WESTROADS CENTER
West Dodge Road / US 6 and North 96th Street
Omaha, Nebraska

Omaha's John A. Wiebe developed the first fully-enclosed shopping complex in the Corn Husker State. THE CENTER, located southwest of Omaha's Central Business District, was a small, community-class venue of 195,000 leasable square feet. The complex opened for business in 1955.

The real estate arm of the Omaha-based J.L. Brandeis & Sons department store chain opened the regional-class CROSSROADS CENTER, the first of the city's "roads" malls, in 1960. They followed with SOUTHROADS CENTER, in 1966.

Mr. Wiebe developed the third, and final, "roads" shopping complex. Known as WESTROADS CENTER, its was designed by Stanley J. How & Associates and built on 50.4 acres, located 6 miles west of downtown Omaha. The 3-level, fully-enclosed mall was adjacent to the Interstate 680 (formerly Interstate 280) beltway, which had been completed in 1966.

The 25 million dollar WESTROADS encompassed approximately 893,800 leasable square feet. It was anchored by a 2-level (177,200 square foot) J.C. Penney, which became one of the first operational tenants on August 2, 1967.

A 2-level (200,000 square foot) Omaha-based Kilpatrick's opened November 16, 1967. The mall's third anchor department store was a 2-level (177,600 square foot) Montgomery Ward. A mall-wide dedication was held August 1, 1968, when sixty-eight stores and services made their debut. By year's end, WESTROADS CENTER would house one hundred and twenty.

Charter tenants included Hinky Dinky, Zales Jewelers, Singer Sewing Center, Florsheim Shoes, Magee's, Lollipop Lane children's wear, Casual Corner, Zondervan Books, Walgreen Drug, Docktor Pet Center, Orange Julius, Radio Shack, United Sporting Goods, a Bishop Buffet cafeteria, J.G. McCrory 5 & 10 and freestanding First Westroads Bank.

The main 2 levels of the shopping hub were divided into themed areas, such as the Boston Mall, Central Park Mall, Italia Mall and Alpine Mall. Center Court featured a large Clock Tower. The mall even included a rooftop heliport.

The National General Corporation Fox Westroads Theatre had opened November 12, 1967. It was reconfigured with 2 screens in 1977 and renamed the Fox Twin. The second mall movie house, the American Royal Cinema (American Multi-Cinema) Six West Theatres, was the nation's first in-mall 6-plex. It showed its first features January 22, 1969.

The two movie houses were situated adjacent to one another, at the northeast corner of the mall. The Fox venue had an exterior entry, with the 6-plex connecting into the interior mallway. The Fox theater was acquired by AMC in December 1983 and merged with the 6-plex. The combined cinemas were promoted as the AMC Westroads 6 & 2 and then as the Westroads 8.

A fourth anchor, Omaha-based Brandeis, was added to WESTROADS CENTER between Montgomery Ward and Kilpatrick's. The new 4-level (80,000 square foot) store opened for business in October 1972. In 1973, the basement level of the shopping center was rebuilt as Bicentennial Square, a "mall within a mall". This included the Westroads Dinner Theatre and several Colonial-motif boutiques. The area was dismantled and redeveloped in 1980.

Retail rival malls of WESTROADS CENTER were the aforementioned CROSSROADS CENTER (1961) {2 miles east, in Omaha}, SOUTHROADS CENTER (1966) {9.4 miles southeast, in Bellevue} and -eventually- OAK VIEW MALL (1991) {4 miles southwest, also in Omaha}.

The first anchor nameplate change at WESTROADS CENTER involved Kilpatrick's. The chain had been acquired by Des Moines-based Younkers in 1961. Although operated as a (quote-unquote) Kilpatrick-Younkers, the WESTROADS store sported a Kilpatrick's nameplate. It became a full-fledged Younkers in 1982.

At this time, the store was renovated and expanded into a portion of the adjacent J.G. McCrory space (that store having been shuttered). The Brandeis chain was also acquired by Younkers in the late 1980s. The WESTROADS Brandeis was refashioned into a Younkers Juniors specialty store, which opened August 5, 1987.

The next reconfiguration of the shopping venue, undertaken in February 1990, was centered on a 20,000 square foot section of the Lower Level, which extended from the southwest corner of the mall. The 12-bay Grand Cafe Food Court was built here and opened for business May 30, 1991.

Work on a fifth anchor store got underway in 1994. A 3-level (179,100 square foot), Davenport-based Von Maur was included as part of a twenty-two store South Wing. The new department store opened its doors August 5, 1995.

Ownership of the shopping hub changed in July 1997. Chicago's General Growth Properties and Montreal's Ivanhoe Cambridge acquired the complex in a joint venture. Soon after, its official name became WESTROADS MALL.

In November of 1997, Montgomery Ward was shuttered. Kansas City, Missouri-based The Jones Store bought the vacant structure, gutted and remodeled it, and opened October 8, 1999. The mall, which encompassed approximately 1,164,000 leasable square feet, would not be expanded again until 2003.

The multiplex cinema, shuttered in 1997, was demolished. It was replaced by a 2-level (84,000 square foot) Galyan's Trading Company, which opened August 31, 2003. A parking garage had also been added to the existing Penney's. The Galyan's store was rebranded by Dick's Sporting Goods in October 2004.

The Jones Store closed August 25, 2003. Younkers moved in and opened on October 12. The next alterations at WESTROADS MALL were done in the southwest and northwest parking areas. Three freestanding restaurants were built. P.F. Chang's China Bistro opened September 2, 2002. Granite City Food & Brewery followed, on October 10, 2006, with Cheesecake Factory debuting on November 1 of the same year.

Now we come to the tragic part of the WESTROADS story. On December 5, 2007, a deranged individual, bent on becoming famous, instead became INfamous when he entered the Von Maur store with an assault rifle, killed eight and wounded five.

Von Maur and WESTROADS MALL persevered.

The vacant Kilpatrick's / Younkers was gutted and reconfigured as the Rave Cinemas Westroads 14 megaplex, which made its debut November 14, 2008. With its completion, the mall encompassed approximately 1,200,000 leasable square feet and housed one hundred and thirty-five stores and services.

The Grand Cafe Food Court was replaced by the 8-bay Flagship Commons Food Hall in late 2015. This was installed in existing mall space, in the northwest corner of the complex. As the new Food Hall opened, eateries in the old Grand Cafe were shuttered. Some relocated into the new Food Hall, others found space within the mall. The vacant Grand Cafe space was gutted and rebuilt as a (25,000 square foot) The Container Store. It opened on October 22, 2016.

Sources:

"Westroads Mall" article on Wikipedia
Douglas County, Nebraska property tax assessor website
www.ggp.com (General Growth Properties)
www.cinematreasures.org
Malls of America blogspot / Keith Milford, webmaster
The Omaha World Herald