohio. This was attached to the north end of the shopping center. Both open-air concourses at the mall were enclosed as part of the department store's construction.

J.C. Penney was expanded into a 2-level (162,700 square foot), full-line store during 1966. A freestanding Auto Center was also built. Subsequent enlargement of the complex brought a 2-level (167,300 square foot), Cleveland-based Higbee's, which held its grand opening on October 13, 1969. A 2-level (234,100 square foot) Sears was dedicated on April 14, 1971. With all construction completed, GREAT LAKES MALL encompassed approximately 1,114,600 leasable square feet.

The Associate Theatres Great Lakes Mall Cinema had opened, as an eastern outparcel, on March 26, 1969. It was twinned in 1973, expanded into a five-screen venue in 1978 and a nine-screen venue in 1990. The cinema closed in January 2004. It was substantially remodeled and re-opened, as the Atlas Cinemas Great Lakes Stadium 16, in September 2007.

Meanwhile, the May Company store had been remodeled in 1974-1975, with its area expanded to 189,100 square feet. A 2-level (118,200 square foot), Pittsburgh-based Joseph Horne Company became the mall's fifth anchor on August 9, 1977. The mall now spanned approximately 1,258,000 leasable square feet.

The major commercial competitors of GREAT LAKES MALL included RICHMOND MALL / RICHMOND TOWN SQUARE (1966) {10.3 miles southwest, in Richmond Heights} and EUCLID SQUARE MALL (1977) {8.4 miles southwest, in Euclid}.

A 20 million dollar renovation of GREAT LAKES MALL was officially dedicated in November 1989. During the project, a 13-bay Food Court was installed in existing space. The interior and exterior were given a makeover, with new skylights added. Around this time, the Newberry's store was also shuttered, with its area being sectioned into seven store spaces.

Anchor rebrandings commenced in the early 1990s. The Higbee's chain, owned by a joint venture of DeBartolo / Dillard's since 1988, was acquired by Dillard's. Higbee's stores were rebranded as Dillard's August 12, 1992, with five Ohio Horne's stores also receiving a Dillard's banner.

A Dillard's "double header" was created at GREAT LAKES MALL, with the Higbee's location becoming Dillard's South (a Women's Store). Horne's morphed into Dillard's North, which carried Men's, Children's & Home merchandise. May Company was rebranded as a Pittsburgh-based Kaufmann's May 31, 1993 and was "Macy-ated" September 9, 2006.

The mall had changed hands in 1996, as a result of the merger of the DeBartolo Realty Corporation and Simon Property Group. At this time, GREAT LAKES MALL housed one hundred and ten tenant spaces, with seven store's in the periphery of the complex. These included Office Max, Barnes & Noble, Olive Garden and Max & Erma's.

In March 2011, the Simon Property Group embarked on a major renovation. New soft seating areas, lighting, flooring and landscaping were installed. The Food Court was upgraded and all mallways and entrances rebuilt. The project was completed in late 2011.

Simon created a spin-off Real Estate Investment Trust in May 2014. Known as the Washington Prime Group, it assumed ownership of forty-four of Simon's "Grade B" properties, including GREAT LAKES MALL. In early 2015, the newly-formed Washington Prime Group merged with Columbus, Ohio's Glimcher Realty Trust.

Meanwhile, Dick's Sporting Goods had joined the shopping hub as a sixth anchor. The 1-level (55,000 square foot) store held its grand opening May 31, 2014.

Sources:

The Cleveland Plain Dealer
"Great Lakes Mall" article on Wikipedia
"Higbee's" article on Wikipedia
www.simon.com
www.cinematreasures.org
Lake County, Ohio tax assessor website