CHRISTIANA MALL
Stanton Christiana and Christiana Mall Roads
New Castle County (Christiana), Delaware

The Blue Hen State's fourth major shopping mall was built on 97.4 acres, located 6 miles southwest of downtown Wilmington. The site, near the Christiana community of unincorporated New Castle County, was adjacent to the Interstate 95 / John F. Kennedy Memorial Highway, which had opened to traffic in November 1963.

CHRISTIANA MALL was developed by Philadelphia-based Richard I. Rubin & Company and Wilmington-based New Castle Associates. The first operational store, a 2-level (214,000 square foot), Philadelphia-based Strawbridge & Clothier, was dedicated September 14, 1978. An official grand opening was held for the mall on October 16, when inline stores in the north section of the complex made their debut.

A 2-level (217,000 square foot), Newark, New Jersey-based Bamberger's opened for business August 30, 1979. This store's dedication was accompanied by the grand openings of inline tenants in the south section of the complex. The third anchor of the original CHRISTIANA MALL, a 2-level (150,700 square foot) J.C. Penney, made its debut on May 7, 1980.

By this time, the full compliment of ninety stores and services was in operation, with the shopping hub encompassing approximately 850,000 leasable square feet. A list of charter CHRISTIANA MALL tenants would include McMahon Books, Orange Julius, Wicks 'n Sticks, Size 5-7-9 Shop, Kay-Bee Toys, Foley Jewelers, Lane Bryant, Anderson-Little, Radio Shack and Casual Corner.

The General Cinema Corporation Christiana Mall Cinema I-II-III showed its first features October 30, 1979. The venue re-opened, as the Christiana Mall Cinema I-II-III-IV-V, on October 21, 1982.

TRIANGLE MALL (1972) {2 miles southeast, in New Castle County} encompassed only 250,000 leasable square feet, so it was not large enough to provide any degree of competition for CHRISTIANA. The only regional-class competitor in the vicinity was CONCORD MALL (1969) {11.3 miles north, in New Castle County}, with an original GLA of 670,000 square feet.

In November 1988, an expansion of CHRISTIANA MALL was announced. Comprising 250,000 square feet and twenty-eight inline stores, the addition was built on the east side of the existing structure. It was to be anchored by a 2-level (181,000 square foot), Philadelphia-based John Wanamaker.

The project included a face lift of the existing shopping center and installation of a 13-bay Food Court. The addition was dedicated, along with the new Wanamaker's, on August 14, 1991. The GLA of CHRISTIANA MALL had been expanded to 1,099,900 square feet, with the retail roster now listing one hundred and thirty stores and services.

This expansion heralded a truce, of sorts, between Strawbridge & Clothier and Wanamaker's; two Philly-based retail adversaries. CHRISTIANA MALL was the first instance where the two stores operated in the same shopping complex.

The Maryland-based Rouse Company bought into CHRISTIANA MALL in April 2003. With the acquisition of the Rouse Company, by Chicago-based General Growth Properties, in 2004, CHRISTIANA MALL was added to the GGP portfolio.

Bamberger's had been the mall's first anchor store conversion. It was rebranded, as a Macy's, on October 5, 1986. Wanamaker's underwent the second anchor alteration, when it was converted to an Arlington, Virginia-based Hecht's, on September 3, 1995. This nameplate was short-lived. It was replaced with a Lord & Taylor trademark in mid-1997. This lasted until June 26, 2006, when the store was permanently shuttered.

A proposal to re-open the vacant Lord & Taylor as "Epicenter Collection" came to light in mid-2008. Promoted as a new-style showcase of over sixty internet-based, catalog retailers, it was to operate in a "real time", traditional store format. The proposal was eventually abandoned and the store structure sold to Target Corporation in December 2008. On the north end of the mall, the Strawbridge's spot was vacated March 23, 2006.

GGP announced a 125 million dollar renovation of their CHRISTIANA property in October 2007. Demolition and construction work got underway in January 2009. The existing mall was given new floors, lighting and soft seating areas.

The original Food Court and cinema were demolished and replaced with a 14-bay Food Court and open-air East Lifestyle Plaza. Barnes & Noble opened there November 18, 2009, with XXI Forever joining the tenant list December 26. Cheesecake Factory opened March 18, 2010. A West Lifestyle Plaza was added to the opposite side of the shopping hub. California Pizza Kitchen made its debut July 27, 2010, followed by Brio Tuscan Grill, on November 18, 2010.

The vacant Wanamaker's / Lord & Taylor building was razed and replaced by a 1-level (145,000 square foot) Target, which held its grand opening October 10, 2010. A 2-level (138,000 square foot) Nordstrom was also added in place of the old Strawbridge's, along with a new section of inline stores. The Seattle-centric retailer opened for business April 8, 2011.

With all of these modifications completed, CHRISTIANA MALL encompassed 1,267,200 leasable square feet, with a retail roster of one hundred and sixty stores and services. However, the renovation of the mall was not over, just yet.

Sydney, Nebraska-based Cabela's, an outdoor outfitter, opened a 1-level (110,000 square foot) store, in the northern periphery of CHRISTIANA MALL, on May 1, 2014. The Cinemark Christiana & XD 14-plex, which was built in the northeast parking area, showed its first features November 20, 2014.

Sources:

The Morning News (Wilmington, Delaware)
www.ggp.com (General Growth Properties)
www.cinemateasures.org
www.interstateguide.com
www.udreview.com
http://www.constructionjournal.com