MERIDEN SQUARE
Kensington and Lewis Avenues
Meriden, Connecticut

In August 1967, plans were announced for one of South Central Connecticut's first major, fully-enclosed shopping hubs. A 62 acre section of farmland located 15.3 miles southwest of center city Hartford had been acquired by St. Louis-based May Centers.

Within the bedroom community of Meriden, it had previously housed the Connecticut School for Boys. The site was accessed by the State Route 66 expressway (later co-designated as Interstate 691), which opened to traffic August 30, 1971.

Seattle's John Graham, Junior was hired to design the 2-level MERIDEN SQUARE complex. On the south end of the dumbell design structure would be a 2-level (155,000 square foot), Harftford-based G. Fox & Company (a May Company subsidiary since 1965). This department store became the mall's first operational tenant on August 31, 1971. It was the G. Fox chain's third branch location. The first had opened, at NAUGATUCK VALLEY MALL, on August 31, 1969. The second, at ENFIELD SQUARE, had made its debut March 2, 1971.

G. Fox's MERIDEN SQUARE exterior was done in rose-colored custom brick with an imbedded fern design. Its interior had a full spectrum of light pastels, with "modernistic" prints and patterns. As with other May Company-constructed stores of the era, there were twenty-one fashion departments on the first level and home and outdoor furnishings, as well as a restaurant, on the second.

The official dedication of the mall proper, which was originally planned to coincide with the grand opening of G. Fox, was delayed by a labor dispute. The ceremony, officiated by Meriden Mayor Robert A. Schultz, was held October 19, 1971.

Thirty-one inline stores began business...out of an eventual forty-eight. Among these were Baker's Shoes, Barricini Candies, CVS Drug, Chess King, Music City, Child World and Waldenbooks.

The enclosed mallway consisted of 2 levels that were linked by a Goodyear Speedwalk Speedramp, similar to a previous installation at May Centers' MISSION VALLEY CENTER in San Diego. The 2-way, rubber ribbon ramp extended for 80 feet and, unlike a standard escalator, accommodated baggage, wheelchairs and strollers. A trip between the first and second mall levels took 58 seconds.

Landscaping in the common area was done with Indian Laurel, Australian Kentia Palms, Banyan Trees, Costa Rican Parlor Palms, Crotons, Dracena Marginatas and Ficus. The "all-weather shopping world" was illuminated by thirteen Geodesic domes, with a 40 foot diameter installation lighting the mall's Center Court.

The final store to open in the original mall, a 3-level (175,000 square foot) J.C. Penney, was designed by the Law Company of Wichita, Kansas. It was dedicated April 6, 1972, stood on the north end of the shopping center, and included a freestanding Auto Center in the northeast parking area.

With the completion of Penney's, MERIDEN SQUARE enveloped 580,000 leasable square feet and fifty stores and services. Shopping centers in its vicinity included BRISTOL CENTRE MALL (1969-2008) {10.8 miles northwest, in center city Bristol}, NAUGATUCK VALLEY MALL (1969-1999) {10.2 miles west, in Waterbury}, MERIDEN MALL (1970-2006) {.8 miles southeast, also in Meriden} and -eventually- BRASS MILL CENTER (1997) {11.3 miles west, also in Waterbury}.

MERIDEN SQUARE was given a 5.1 million dollar facelift between August 1987 and August 1988. A larger domed skylight was placed over Center Court, with a glass-enclosed elevator and escalators replacing the old Speedramp. Moreover, neon lighting, tile flooring, landscaping and new entrances were added.

In July 1989, a more ambitious -60 million dollar- renovation was announced by May Centers and Chicago-based Homart Corporation, the Sears parent company. This expansion would add a 2-level (120,000 square foot) Sears, which would anchor a 2-level East Wing.

The approval process took until April 1991 to see fruition. Construction commenced in May. Forty-one new stores opened, along with Sears, March 3, 1993. These included Eddie Bauer, Victoria's Secret, B. Dalton Bookseller, GNC, Lane Bryant and the Cafe Square Food Court.

On February 1, 1993, G. Fox had been rebranded by Boston-based Filene's. They initiated a renovation and expansion of the store in April of the same year. When completed in late 1994, the building encompassed 205,000 square feet. MERIDEN SQUARE now enveloped 910,000 leasable square feet and eighty-seven store spaces.

Meanwhile, May Centers had morphed into CenterMark Properties in 1992. In February 1994, their portfolio was sold to a consortium of three entities, led by Australia's Westfield Group. In June 1996, Westfield established full ownership of the CentreMark portfolio...which included MERIDEN SQUARE. November 1998 brought their rebranding of the shopping center as WESTFIELD SHOPPINGTOWN MERIDEN.

Renovation number three had been formally announced in December 1997. This was to add a 170,000 square foot West Wing to the mall's Upper Level. Included were a 1-level (90,000 square foot) Lord & Taylor, thirty-eight new stores and a multilevel parking garage. The addition opened for business August 31, 1999.

WESTFIELD SHOPPINGTOWN MERIDEN now encompassed 1,080,000 leasable square feet and one hundred and twenty-five tenant spaces. However, its Lord & Taylor proved to be short-lived. The store was shuttered in January 2004.

The vacant area, and a portion of adjoining inline store space, was rebuilt into three big box stores. Dick's Sporting Goods and Best Buy held grand openings November 4, 2004. Borders was dedicated November 11, 2006, but closed in September 2011. In September of 2006, Filene's had dissolved into Macy's. The mall's lengthy moniker had also been shortened to WESTFIELD MERIDEN in June 2005.

In January 2014, J.C. Penney announced the closings of thirty-three mall-based stores. The WESTFIELD MERIDEN location, a 1972 charter anchor, shut down May 3, 2014. Reading, Pennsylvania-based Boscov's assumed the space and opened on October 8, 2015.

Sources:

The Meriden Journal
The Morning Record
The Record-Journal
www.westfield.com (The Westfield Group)
Comment posted by "Go Nordike!"
www.abcnews.go.com

FAIR USE OF MERIDEN SQUARE IMAGES:

The graphics and renderings from The Meriden Journal-Record Journal illustrate a key moment in the mall's history that is described in the article. The images are of lower resolution than the originals (copies made would be of inferior quality). The images are not replaceable with free-use or public-domain images. The use of the images does not limit the copyright owners' rights to distribute the images in any way. The images are being used for non-profit, informational purposes only and their use is not believed to detract from the original images in any way.