Thursday, October 02, 2008

Lost Malls - Union Square Mall - Union City

The elusive Union Square Mall in Union City, CA. This little enclosed mall lived for just over a decade. It opened in late 1974, went up, then down, down, down. The near-empty mall was demolished in the late 80s (or early 90s, anyone know for sure?)
Anchor tenants were Safeway and Kelly-Moore Home Improvement Center.
The attached article from the Fremont Argus is dated Dec. 2, 1977. Mall merchants are complaining about businesses departing the mall and gave their theories why the mall wasn't succeeding.
The article goes on to report the owners were planning on added "50 flags to brighten the interior." Hmmm.
It appears as if the mall was originally supposed to have a department store, but the owners revealed the center wasn't a "regional center," which inhibits department stores from joining. Deceptive?
I visited this mall only once in the 80s. It was dark, had aggregate concrete floors, and a single store (a barber shop, if I recall correctly). I believe the mall was laid out in a plus (+) design. Photos of this center would certainly be exciting (anyone?).
The original Safeway still stands at 1790 Decoto Road. A new strip shopping center was built in its place and appears to be doing just fine.
Current aerial:

View Larger Map

Wednesday, October 01, 2008

Eastridge Mall - A New Era in Shopping

A beautiful new way to shop...
Here's an advertisement from the Fremont Argus, dated May 17, 1971, announcing the grand opening of Eastridge Mall in San Jose.

Because the ad is grainy, this is what it says:
"a beautiful new way to shop"
"Eastridge is now open, and it's all yours to enjoy... the most enjoyable shopping you've ever known! It's a whole new way to shop... in a beautiful new atmosphere. Bold new design - smart new shops - 'climate control' malls - 3 levels - expansive courts and lounge areas - colorful landscaping - striking sculpture. Come and see for yourself, but we warn you... it will spoil you for any other shopping!"
"Largest in the West! Now Open! Penney's and many fine shops"
"Coming soon! 3 more Department Stores"
"Liberty House - Macy's - Sears - More Fine Shops and Services."

When Eastridge first opened, the City of Fremont sponsored bus trips to the mall, which created quite a controversy (funneling tax dollars out of Fremont, you know).

Enjoy this little gem!

Thursday, August 14, 2008

Mervyn's Closing Stores at Local Malls

Mervyn's announced Wednesday that is will be closing 26 under-performing stores (Avalos, 2008, ¶ 1). The list of closures includes the Mervyn's at Fairfield's Westfield Solano and Antioch's Somersville Towne Center (Avalos, ¶ 2). The Mervyn’s at Newark’s NewPark Mall closed last month, but was not part of the bankruptcy closings. Other non-mall closures of Mervyn’s include Livermore’s Plaza 580, Napa’s downtown, Reno, Sparks, and Carson City, NV.

With department store consolidations, the number of anchor stores available for traditional malls has dramatically decreased. Macerich, owners of Somersville Towne Center, may be hard-pressed to find an available tenant to replace Mervyn’s. The nearest Kohl’s is located in Brentwood. However, this does open the opportunity for redeveloping the store site as an entertainment venue similar to that being considered for NewPark Mall. Solano mall already has a cinema, so Westfield might have more difficulty in finding a replacement. The nearest Kohl’s is in Vacaville and few alternative anchors are available. With retail spending down, both Somersville Towne Center and Westfield Solano might just be without a fourth anchor tenant for a few years.

The Mervyn’s stores are expected to close in late October or early November (Avalos, 2008, ¶ 2).

Avalos, G. (2008, August 14). Mervyns closing four Bay Area stores; two in East Bay. Retrieved from

Tuesday, August 05, 2008

Neiman Marcus Commits to Broadway Plaza Walnut Creek

It's official. Neiman Marcus has signed the lease to open a new store at Walnut Creek's tony Broadway Plaza (San Francisco Business Times, 2008).

The new building will be located at the corner of Mount Diablo Boulevard and Main Street. According to Sarah Duxbury "Adding Neiman Marcus will require Macerich, which owns Broadway Plaza, to raze the 46,000 square feet that house Baby Gap, Gap Kids and David M. Brian and to develop a parking lot" (Duxbury, 2008). Parking is horribly impossible at this shopping center, so let's hope for MANY new parking spaces.

I've uploaded a MSN Live bird's eye view of the shopping center with a red box around the redevelopment area. No word on the future of P.F. Chang's China Bistro, but it's likely the new building will wrap around the existing restaurant. The rest of the block probably will be razed.

If all goes well, shopper's can buy signature NM gifts in December 2010. Otherwise, look for an early 2011 opening.

Duxbury, S. (2008, March 14). Neiman Marcus has plans for Walnut Creek. San Francisco Business Times. Retrieved from

San Francisco Business Times. (2008, August 4). Neiman Marcus inks lease for new Walnut Creek building. San Francisco Business Times. Retrieved from

Saturday, August 02, 2008

Vintage Postcards: Eastridge Mall

Here is a rare Eastridge Mall postcard showing the view towards JCPenney from the Sears court.

The back of the postcard reads: "Eastridge Shopping Center, the largest in the West, is a shopper's paradise comprising over 160 shops and four major department stores under one roof. The three climate controlled levels are unique in their bold design. Capitol Expressway, Tully, and Quimby Roads, San Jose, California."

As a recipient of this postcard, after reading the description, I'd flip over the card to look at the picture and ask "what three levels?" Maybe this is a "collect them all" situation.

Some of the stores featured in this postcard is The Clothes Barn with Singer just below it. You can see Jarman in the center court, whch is seen prominently from the Sears court (a feature of Taubman malls, inline shops have high visibility).

See the current aerial.

Visit my review of Eastridge Mall.

Saturday, June 14, 2008

Mall at Northgate Renovation

Finally, the Mall at Northgate is remodeling!

I've scanned a brochure that is available at the mall. The good news is, the mall will remain enclosed. Originally, Macerich, owners of the mall, announced they were going to rip the roof off and make this a lifestyle center. However, it looks as if they changed their mind (and good for us). Besides, Northgate is still the only enclosed mall in Marin county.

The brochure promises the following changes:
* An interior renovation and an exciting new exterior design.
* An outdoor place with new restaurants and cafes.
* An indoor/outdoor food court near Century Theatres.
* An updated Rite-Aid.
* A new grand entrance off Del Presido.
* A new landscaped pedestrian and bike pathway - "the Promenade" around the property.
* New community gathering places for meeting, relaxing, and local events.
* New retail and dining choices geared towards the interests of San Rafael residents.

Northgate Mall is definitely overdue for a makeover. My last visit last weekend showed a tried and outdated mall. It's the only mall where I could sit at the food court an observe, all within 10 minutes: a pimp counting his hundreds, whores ordering Thai, a mentally challenged person running into a garbage can, and a drunk stumbling around. Hey, whatever floats your boat.

Renovation has already begun with the vacating of all the stores on the east side of the mall between Macy's and Sears.

Anyway, I look forward to a fancy new mall.


Read my guide to Mall at Northgate.

See the aerial view.

Thursday, June 05, 2008

Mervyn's Leaving Alameda Towne Centre

Mervyn's at Alameda Towne Centre (formerly South Shore Center) will be closing its doors on July 31, 2008. Mervyn's had been unable to renogotiate their lease with Harsch Investment Properties, the mall's owner and operator.

Before the ink dried on the press release, another press release was released announcing the arrival of Kohl's at Alameda Towne Centre. You can expect a grand opening in spring 2009.

I've attached an article from the Oakland Tribue, dated September 29, 1972 announcing the grand opening of Mervyn's at South Shore Center on Wednesday October 4, 1972.

Read my guide to Alameda Towne Center.

See the aerial view.

Monday, May 26, 2008

Giant Cocks Penetrate Mall

What appears to be an updated photograph of the steel roosters in front of Penney's in Sunvalley Mall.

I've always considered a mall's stores to be a primary draw, not the artwork. However, in the early 70s, our views may have differed. Although as I child, I enjoyed the fountains and the birdcages.

The question or whether artwork adds value to a mall is a good one. While malls have adorned sculptures and statuary for all time (think Butano at Hillsdale Mall), what purpose does having artwork in a mall have?

Having discounted the notion that artwork in a mall is wasted on the young, I am converted. When evaluating a mall, I now examine how a mall gives back to the community. Oftentimes, this is in the form of hosting artwork. It also gives a mall an identity and tells us a little something about the architect's or mall owners' values. Compare Alameda Towne Center to The Fremont Hub. One is loaded with artwork, the other none.


Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Wall Divides Mall

From the files of "the worst ideas, ever!" these exclusive photographs show the dividing of Eastridge Mall by two-story skybridges.

Previous to the most-recent renovation, this was the mall's idea to improve circulation and flow. However, the additional skybridges acted more as a wall and divided the once great mall.

The mysterious middle level made elevator-placement tricky. What we are looking at is their best effort. Now I understand why they wanted to remove the mystery level altogether.

These photos are courtesy of Dean Lundstrom.

See the current aerial.

Visit my review of Eastridge Mall.

Friday, May 09, 2008

Giant Escalators Moving Shoppers

A postcard I forgot I had! Another beauty of Sunvalley Mall, very similar to the previous post. This picture clearly taken a few years later (based on style of clothing).

This card, again, shows the center court, taken near the rare portals to the lower level (we affectionately called "the dungeon" in the early 80s). Visible is the B. Dalton Bookseller, which ultimately relocated between Macy's and Penney's. Music Box is still there, but the Camera Center wasn't visible or even present in the earlier postcard.

The back of the card reads "Giant escalators move shoppers swiftly from one mall level to the other at SunValley, the world's largest enclosed, air conditioned shopping center."

A question for loyal mallrats, was the blue panel above the exit always there?


Vintage Postcards: Sunvalley Mall Center Court

This postcard was a rare find! Showing the center court, complete with gold-topped information booth.

The shopping cart mystery continues! In the lower right of the picture shows a woman wheeling her cart, apparently shopping for children. Could this be the same cart as the one pictured in the exterior Penney's postcard posted earlier? Where did it come from and where is she going with it? Were shopping cards outside stores a cultural norm in the late 60s?

This postcard shows my favorite accoutrement of Sunvalley Mall, the giant light fixtures. Each bulb hosting a number of filaments to create a spectacular "explosion" of light. Bulbs similar to these can only be found today in the Princeton Plaza Mall in San Jose.

In the center rises giant metal "trees" from the lower level. Although it never dawned on me before, they look more like palm trees in this photo than they did in real life. Perhaps my perceptions have changed.

The back of the card reads "Over 120 stores are located on the two levels of the mammoth mall at Sun Valley, the world's largest enclosed, air-conditioned shopping center." The card was postally used and the author wrote "Mary, we should do this shopping center together some day! Spent 3 hours there Monday and hardly scratched the surface." Mary Carello of Syracuse, this blog post is for you.

Enjoy the card!
Read my guide to Sunvalley Mall

Visit the current Website.

See the aerial view.

Sunday, March 16, 2008

Vintage Postcards: Eastridge Mall

Here's a great vintage postcard of the famous Eastridge Mall in San Jose. It's a view of the center court towards Macy's. Pictured on the left is the mystery middle level that only appeared on opposing sides in the middle of the mall.

It appears as if a number of vacancies displays in this photo. Although we are treated to a vintage "The Gap" logo in the far left top. Who could forget the Arts International on the top right?

In the center court is the beautiful sculpture that was later moved to downtown San Jose.

With the remodel in 2005, the entire center court was reconfigured. The fountain demolished, and the mystery level removed.

The back of the postcard reads "Eastridge Shopping Center, the largest in the West, is a shopper's paradise comprising over 160 shops and four major department stores under one roof. The three climate controlled levels are unique in their bold design. Capitol Expressway, Tully, and Quimby Roads, San Jose, California."

Of course, the department stores were Macy's, JC Penney, Sears, and Liberty House. Emporium-Capwell replaced Liberty House when the chain pulled out of California. After Macy's bought Emporium-Capwell, they shuttered the store. It sat vacant until the 2005 remodel when they demolished the store.

Please, share your memories of Eastridge here.

See the current aerial.

Visit my review of Eastridge Mall.

Saturday, March 08, 2008

Vintage Postcards: Tanforan Shopping Center

Here's the latest addition to my vintage postcards, Tanforan Shopping Center in San Bruno, CA.

I estimate the postcard to be pre-1975, at least based on the grill of the Ford Pinto in the parking lot.

Although the postcards reads "Tanforan Shopping Center," I've always known this mall as "Tanforan Park," complete with signage that showed a horse in motion. An homage to the racetrack that this mall replaced. Of course, after the recent remodel, the mall is now known as "The Shops at Tanforan." Most people just refer to it as "Tanforan Mall."

The back of the postcard reads "Tanforan Shopping Center, San Bruno, Calif. Located at El Camino Real and Sneath Lane." Guess they didn't have much to say.

The exterior is little changed. Sears has a new sign, the giant JCP on the JC Penney is gone, but the "JC Penney" on the front of the department store is still there.

The site of the cinema on the front of the mall is noticeably absent, can any of our mall buff's out there tell us more? Of course, I don't mean the new Century Theatres, but the Tanforan Cinemas IV that originally inhabited the mall.

Another question is the Emporium in the rear of the mall. Although the angle of the camera may be concealing the department store, the Emporium's height should be visible. Was this an addition, too?

Please share your memories here!

See the current aerial.

Visit my review of Tanforan Mall.

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

Solano Mall Redux - Vintage Directory

Okay, back by popular demand. Here is a vintage mall directory, probably 1985, of Solano Mall in Fairfield.

The directory shows Sears in its original location and the original configuration of the mall around Sears. That entrance was re-constructed when Sears moved to the space formerly occupied by Emporim-Capwell, and Edwards Cinema joined the mall.

Enjoy the vintage list of stores, such as Chess King and Chick-Fil-A.

Does anyone know why the mall appears to have expected Macy's to build a wider store? I know it's usual for department stores to secure additional area for expansion, but I'm not sure if it applies here.

Also, from the aerial, it looks like the mall section around Macy's and Edwards Cinema is different from the rest of the mall. In fact, the directory shows corridors at the point the building changes shape (such as, becoming narrower). Was that an addition?

Thursday, January 10, 2008

Vintage Postcards - Solano Mall

This postcard shows Solano Mall, now Westfield Solano, probably about the year of opening in 1981. The mall originally had 3 anchors, JC Penney, Mervyn's,and Sears. In subsequent years, Macy's and Emporium-Capwell joined the mall. When Macy's bought Emporium-Capwell, instead of converting it to a Macy's Mens Store, like many other locations, they simply shuttered the store. Later, Sears moved from one end of the mall to the space formerly occupied by Emporium-Capwell. The old Sears location was replaced by Best Buy on the lower level of the mall, and Edwards Cinema on the upper level. The theater was one of the first new cinemas to debut in a mall in a long time. By this time, most malls had abandoned the entertainment concept, instead focusing on fashion retailers. Since the Macy's purchase of Emporium started the decline of fashion-oriented anchor stores, Solano Mall was taking a risk with a theater. Since that time, a cinema has almost become the preferred anchor in new shopping centers (mostly, lifestyle centers). Considering the perceived popularity of the Edwards Cinema, clearly it has paid off for Solano Mall.

Since this postcard was taken, Westfied bought the mall and made some minor renovations. Notably, the hand railings were painted a neutral color, and the triangular light covers in the ceiling were changed to white. The floor and ceiling colors still are white, which seems to have a longer appeal than some of the more colorful malls in the Bay Area region.

The back of the postcard reads "Solano Mall - Fairfield, California. Showing unique style and skylights, to serve an approximate population of 90,000."

Incidentally, the triangular lighting in the ceiling isn't a skylight at all, just a bank of artificial lighting. However, there is a thin strip of real skylights running the length of the mall, also encircling the triangular "skylights."

Please share your memories of Solano Mall here.


See the current aerial.

Visit my review of Solano Mall.