Cornelia Street and Smithfield Boulevard
Clinton County, New York
Syracuse's Pyramid Companies formed in 1970. Through self-described innovation and entrepreneurial spirit (and more than a bit of controversy), the Pyramid organization rose to prominence and has become the largest privately-held shopping mall developer in the nation.
Headed by Syracuse's Robert J. Congel, the real estate development company built five "Pyramid" retail properties. The first two were nearly identical community-class structures, each encompassing approximately 126,000 leasable square feet. PYRAMID MALL JOHNSTOWN and PYRAMID MALL ONEONTA opened for business in 1972.
The first of the regional-sized "Pioneer Malls", PYRAMID MALL SARATOGA, was built in Saratoga County's Town of Winton and opened in 1973. It was followed by PYRAMID MALL PLATTSBURGH, in 1975, and PYRAMID MALL ITHACA, in Tompkins County's Town of Lansing, in 1976.
Today, the Ithaca property is the only one of three regional PYRAMID malls that remains intact. It was renamed SHOPS AT ITHACA in August 2007. The first PYRAMID MALL was renamed SARATOGA MALL in 1987. It had a destiny date with the wrecking ball in 1999.
PYRAMID MALL PLATTSBURGH was constructed on a 28 acre parcel, located 1.6 miles west of downtown Plattsburgh. The site was adjacent to the Adirondack Northway / Interstate 87 highway. Plans for the mall were announced in June 1973.
Encompassing a single retail level and 400,000 leasable square feet, the complex housed forty-five stores and services. The anchors were a 1-level (71,000 square foot) Kmart, 1-level (84,000 square foot) Montgomery Ward and 1-level (45,000 square foot) J.C. Penney.
The first operational store, a (38,000 square foot) Price Chopper supermarket, began business in January 1975. Kmart opened April 11, 1975, followed by Montgomery Ward, on April 16, 1975. J.C. Penney, the final anchor store to begin business, held its official grand opening May 2, 1976.
Charter inline stores included Fay's Drugs, Ye Olde Smoke Shop, Kinney Shoes, Friar Tuck Book Shop, Record Town, Pizza Boy restaurant and a Burlington, Vermont-based Magrams "fashion department store".
Although a physical part of the shopping center structure, the Theater Management Services Plattsburgh Cinema I & II had an exterior entrance and could not be accessed from inside the mall. The venue would be under the operation of two subsequent owners before it was shuttered, in 1990.
PYRAMID MALL PLATTSBURGH had interior decor typical of a mid-1970s center. Concourses were carpeted and dimly lit to (supposedly) entice shoppers into brightly-illuminated stores. A write-up from 1975 describes the mall as being decorated with "earthen textures" and "super graphics".
There were three court areas. Fronting on Kmart, the Laurentian Court had a fountain in one of three interlocking pools of water. The Champlain Court, facing J.C. Penney, had two waterfalls and a bridge as its focal points. On the east end of the mall, the Adirondack Court had a fountain and pool feature at its center. The complex was built on a sloping lot, which necessitated several stairways and ramps for shoppers to negotiate its two level changes.
PYRAMID MALL PLATTSBURGH was in the enviable position of being the only regional shopping center in its trade area. Located only 21 miles south of the US-Canadian border, it attracted a great deal of commerce from Quebec.
This changed when Pyramid Companies decided to build a larger mall only .3 of a mile northeast of their original retail facility. The reasoning behind this was simple; PYRAMID MALL was hemmed in on all sides, making any sizable expansion impossible.
The shiny new (600,000 square foot) CHAMPLAIN CENTRE NORTH was nearing completion when the official grand re-opening was held for a renovated -and renamed- PYRAMID MALL. Rededicated June 21, 1987, CHAMPLAIN CENTRE SOUTH had been given a 3 million dollar face lift. Its dark, '70s-style decor was brightened up with seventeen new skylights. Moreover, new paint, flooring and lighting had been installed.
Shuttle bus service was instituted between the CHAMPLAIN CENTER NORTH and SOUTH malls, but was soon halted. The exodus of stores from the old into the new began with the closings of J.C. Penney and Hickory Farms of Ohio, in July 1987. A move to market the so-called "south mall" as an upscale outlet-type shopping center got underway in 1991.
Stores such as T.J. Maxx, Champion, Softbags, Fashion Cents, London Fog and Payless ShoeSource were signed. The existing Kmart was expanded at this time by 12,600 square feet, becoming an 83,600 square foot operation. It would be converted into a Big Kmart in August 1997.
By the late 1990s, CHAMPLAIN CENTRE SOUTH was virtually vacant. The closing of the Plattsburgh Air Force Base, in September 1995, resulted in an economic slowdown in the entire region. This was exacerbated by the shriveling of the Canadian dollar.
When Montgomery Ward pulled out of CHAMPLAIN CENTRE SOUTH, in December 1997, the end was near. The mall was shuttered, with demolition of the vacant Ward's building getting underway August 16, 1999. Kmart, Price Chopper and various small outparcels were left intact.
These were worked into a power center, which retained the CHAMPLAIN CENTRE SOUTH name. The first newly-built store, a (69,000 square foot) Price Chopper supermarket, was dedicated in June of 2000.
It was joined by a 1-level (115,000 square foot) Lowe's in September 2001. Bed, Bath & Beyond (in the original Price Chopper space) opened in October 2003. Petco and Rent-A-Center opened for business in February 2004.
The Plattsburgh Press-Republican
The Chateaugay Record
The Franklin County Democrat
http://movie-theatre.org / Mike Rivest
"Pyramid Companies" article on Wikipedia
www.nnyln.org (Northern New York Library Network)