James' Commentary

Posted March 7, 2006 (user submitted)

The Mall at New Rochelle was another one of the pioneering downtown malls built on the urban renewal premise of the 1960's. Now demolished and gone to mall heaven, it was first proposed in 1962 and was opened in 1968. Covering about 4 original blocks of downtown, it was a small 200k square foot, L-shaped mall that lead from New Rochelle's traditional downtown Main Street back to a 220,000 square foot, three level Macy's store. It was linked to a large five level parking garage and was attached to an eight story office tower for a local bank and (at the time) a Sheraton Hotel. The hotel and office tower still stand, although I think the hotel has been reborn as a Marriott Residence Inn and is part of the redeveloped project today known as New Rock City.

From what I remember, the mall had a short and unremarkable life. It was never really a large enough mall to draw from the affluent Westchester County area around it, and it competed against the huge department store and retail district in nearby downtown White Plains, and the Cross County mall in Yonkers, about 10 miles away. It was built primarily to supplement the somewhat successful, but small downtown shopping area that was centered along the 10 block Main Street shopping district. The downtown area had a nice collection of stores for its time, including an old fashined downtown branch of Bloomingdale's. New Rochelle's downtown began to really decline in 1973, when Bloomie's closed its store and relocated to a new glass box on the edge of White Plains, to be near most of the other upscale offerings in that city. From what I am told, the mall was still a relative success, but began to decline in the late 70's as the socio-economic matrix of New Rochelle began to transform into a more minority community. The city itself is small, about 80,000 people, and has a great location on Long Island Sound, about 20 miles from Manhattan. The downtown is actually well located on I-95 and the Metro North and Amtrak lines into the city as well, so you would think that the mall would have continued to thrive, despite the changing demographics. I think that a number of challenges doomed this mall, from being too small to draw regionally, having a weak Macy's branch and slowly being run into the ground by its owner. From the few times I visited it, it had very little to offer, other than discount clothing store, pager stores (very big at the time) and some urbanish sport clothing shops. The floors were terrazzo that always seemed a little grimy, and I don't remember there being a food court, but I think there was a 'collection' of food vendors in section of the mall, closest to the Main Street entrance. The place also suffered from the slow shift in the city's demographics, and that was most apparant in the types of merchandise being carried in the Macy's store. It was never of the higher variety of clothing and home goods you found at the White Plains or Stamford, CT stores. The end came with the bankrupcy of Macy's and it's closing of this branch in 1992. The vacancy rate in the mall by then was already high, and the mall was formally closed and demolished by the summer of 1996.

In its place was built a faux semi-outdoor retail and entertainment attaction known as New Rock City. Focused more on entertainment, food and big box merchants, it seems successful even if the execution appears a bit cheesy. I think there has been some rapid turnover in the retail offerings, and I think the multiplex theater has had some security issues. I understand that this development has breathed new life into the city, but what long term effect it will have remains to be seen. The developer of New Rock City has also rebuilt a huge section of downtown White Plains with a similar development called City Centre, that has a Target store, cinemas, other retail and food outlets and two huge high rise condominium towers, one sponsored by the toupee'd one, The Donald himself. These towers are by far the tallest buildings in Westchester County, so you can't miss them.

Joni's Correction

Posted June 3, 2006 (user submitted)

The Sheraton, now known as the Radisson, is two blocks north of The Mall, and always has been.

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