CENTURY III MALL
Clairiton and New England Roads
West Mifflin, Pennsylvania

Greater Cleveland's RANDALL PARK MALL, the largest shopping center ever built by Youngstown's Edward J. DeBartolo Corporation, originally encompassed 1.4 million leasable square feet. Next in line was Greater Pittsburgh's CENTURY III MALL, which, upon its completion in 1980, contained 1,273,000 leasable square feet.

This gargantuan, 100 million dollar shopping complex featured 3 levels of retail and one hundred and seventy charter tenants. It was built on an 89.8 acre tract, located 7.7 miles southeast of Pittsburgh's Golden Triangle, in the surburb of West Mifflin.

A slag dump depository for steel manufacturing waste had occupied the site since the early 1900s. Known as the Brown Dump, the 200-foot-high, man made mountain had a labyrinth of coal mining tunnels running beneath it. US Steel, owner of the property, had entered into a joint venture with the DeBartolo corporation in 1976. The mall's moniker was coined at the time of the nation's Bicentennial, making light of the time at hand; the advent of America's third century.

The Phase I segment of seventy-five stores was dedicated October 24, 1979. This included three anchors; a 2-level (121,300 square foot), Pittsburgh-based Kaufmann's, 2-level (173,200 square foot) J.C. Penney and 2-level (168,100 square foot) Montgomery Ward. The Kaufmann's unit was the chain's fourth shopping mall store and the first in the Pittsburgh region to anchor a mall-type center.

Phase II, and its forty-six stores, debuted March 12, 1980. Phase III of CENTURY III MALL added the fourth and fifth anchors to the complex; a 2-level (126,000 square foot) Gimbels-Pittsburgh (which began business in July 1980) and 2-level (231,000 square foot) Sears (which opened in October of the same year).

Among the one hundred and seventy charter inline stores were American Eagle Outfitters, Deb Shops, Docktor Pet Center, Camelot Music, Lane Bryant, Plant Plaza and Your Father's Moustache. The Associated Theatre Cinema World complex had opened, on land adjacent to the prospective mall, on July 6, 1973. The 4-screen venue was shuttered in April 1987.

Anchor store rebrandings commenced with the shuttering of Montgomery Ward, in 1986. The Pittsburgh-based Joseph Horne Company assumed the store space in the same year. This location was rebranded by Columbus, Ohio-based Lazarus in 1994.

Lazarus pulled out of CENTURY III MALL in October 1998, with Kaufmann's setting up a Furniture Gallery soon after. With the rebranding of Kaufmann's -by Macy's- in 2006, the store morphed into a Macy's Furniture Gallery. It closed in January 2009.

The second anchor to change nameplates was Gimbels. The CENTURY III store, the last in the Pittsburgh division to be shuttered, closed its doors January 2, 1988. Framingham, Massachusetts-based Marshalls opened, in the upper level space, November 11, 1993. Another Framingham-based chain, T.J. Maxx, operated a store on the lower level.

Marshalls closed in 1996. An Illinois-based Wickes Furniture began business, on the upper level, February 13, 1997. T.J. Maxx remained and eventually rebranded their store as a T.J. Maxx 'N More offshoot.

By February 1, 2003, T.J. Maxx 'N More was history. Its lower level space, in the old Gimbels, re-opened as a Port Washington, New York-based Steve & Barry's University Sportswear in 2003. Wickes pulled the proverbial plug in 2004 and re-opened as a Pittsburgh-based Dick's Sporting Goods. Steve & Barry's closed in January 2009.

The third, and final, rebranded anchor at CENTURY III MALL was Kaufmann's, which was "Macy-ated" September 9, 2006. This store was also the only physical structure at the mall to ever be physically expanded. A 17,000 square foot addition had been built onto the west side of the building, during the 1980s, increasing its area to 152,900 square feet.

The DeBartolo Corporation established full ownership of CENTURY III MALL in August 1988. Following their merger with the Indianapolis-based Simon Property Group, in 1996, it became a Simon DeBartolo Group holding. The corporate name reverted back to the Simon Property Group heading in 1998. An 8 million dollar mall facelift was announced in May 1996, which was completed by December.

Retail rivals of CENTURY III MALL included SOUTH HILLS VILLAGE (1965) {5.6 miles west, in Bethel Park and Upper St. Clair} and SOUTHSIDE WORKS (2002-2004), a lifestyle-type venue {6.1 miles northwest, in Pittsburgh proper}.

When CENTURY III MALL was built, the "biggest is best" mentality was prevalent in American society, especially when applied to fully-enclosed shopping centers. The complex was developed, during this time frame, to trump all retail hubs in the region with its huge roster of retailers and cavernous common areas. This was before skyrocketing energy prices made the cost of heating and cooling such enormous interior spaces prohibitive.

Simon placed the 1,290,000 square foot property on the selling block in 2006, but no buyer was found. Then The Great Recession came, leaving Simon with an upside down mall mortgage. 79 million dollars was owed on a property assessed at 58 million. The Property Group defaulted on the loan in September 2011. The lender assumed ownership and enlisted Chicago's Jones Lang LaSalle as a leasing and management agent.

Las Vegas-based Moonbeam Capital Investments, Limited Liability Company bought the struggling shopping hub in May 2013. The shuttering of the CENTURY III Sears, on December 7, 2014, left the mammoth mall with just two anchors to sustain it. 

By late 2015, details of a prospective mall reinvention had been made public. Under said plan, the virtually vacant Sears and Wards Wing, and its adjacent parking structure, would be demolished. The existing Penney's and Gimbels buildings would be subdivided into big box-type store spaces. Lastly, freestanding restaurants, a  cinema megaplex and high-rise hotel would be built.

Meanwhile, CENTURY III MALL continued to loose tenants. Macy's was shuttered in February of 2016. By mid-2017, just twenty-five stores were in business, with two of these being J.C. Penney and Dick's Sporting Goods. No further progress was made toward the renovation of the mall, leading many to believe that the renovation plan had been abandoned.

Sources:

"Century III Mall" article on Wikipedia
The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
www.deadmalls.com / "Century III Mall" article / Post by Daniel Hull
Allegheny County, Pennsylvania tax assessor website
www.simon.com
www.cinematreasures.org
www.bizjournals.com