RICHLAND MALL
Elton Road and Theatre Drive
Cambria County, Pennsylvania

Ground was broken for Greater Johnstown's first shopping mall on April 30, 1973. The single-level complex was built on 58.9 acres, located 4.8 miles southeast of downtown Johnstown. The site, in an unincorporated section of Cambria County known as Richland Township, had contained the Richland Drive-In Theater between 1949 and 1970.

RICHLAND MALL was developed by a joint venture of James O'Rourke and James Streeter (under the auspices of Michigan-based Unimich Development) and the Somerset Trust Company.

Anchoring the 650,000 square foot interior mall were a 1-level (83,400 square foot) Kmart and 1-level (81,000 square foot), Johnstown-based Penn Traffic department store. These held grand openings on October 17, 1974. The mall's third anchor, a 1-level (86,400 square foot) Sears, began business in November of the same year.

There were over ninety retail spaces in RICHLAND MALL. The main feature of the complex was a tropical Garden Court at the center of the center. Charter tenants included GNC, Stride Rite Shoes, Thom McAn Shoes, Thrift Drug a Sweet William Restaurant, Shop 'N Save supermarket and the twin-screen Duke & Duchess Theatres.

Anchor store conversions commenced in the early 1980s. The six Penn-Traffic department stores were sold to the Johnstown-based Crown American Corporation, who also owned the Allentown-based Hess's chain. The RICHLAND MALL Penn Traffic was remodeled and rebranded, as a Hess's, in March 1982.

The mall was given a facelift renovation in 1989. This project included the removal of the sunken Garden Court, which was filled in and replaced by a carousel. New floors were also installed throughout the complex and its exterior refinished with stucco surfaces.

Moreover, the original Duke & Duchess twin cinema was replaced by the Richland Mall Cinemas. This 8-screen multiplex occupied space previously filled by the Shop 'N Save supermarket.

Commercial competition arrived with the completion of GALLERIA JOHNSTOWN {1.1 mile northeast, in Cambria County}. The new superregional center snatched the RICHLAND MALL Sears in November 1992.

The vacant anchor space was taken by a Canton, Massachusetts-based Hills discount mart. This store was rebranded, by Rocky Hill, Connecticut-based Ames, in 1999. Hess's had been rebranded, as a York, Pennsylvania-based The Bon Ton, in 1994.

By the mid-1990s, GALLERIA JOHNSTOWN was firmly established as the region's preeminent shopping center,. The older and smaller RICHLAND MALL was in a downward spiral. The Bon Ton closed in January 1997.

In 1998, mall corridors were closed off, leaving only the hallway stretching between Big Kmart and the adjacent northeast entrance open. The exterior-entranced Ames and multiplex cinema also remained in business.

Ames closed its doors for good in October 2001. Soon after, Jupiter, Florida-based MPG Development came on the scene. They evicted Big Kmart in 2003. The bulk of the mall was then demolished. Its cinema and outparcel Michaels (in the old Sears Auto Center structure) were temporarily left standing.

A 490,000 square foot power plaza, known as RICHLAND TOWN CENTRE, was built. Anchored by a 1-level (203,600 square foot) Wal-Mart, its stores opened between late 2004 and early 2006. Michaels and the movie multiplex relocated into newly-built structures, with their old locations being bulldozed.

Richland Mall Cinemas was now the Richland Cinemas, a 10-screen venue. Other RICHLAND TOWN CENTRE tenants included Ross Dress For Less, Petco, Panera Bread, Bed Bath & Beyond and Circuit City.

Sources:

http://www.deadmalls.com / Posts by Daniel Hull and Jeremy Durst
http://www.therichlandmall.com
The Tribune Democrat
Comment post by "Eric"
Cambria County, Pennsylvania property tax assessor website
http://www.mcgillpropertygroup.com