Ian Hinsdale's Commentary:

Posted March 31, 2005 (user submitted)

Ironically, Toledo's last mall to open was the first to close. Northtowne Square opened in Toledo's north end in 1980. It was located on the site of a former small airport, bound by Detroit Ave on the East, Alexis Road on the South, Telegraph Road on the West, and the Michigan state line to its north.

The mall opened with high hopes back in 1980. This was the metro area's fourth mall, and offered major retail the the only area of town left without a mall. When it opened, Montgomery Ward, Lion, and LaSalle's were the anchors. (Lion and LaSalle's were two Toledo-based department store chains). The first major change came around 1982 when LaSalle's sold their entire chain of stores to Macy's. Macy's abandoned the Toledo market in 1984, selling those stores to Dayton, Ohio-based Elder-Beerman. As the 1980's went on, the mall continued to do well, with Ward's, Lion, and E-B. It also had many specialty stores unique to Toledo, such as "Fredericks of Hollywood," "Chick-fil-A," "Camelot Music," "Musicland," and "CVS/Pharmacy" (which was a rarity in Toledo back then). Shoppers from North Toledo and SE Michigan continued to flock to Northtowne Square until the 1990's.

In the 90's, the Franklin Park mall began a major expansion project which added a department store and many specialty shops. This had an impact on Northtowne, as well as two other malls in the area. Franklin Park was decidedly more upscale and modern. The many expansions at Franklin Park have made it the dominant Toledo mall. Northtown simply could not compete. It also did not help that Elder-Beerman fell into financial troubles in the late 90's. They closed their Northtowne store, leaving a void that would never again be filled.

As the 90's flew by, more changes were in store. Some of the smaller tenants began to move out, being replaced by less attractive stores. The neighborhood was also on the decline, which didn't help matters either. By 2000, Montgomery Ward was doomed as they filed for bankruptcy. The Northtowne store was soon closed, leaving Dillards, which had recently acquired the locally-based Lion Store. Dillards did not last long, and by 2002, no anchors remained. The mall officially closed in 2005, with barely any tenants remaining.

Daniel Peck's Commentary:

Posted March 31, 2005 (user submitted May 31, 2004)

NorthTowne mall was opened in 1980 as the last of four malls to open in Toledo. NorthTowne, as it's name implies, was designed to draw business from the north end of Toledo and from the Toledo suburbs in Michigan.

It opened to significant fanfare and was fully leased with three anchors: Montgomery Ward, Lion Store (regional, based in Pennsylvania), and Hudsons (regional, then still based in Detroit).

By 1983, Hudson's had left and was replaced by regional Elder Beerman. During most of the 80s, North Towne was the most successful mall in Toledo. The Radio Shack that was in the mall generated the most revenue of any Radio Shack in Ohio.

However, throughout the 80s, the departure of significant employers in the area (most notably Champion Spark Plug and Dana) drained the economic base of the potential customers. Security was poor at the mall as well, and it earned a reputation as gang friendly. When the smaller, but more convienent Frenchtown Square Mall opened 20 minutes away in Monroe Michigan in 1989, a fair amount of Michigan business left as well, compounding matters.

In 1993, Franklin Park Mall, also in Toledo, added a fourth wing, an expansion spearheaded by Lion. This contributed to NorthTowne's decline, as Franklin Park and NorthTowne shared a geographic customer base, Franklin Park, with both Lion and Jacobsen's and more centrally located to west and southward expanding Toledo, began sucking away business from the smaller North Towne.

In 1997, Elder Beerman filed for bankruptcy. With that filing and reorganization, Elder Beerman, which had closed the restaraunt portion of their store and had relegated many sections of their anchor to closeout merchandise already, closed their anchor at NorthTowne. Ironically, they expanded their Frenchtown Mall store at the same time. They were not replaced, and mall rot (stores not on the main portion of the mall, but near entrances becoming vacant) began to set in.

By late 1999, NorthTowne began to lose national chains, to see those chains replaced by local stores. Also in 1999, the AMC theaters in the mall, which had been relegated to non-first run movies three years earlier closed. McDonalds, an original tennant, closed in early 1999 as well.

Montgomery Ward's bankruptcy filing meant that the mall lost a second anchor in February 2001. Shortly after this filing, the vacancy rate at the mall approached 40%.

With one remaining anchor, NorthTowne did tread water, adding stores such as Bath and Body Works, National Record Mart, and FootAction. On the whole however, the mall was still losing tennants.

Lion Store finally closed in January 2002. Shortly after that, despite the "I Support NorthTowne Mall" campaign among customers and stores, most of the remaining national chains, including Fredrick's of Hollywood, Radio Shack, and Kay Bee Toys, pulled out as well.

Inexplicably, in late 2002, MC Sporting Goods decided to open a Primary Store at NorthTowne. This was also a failure. At one point, near the end, MC Sporting Goods actually closed its mall enterance for theft purposes. MC Sporting Goods closed their doors in early 2004.

In late 2003, NorthTowne was rechristened Lakeside Centre in a Redevelopment. It has not been overly successful. Lakeside Center has less than 20 tennants. The only three national chains remaining are GNC, Foot Locker, and a Deb store which, by all accounts, does terrific business.

Josh Burnham's Commentary:

Posted March 31, 2005 (user submitted January 31, 2003)

My hometown of Toledo, Ohio is known for a lot of things, such as Jeep, the Mud Hens baseball team, University of Toledo and Tony Packo's Hot Dogs. It is also known as a haven for malls and shopping centers that are either dead or barely staying afloat. North Towne Square Mall, located in the northeast part of Toledo, and within walking distance of the Michigan border, is the undisputed king of dead malls in this area. Built in 1980 by Simon Properties, the mall started out life with Montgomery Ward, Elder-Beerman, and the Lion Store (now Dillards) as anchors. It also had a five-screen movie theater operated by AMC Cinemas, a CVS pharmacy, Kay-Bee Toys, McDonald's, Radio Shack, Foot Locker and Spencer's Gifts among the list of tenants that called North Towne home. For a while, it competed with Southwyck and Westfield Franklin Park for top dog in northwest Ohio.

Then in 1992, Franklin Park underwent a massive expansion of new stores which overtook the others for number one, and North Towne felt the effects harshly. Business and mall traffic sharply decreased. Elder-Beerman closed its store in 1997, Dillards left in the spring of 2000, and just a couple of months later, the cinemas (which AMC sold to National Amusements in '96) went dark for good. These closings opened up the floodgates of store closures, such as CVS, Kay-Bee, McDonalds, and even bread and butter mall stores such as Radio Shack, Bath & Body Works, Footaction USA and B Dalton Books. When the mall's last remaining anchor Montgomery Ward closed in 2001 when the national chain folded, North Towne truly became a ghost mall.

Recently, Simon sold the mall to a pair of investors from California, and there is talk of turning the place into a cross between an industrial park and shopping district. A few stores remain, such as GNC, Foot Locker, a beauty parlor, a pool hall, MC Sports, and a wrestling school among its tenants. For the true dead mall experience, this is the one to see.


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