David McCleran's Commentary

Posted January 17, 2013 (user submitted January 9, 2013)

Central City Mall originally started as just Harris'.

In 1927, Harris moved from their very busy (and normally very crowed) original location on 3rd St (now West 3rd Street) between D and E Streets in San Bernardino to their new store down the block located on (what was then) 3rd and E Streets. 3rd Street no longer intersects at E, as new buildings, such as City Hall and a hotel, have been built on top of the old road. In 1947, Harris installed the first Monostairs (now called escalators) in the Inland Empire.

Fast forward to the 1960's. In 1966 Inland Center, less then 5 miles away, opened. San Bernardino wanted to bring more traffic into downtown, instead of just having City Hall and a bunch of mid-to-high rise buildings in the area. In the 1972, Central City Mall opened with a lot of it filled. The new mall consisted of 52 stores spread between 2 floors, and 3 anchors (2 new), JCPenney, Montgomery Wards and Harris. The Harris building stayed original. The mall had a great spot right at the end of 3rd, which was, in some parts, San Bernardino's biggest retail district.

Not long after opening, San Bernardino wanted to make the mall more of a city within a city, wanting to add new mid-high rise buildings, a 4th anchor, and other normal mall upgrades as well as a park and even a aerial tram.

In the late 1970's, the mall had already started having problems. Along with the gang activity happening in the area and the mall, the owners of the mall changing to different management groups, and officials who wanted the mall to be profitable, people stopped coming to Central City and mainly went to Inland Center instead. In the late 1980's, developers made a plan to renovate the mall to attract more people.

Central City Mall was then closed, renovated, a large carousel was added and the name was officially changed to Carousel Mall. They had hopes of attracting families and kids to the mall with the carousel. The mall started losing business for the rest of the 1990's.

Even though it was older and smaller, more people started shopping at Inland Center. Efforts were made to keep Harris in their spot at Carousel. They were met, and in 1997, the whole chain was renovated. In 1998, Gottschalks bought Harris. All Harris stores were renamed Harris-Gottshalks, and the Carousel Mall location was closed, and Harris-Gottschalks reopened in the former May Co building at Inland Center.

In 2001, Montgomery Ward went under, leaving just JCPenney as an anchor until they closed their doors in 2003. The mall was sold in 2006, and then resold in 2008. Also in 2008, the CinemaStar showed its last movie and closed its doors. San Bernardino's retail area is now primarily located in the south part of the city near the 10 freeway.

The mall continued to die, leading to present day. Carousel Mall was holds some San Bernardino County and School District offices (apx. 450 people). Only 17 stores remain open, where some of the original 52 stores were in the mall. Included in the 17 stores is a AM station, a Tax Center, and 4 restaurants. All businesses are independently owned, except the radio station and tax center (both are unknown).

Jeffery Scism's Commentary

Posted September 3, 2006 (user submitted February 11, 2006)

The Central City Mall in San Bernardino is an interesting study in mall failure and city interference.

The mall opened in the 1970s, and was anchored by Montgomery Wards, JC Penney and Harris; a department store on the site for 65 years.

In The Late 80s the mall started having hard times, most shopper went to the Inlans Center Mall three miles south, and JC Penney closed its doors, as did Montgomery Wards, leaving Harris dept store as the sole anchor. The Mall tried to revive itself by changing ots name to the Carousel mall and the installed carousel and train ride did little to boost patronage.

Harris (the anchor) was a VERY old portion of the facility, and the city developement agency loaned them a large amount of money to refurbish their store, on the condition that they STAY. The money was spent, the renovations done and as soon as they were done, Harris had a merger, and MOVED out to the Inland Center Mall.

Now the Carousel Mall is a mainly empty shopping facility with a few mom and pop type shops and some local businesses that are fighting a losing battle.

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