RIVER ROADS CENTER
Jennings Station and Halls Ferry Roads
City of Jennings, Missouri

The first fully-enclosed shopping complex in Greater St. Louis was built on a 55 acre site, located 8 miles northwest of the St. Louis Central Business District, in the bedroom community of Jennings. Developed by St. Louis-based Stix, Baer & Fuller, RIVER ROADS CENTER was anchored by a 4-level (280,000 square foot) Stix store, which opened for business August 7, 1961. It was the second suburban branch in the chain.

A 3-day, mall-wide grand opening was held between August 16th and 18th, 1962. The 580,000 square foot shopping complex consisted of a main level of retail and service basement. At the time of its completion, the center's 2-level (62,000 square foot) F.W. Woolworth was the largest shopping center location in the two-thousand-two-hundred-unit chain.

Forty stores and services were in operation at the original RIVER ROADS CENTER. These included J.C. Penney, Bond Clothes, Lane Bryant, Thom McAn Shoes, Wolff's men's wear, Singer Sewing Center, Hardy Shoes, Dandy's Men's Store, Walgreen Drug, a Top Value Stamps Redemption Center and Kroger supermarket.

There were also several restaurants. Woolworth operated a Harvest House. Walgreen Drug had a luncheonette. Stix, Baer & Fuller included The Pavilion, which overlooked a lavish sunken garden. There were also dining options at the restaurant and cocktail lounge in a basement bowling alley.

An expansion and renovation of the shopping hub was done in the early 1970s. A 3-level addition to the original "dry goods" J.C. Penney was built. When completed in April 1972, the full-line store encompassed 200,000 square feet. The mall's interior was also redecorated in a Mediterranean motif.

The primary retail rival of RIVER ROADS CENTER was NORTHLAND CENTER (1955) {1.5 miles west, also in Jennings}. In addition, there were NORTHWEST PLAZA (1966) {8 miles west, in St. Ann}, CROSS KEYS CENTER (1969) {5.8 miles northwest, in Florissant} and JAMESTOWN MALL (1973) {6 miles north, in St. Louis County}.

Anchor nameplate changes at RIVER ROADS MALL began in the early 1980s. J.C. Penney closed down their full-line operation in July 1983 and re-opened it, as an Outlet Store, in 1985. Stix, Baer & Fuller became a Dillard's in April of the same year. A shuttered Kroger re-opened as Food For Less.

Dillard's shuttered their store in 1986. Soon,  the mall was in a downward spiral that was exacerbated by the decline of the area surrounding it. Buffalo-based Benderson Development bought the mall in July 1988. They attempted to reposition it as a regional discount outlet center, with varying degrees of success.

A redevelopment / demolition plan was proposed in 1990, which was approved by the Jennings City Council in 1992. However, no progress was made beyond that point. The mall, experiencing more and more vacancies, began to deteriorate.

Woolworth was shuttered in 1991, with the J.C. Penney Outlet Store closing in May 1994. A proposed acquisition by the British-based Midland Group fell through. The interior of the "vacant shell of a shopping center" shut down in June 1995, leaving only a few exterior-entranced stores in operation.

The virtually vacant complex was purchased by Raleigh, North Carolina-based Whichard Real Estate in 2000. It was quickly "flipped", with St Louis-based Taylor-Morley Homes becoming its new owner. Their redevelopment plan came to light in January 2001.

This deal fell through when the two families owning the Taylor-Morley organization split-up. St. Louis-based Pyramid development entered the picture. They proposed a 66 million dollar redevelopment, which was to include office space, residential units, retail stores and a new city hall for Jennings.

Demolition of RIVER ROADS MALL got underway in late 2006 and was completed in the summer of 2007. Only a Firestone Auto Care Center (nee' Stix Car Care) was left standing. Pyramid Development shut down in May 2008. Before the company crashed, they completed the River Roads Manor Senior Apartments complex. Over the following years, other freestanding retail, restaurant and financial structures were built.

Sources:

preservenet.cornell.edu/publications/Longstreth Branch Store.doc
www.umsl.edu
www.builtstlouis.net
Information from "Dan A2k"
www.slfp.com
www.undergroundozarks.com
www.cityofjennings.com
www.bizjournals.com