Jason Ilyes' Commentary

Posted November 20, 2006 (user submitted)

North Hills Village is a retail complex along the McKnight road corridor in the northern suburbs of Pittsburgh. The anchor tennats include Burlington Coat Factory and Kohl's. The mall was at one time an entirely outdoor shopping center, was later enclosed, existed for nearly a decade as a partially enclosed and partially outdoors, and was converted to an entirely outdoor facility in late 2005. It has 616,460 sq. feet of retail space.

The mall began life as a shopping center in the 1950s with Gimbel's as its centerpiece. Its competition came from Northway Shopping Center (built in 1953 and later used as the basis of Northway Mall) and Pines Plaza, built in 1956 (which still exists today). Around 1980 the center was enclosed, making it a one-story mall. Tenants included Gimbel's, Old Country Buffet, and Leeward's (which later became Michael's. Top Hat Tuxedo and Marshall's were on the corners with the Gimbel's in the center. A movie theater adjacent to the property closed around 1985 and was converted to a Sun Television.

The mall was North Pittsburgh's #2 mall until 1986, when Ross Park Mall opened. Gimbel's became Hills in 1986, and the mall did all right as a third-tier shopping center. The interior was renovated slightly in late 1990.

When Marshall's left for nearby Northway Mall in 1995, its former space was turned into a Best Buy, accessible only from the outside of the mall. This marked the beginning of a transitional period that would last about a decade in which the mall gradually converted back to its original form. Next to go was a large chunk on the southern end of the mall. Michael's became accessible only from the outside of the mall within a few years, and a Shop n Save was opened by 1998 without interior access. Old Country Buffet and Dunham's Sporting Goods were the only two enclosed stores that required mall entrance for some time at that end of the mall.

At the north end, Top Hat Tuxedo's old space was expanded greatly and turned into a Kohl's around 1997. Petco was later built at this end as well, knocking out more corridor space. When Sun Television went out of business, Staples moved in to the old spot.

By this time Hills had become Ames and the mall had only a short corridor, with the Ames at one end and Burlington Coat Factory at the other end near Petco. The mall would dead end at each wall where a free-standing store stood. Other standbys such as Jo-Ann Fabrics, FuncoLand, and Orange Julius were still available from the inside of the mall, but stores on the western side of the corridor were gradually adding outdoor access as well.

In 2005, Burlington had moved to the Ames space that had been empty since 2002. They expanded the space so it encompassed the entire front lobby that had once been in front of Ames. The remaining corridor shops moved, and the corridor was torn down to make room for a new Target store, scheduled to open in the fall of 2006.

Today, the mall is the area's big box retail center, with Ross Park Mall continuing to serve as the traditional mall and Northway Mall as a secondary and increasingly weaker shopping destination. It too has been filled with big box stores.

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