Tamara Rose's Commentary:

Posted April 28, 2009 (user submitted March 4, 2009)

City Center will be closed forever in a few days. It's just a mall so big deal right? Yeah well, I'm still sentimental over it. City Center was designed by the same firm that built The Beverly Center in Beverly Hills which is where the bulk of Scenes From A Mall was filmed. When you watch that movie you can get a idea of what the first place I bought underwear in Columbus was like. It was also the first place someone recognized me as the Black Witch from D's show. (I signed an autograph in front of Cricket West.) Kind of funny -- last weekend marked twelve years in Columbus for me and this place was booming back then. What a change a dozen years make.

Death Scenes From A Mall photo essay.

They'll be auctioning off all the store fixtures Friday so the vultures were there today scoping out the clothing racks, mannequins and shelves the workmen had piled into the walkways. The empty shopfronts were open too which lent an eerie feel to the atmosphere. Ghosts of Marshall Fields, Cinnabon and Victoria's Secret seemed to be swirling about whispering "Remember me and all the time we spent together? Wasn't that grand?" And for a shopping mall, it really was.

Ian Hinsdale's Commentary:

Posted April 1, 2005 (user submitted)

The Columbus City Center opened in 1988 on the sites of a former department store and skating rink. Bound by S. Third, E. Rich, and S. High Streets, it right in the heart of downtown Columbus.

Although three large suburban malls were built in the 1960's, downtown held it's own for years. The 8-story flagship Lazarus store remained strong despite the loss of neighboring downtown retail. The Union, which was across High St from Lazarus closed in 1980, giving Lazarus a virtual monopoly when it came to shopping downtown.

In 1988, Columbus City Center was built where the Union once stood. The mall has space for about 150 specialty stores. There were also two new department stores built. Jackson, Michigan-based Jacobson's was built along Third St. Inside, it connected to all three levels of the mall. Chicago-based Marshall Field's was built at the corner of Rich and Third and also connected to the mall. A bridge was built across High St to connect the Lazarus store. The bridge was actually complete with stores (and no windows) so you did not realize you were even crossing the street, until you were suddenly in Lazarus. A large parking facility was also constructed across Rich St, complete with a bridge over the street, to accommodate those driving downtown as well.

City Center was a success, and brought new life to downtown. The mall had a mixture of both affordable and upscale specialty shops to accommodate shoppers from all walks of life. The downtown Lazarus store has departments none of the suburban satellite stores had, and Marshall Field's and Jacobson's were unique to the region. City Center had many things that the three major suburban malls did not. Late in the 90's, however, that began to change.

The first blow was somewhat minor, but contributed to the decline of multiple shopping centers in Columbus. The Mall at Tuttle Crossing was built on the Northwest side, near suburban Dublin. This mall was as upscale as City Center, and also was the site of Marshall Field's only other local store. Eventually two more upscale malls were built. Easton Town Center on the Northeast side and Polaris Fashion Place on the far North side.

To make matters worse, Jacobson's went bankrupt and closed all stores. Marshall Field's exited the Columbus market, selling their stores to Kaufmann's, who has multiple locations in the area. The saddest part deals with the Lazarus store, which opened downtown in 1851. In 1998, the store had been greatly downsized from its original eight floors of shopping. In 2003, parent company Federated announced that the entire Lazarus chain (along with other Federated stores) would be renamed "Lazarus-Macy's." Eventually all Lazarus stores would be known as Macy's, but the flagship Lazarus would not make it that long. It was closed in the summer of 2004.

City Center continues with Kaufmann's and a handful of specialty stores. However, it is not the destination it once was. On the upside, however, Columbus still has something most other cities of its size do not.

Blake Hutchison's Commentary:

Posted April 1, 2005 (user submitted May 4, 2004)

Another prime example of why an enclosed mall isn't necessarily the best solution to bring a declining downtown area back to life.

Like many cities in the USA, when Columbus, Ohio was starting to experience decline in the downtown area (retailers leaving for the suburbs), the powers-that-be at the time decided that an enclosed mall would bring people back downtown.

Columbus City Center was built in 1989. The original anchors were Lazarus, Jacobson's, and Marshall Field's. Lazarus was already there -- they simply attached the mall to the store's existing downtown location. The mall is three levels.

For several years, the mall actually did attract a few people downtown -- despite a few setbacks, such as absolutely no free parking at the mall - you have to use one of the parking garages, which can get pricey in Columbus.

Jacobson's closed when the chain went bankrupt in 2002 and still sits empty. Marshall Field's closed all of its Columbus stores, including the one at Columbus City Center, but that was soon replaced by a Kaufmann's.

In October 2003, Lazarus announced that they would be closing their downtown Columbus store. This will occur in August 2004 and will leave Kaufmann's as the only anchor at Columbus City Center.

This mall isn't a completely hopeless case. It is slowly being converted into a mixed-use office and retail center. And I don't think Kaufmann's will go anywhere soon.

In any event, City Center is definitely skating on thin ice with hot skates.

Links: Official mall web site

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