RIDGEWAY CENTER
Summer and 6th Streets
Stamford, Connecticut

Alphons Bach migrated from Berlin to New York City in 1926. In 1932, he established an industrial design firm and soon became recognized for his tubular steel furniture creations. Bach relocated to suburban Stamford, Connecticut in 1937.

At the end of the second World War, Bach entered the realm of real estate development. A 15 acre site lying .8 mile north of Stamford's center city was to become the first regional shopping center in Connecticut.

Designed by Bach, the first phase of the motor age merchandising mecca opened for business March 26, 1947. Charles E. Moore, Mayor of Stamford, cut a ceremonial ribbon. Eventual tenants included W.J. Sloan Home Furnishings (October 1948), Pennsylvania Drug (May 1949), Deena's, The Lurie Company, Chizzini and a Slenderella Figure Salon.

Construction commenced on a second phase in February 1950. This southern block of stores included a 6-story Professional Building, 3-level (72,000 square foot) Sears and single-screen cinema. Originally known as the Harry Brandt Ridgeway Theatre, it showed its first feature on August 31, 1951.

The third -and final- construction phase entailed the addition of a central store block. This housed a 2-level (37,000 square foot) Saks 34th Street, which opened for business April 29, 1958. A Grand Central Market grocery was housed in a basement floor. RIDGEWAY CENTER now encompassed approximately 225,000 leasable square feet and housed forty-five stores and services. Its bi-level parking lot accommodated 1,000 autos.

By the mid-1970s, the shopping center featured 40 Boutiques, a mall within a mall complex. The RIDGEWAY CENTER Saks had been rebranded as a Gimbels in October 1965. This store was shuttered in 1986 with its space re-opening, as a Hartford-based Sage-Allen, November 12 of the same year.

Meanwhile, a major competitor had come on the scene. STAMFORD TOWN CENTER, a downtown redevelopment mall, opened in stages between February and April of 1982. By the early 1990s, RIDGEWAY CENTER was described by the New York Times as a "hodgepodge of lackluster architecture punctuated with vacant stores".

The complex was owned by a joint venture of Manhattan's Larry Silverstein and the Planned Expansion Group, of White Plains, New York. A renovation and expansion had been envisaged in 1982, but was opposed by local residents. Several years of litigation followed.

Sage-Allen was shuttered in December 1992. Grand Central Market vacated their basement level store at around the same time. The Sage-Allen space sat vacant for nearly a year, with Marshalls moving in in late 1993. Sears, a charter RIDGEWAY tenant, closed in early 1996. Marshalls moved, temporarily, into the upper level of the vacant Sears.

By this time, the way had been -legally- cleared to begin the long-awaited shopping center remodeling. The old Saks / Sage-Allen structure was demolished and replaced with a larger building. This housed several big box-type retailers.

A (47,000 square foot) Bed, Bath & Beyond occupied ground level space. The upper level contained a (27,000 square foot) Michaels and (33,800 square foot) Marshalls. A (60,000 square foot) A Stop & Shop supermarket was installed in the basement.

The Professional Building was demolished and the entirety of the shopping center structure fitted with brick facades, pitched roofs and spans of glass. A multilevel parking garage was also built in the northwest corner of the site.

Stores in the original shopping center, such as Salvatore's Restaurant, Fayva Shoes and Baskin-Robbins ice cream, were carried over. Trim Fashion was among the existing tenants who were unable to afford a 33 percent rent increase in order to lease space in the new complex. 

The renewed RIDGEWAY CENTER was dedicated in May 1998 and enveloped 331,000 square feet of retail stores and 29,000 square feet of office suites. There were now thirty-seven tenants, including Staples, CVS Drug and Old Navy. Greenwich, Connecticut's Urstadt Biddle properties bought an interest in RIDGEWAY CENTER in July 2002.

In 2003, they began to refurbish and retenant space in the south store block. The movie theater had been shuttered in the year 2000. It was reconfigured as part of a (42,700 square foot) LA Fitness. Adjacent office space was also gutted and incorporated into the new fitness facility.

A (19,800 square foot) Modell's Sporting Goods opened, in upper level space, on September 27, 2007. In January 2011, Urstadt Biddle established full ownership of the shopping complex.

Sources:

The New York Times
The Pentwater (Michigan) News
The Norwalk Hour
The Stamford Advocate
The (Bridgeport) Sunday Herald
"Urstadt Biddle Properties: The History of a REIT 1969-2007" / Gene Brown
www.cinematreasures.org
http://movie-theatre.org
http://www.permutterproperties.com
http://www.ubproperties.com (Urstadt Biddle Properties)


FAIR USE OF RIDGEWAY CENTER IMAGES:

The graphics from The (Bridgeport) Sunday Herald 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.