A Target store, part of the BUZZ WESTFALL PLAZA ON THE BOULEVARD power center. This replaced St. Louis' historic NORTHLAND CENTER, which was unceremoniously demolished in 2005.
Photo from www.showcase.com


NORTHLAND CENTER
West Florissant Avenue and Lucas and Hunt Road
City of Jennings, Missouri

The first major suburban shopping center in Greater Saint Louis was located 7 miles northwest of the downtown area, in the "North County" suburb of Jennings. NORTHLAND CENTER was not a shopping mall, per se, but is being inducted into the Mall Hall Of Fame because of its sheer size and stunning ultra-modern  architecture.

The 67 acre retail hub was developed by Saint Louis-based Nooney & Company; Russell Mullgardt, Schwartz & Van Hoef were its architects. The original complex, which opened August 19, 1955, encompassed approximately 525,100 leasable square feet.

NORTHLAND was, in essence, a strip shopping center...but an elaborate and unique one. It was anchored by a 4-level (337,000 square foot), Saint Louis-based Famous-Barr, from which its three store blocks extended.

The first store block (on the Upper -front-facing- Level) was connected to the north side of Famous-Barr. The second (also a part of the Upper, front-facing, Level) was on Famous Barr's south side. A Lower (rear-facing) store block was situated below the entire Upper Level of the shopping center. Its stores fronted on a lower level (rear) parking area.

The NORTHLAND Famous-Barr was the department store chain's first shopping center location and its third branch store. It was almost as large as the downtown flagship and would be nearly twice the size of any of the suburban stores that followed. Its interior was done in grand style, with fine wood paneling and floors of marble.

All retail spaces of the open-air shopping center were air-conditioned, which, in 1955, was still considered something of a luxury. There was ample parking provided.

NORTHLAND opened with forty-five stores, including an S.S. Kresge 5 & 10, Walgreen Drug, Pope's Cafeteria, Lerner Shops and freestanding (21,500 square foot) Rapp's (later Bettendorff-Rapp, later Schnuck's) supermarket. A bowling alley was added to the Lower Level Northwest Wing in the 1960s. This was followed by a bank, attached to the South Wing. With these additions, NORTHLAND CENTER housed approximately 568,700 leasable square feet.

There were several outparcel structures in the periphery of the plaza, including a Goodyear Tire & Auto, hardware store and 3-level Northland Office Building. The General Cinema Corporation Northland Cinema opened November 23, 1966. It was twinned in October 1976 and shuttered in 1999.

The first retail competitor in the area was RIVER ROADS MALL (1962) {1.5 miles east, also in Jennings}. Next, came NORTHWEST PLAZA (1966) {6 miles west, in St. Ann}. JAMESTOWN MALL {6 miles north, in St. Louis County} was completed in 1973. Even with all of its regional retail rivals, NORTHLAND prospered.

The situation began to change by the late 1980s, when the demographics of the area surrounding the center had shifted. By the early 1990s, the once-fabulous Famous-Barr was a derelict, dilapidated shadow of its former self.

National chain mall merchants had long since vacated. Space in the center was now leased by mom & pop-type retailers. On June 11, 1994, Famous-Barr pulled out; a blow from which the 39-year-old shopping center could not recover.

NORTHLAND CENTER, once a regional-class shopping venue, was now more on the level of an over-sized, community-class retail center. Its nearest interstate highway connection, over 1 mile south, left it fairly inaccessible by the local populace.

In January 2000, a joint venture was formed between the St. Louis Economic Group, City of Jennings and St. Louis-based Sansone Group. The ailing shopping hub was now being viewed as obsolete. No consideration was given to its importance as an historic structure, well worthy of restoration. So, another of America's unique, architecturally-significant, mid-20th century retail centers had outlived its usefulness. It was old but not old enough to benefit from any mandated preservation effort.

The freestanding Northland Cinema structure became the first to fall to a wrecking ball, in June 2002. It was replaced by a 2-level office building. An Aldi discount grocery was also built. In April 2005, demolition commenced on the main NORTHLAND CENTER structure. The job was complete by October of the same year.

Replacing the 1950s shopping hub would be a 270,000 square foot power center. Known as BUZZ WESTFALL PLAZA ON THE BOULEVARD, it would be anchored by a 1-level (126,900 square foot) Target and (63,500 square foot) Schnucks supermarket. Target opened its doors October 3, 2006, followed by Schnucks, on October 10.

Sources:

www.builtstlouis.net/northland
www.tobyweiss.com
www.jenningshistory.org
www.cinematreasures.org
Comment post by "E Roth"
"The Final Sale - The decision to Close the Famous-Barr Northland Store" / Saint Louis University John Cook School Of Business, Emerson Center for Business Ethics / International Journal of Case Studies and Research / Volume 5, Number 1, 1997 / Jim Fisher, Dr. Mark J. Arnold and John T. Rueue