Justin Streiner's Commentary

Posted January 13, 2010 (user submitted September 6, 2008)

Allegheny Center Mall is located in Pittsburgh's North Side neighborhood, less than 1/2 a mile from PNC Park (home of the Pittsburgh Pirates baseball team) and roughly one mile from downtown Pittsburgh.

The beginnings of the mall were somewhat controversial. The land where the mall and accompanying office buildings and high-rise apartment buildings is located was the town square and market center of Allegheny City, before Allegheny City was annexed by the City of Pittsburgh in 1907. The north side of Pittsburgh underwent a demographic shift and general decline in the 1950s and the Allegheny Center site was chosen for one of Pittsburgh's 'Renaissance' urban renewal efforts. The city made extensive use of its powers of eminent domain to force old businesses out of the square. Much of the square was demolished, except for the Old Post Office and the Buhl Planetarium. The 75-store four-level mall (two retail floors, two parking levels, and a drive-through loading dock) opened in 1966, with Sears as its anchor tenant, along with Woolworth's and local retail chain G.C. Murphy & Co leasing spaces, along with many smaller chains.

The mall enjoyed some degree of success through the 1970s and into the 1980s, however the urban renewal promised by the Renaissance program largely failed to materialize and much of Pittsburgh's North Side continued to be plagued by crime and urban decay. The mall's troubles were worsened by the completion of Interstate 279 in 1987, which took a lot of vehicular traffic off of North Side streets, along with population shift toward the suburbs and the opening of Ross Park Mall a few miles up I-279, in 1987. Anchor tenant Sears held on into the early 1990s, when it closed, opting to focus their efforts on their larger and more profitable Ross Park location. No retail store moved into the location and the anchor space was converted into office space that was leased by Integra Bank (now National City). Other large spaces went vacant with the bankruptcy of Wooloworth's and Murphy Mart.

In the mid 1990s, the mall continued to struggle, with the number of open storefronts dwindling as the reduction in customer foot traffic made the sites unprofitable to lease. The last restaurant on the mall property, a Wendy's that wasn't inside of the main mall space, closed in 2004.

As retail stores left, large blocks of space were converted into office space, and the mall's location just outside of downtown Pittsburgh and large leasable spaces made it a prime location for telecommunications carriers, and so the mall property is now considered a 'carrier hotel', with AT&T, Expedient, Switch and Data, Paetec (formerly US LEC), all leasing large spaces in the main mall building. Some tenants were lost in the dot-com crash, but for the most part, new tenants have taken over those spaces.

So, while Allegheny Center Mall is dead in the sense that there are no more retail stores, it is not dead, as in run-down and unused.

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