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

The first fully-enclosed shopping center in Greater St. Louis was built on a 55 acre site, located 8 miles northwest of the St. Louis CBD, in suburban Jennings. Developed by St. Louis-based Stix, Baer & Fuller, RIVER ROADS MALL 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 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 2,200-store chain.

Forty stores and services were in operation at the original RIVER ROADS MALL. These included J.C. Penney, Singer Sewing Center, Hardy Shoes, Dandy's Men's Store, Walgreen Drug, an S & H Green Stamps Redemption Center and Kroger supermarket.

There were also several restaurants. Woolworth operated a luncheonette and sit-down Steamboat Room. Walgreen Drug had its Wag's Restaurant. Stix, Baer & Fuller featured 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 1970-'71. A 3-level addition to the original "dry goods" J.C. Penney was built. When completed, 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 MALL 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 alterations at RIVER ROADS MALL began in 1984. Stix, Baer & Fuller became a Dillard's and J.C. Penney was demoted to an Outlet Store. Kroger closed in 1986 and re-opened as Food For Less. Dillard's shuttered their store in 1986. Soon the mall was in a downward spiral 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. By this time, the shopping center had become notorious as a haven for criminal activity.

A redevelopment / demolition plan was proposed in 1990, which was approved by the Jennings City Council in 1992. However, no progress was made beyond this 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 at this time. The interior of the "vacant shell of a shopping center" shut down in June 1995, leaving only exterior-entranced stores in operation.

The complex, purchased by Raleigh, North Carolina-based Whichard Real Estate in 2000, was "flipped" by Whichard, 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 Center was left standing. Pyramid Development shut down in May 2008. The cleared mall site was now a gaping hole filled with rain water and breeding mosquitos. To this day, no type of redevelopment has been done.

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


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