Chapel Hill Mall – Raw & Real Retail

This is our walkthrough of the Chapel Hill Mall in Akron, OH from October 16, 2019. This is a dying mall just a little south of Cleveland, in the same neck of the woods as long gone, famous malls like Rolling Acres and Randall Park Malls. This mall is currently undergoing the slow death spiral of a failing mall owned by Kohan Retail Investment Group. As is typical with Kohan-owned properties, month by month little issues like the rent or electricity bills not getting paid and tenants being threatened with periods of mall closure or a building with no electricity. This all will not end well, as other properties in the same boat, like Berkshire Mall in Massachusetts had very nearly an identical experience on the way down. It felt very sad walking around this mall.

Songs used in this video (in order):

Orchester Fred Rabold – Bourbonrose
Soul City Orchestra – Slinky
Val Merrall’s Big Sound – Flash
Steve Gray – Wonder Groove
Steve Gray – Reach Out

Here is a decent writeup from the great Mall Hall of Fame blog:

The story of Akron’s second shopping mall goes back to The Great Depression and Julius Johannes (“J.J.”) Buchholzer, who owned the local Hower’s department store. He envisioned the family farm, located 4.5 miles northeast of the center city, as a prime spot for a branch location.

By the early 1960s, it was clear that the site could support a large suburban shopping center. Buchholzer’s son Richard teamed up with Cleveland’s Forest City Enterprises. Ground was broken for Chapel Hill Mall in 1965. The single-level shopping hub would cover 80 acres and span approximately 838,000 leasable square feet. The first operational tenant was the General Cinema Corporation Cinema I & II, which showed its first features on October 9, 1966. A 2-level (165,100 square foot), Akron-based O’Neil’s welcomed its first shoppers on February 16, 1967. A 2-level (200,000 square foot) Sears opened at around the same time. J.C. Penney, with a 2-level (194,100 square foot) store, commenced operation on August 17, 1967.

A mall-wide grand opening was held October 12 1967, with twenty-one stores in operation by December. When fully-leased, the shopping center housed seventy five tenant spaces. Charter stores included Gray Drug, Jo-Ann Fabrics, Lane Bryant, Mode O’Day Frock Shop, National Shirt Shops, Winkelman’s ladies’ wear, Zales Jewelers, a Kroger supermarket and F.W. Woolworth 5 & 10. The existing movie house was divided into a triplex and re-opened, as the General Cinema Corporation Cinema I-II-III, on November 2, 1973. It was eventually reconfigured as a five-screen venue. A freestanding theater, the General Cinema Corporation Plaza 8 At Chapel Hill, was built .5 mile northwest of the shopping complex and was dedicated September 25, 1988. Another venue, the Regal Independence 10, was built directly southwest of the mall. Its first features were shown on October 18, 1996. With the completion of this venue, the original in-mall theater was shuttered.

As with other stores in the O’Neill’s chain, the Chapel Hill location was rebranded as a Cleveland-based May Company of Ohio on January 27, 1989. Pittsburgh-based Kaufmann’s took over on January 31, 1993, followed by Macy’s, on September 9, 2006. A prospective expansion of the Chapel Hill property had been announced in 1988. This project, which would have added a Cleveland-based Higbee’s and several inline stores, was eventually abandoned. A bona fide remodeling did get underway in March 1994. A 12-bay Food Court, which included a hand-crafted Carousel, was built at the mall’s Main Entrance. The existing complex was also given a face lift, which included new lighting, ceilings and a water feature. The remodeling, completed in November 1994, increased the gross leasable area of Chapel Hill Mall to approximately 861,000 square feet.

Chattanooga-based CBL & Associates Properties acquired Chapel Hill Mall in May 2004 and started a mall-wide refurbishment. The facility was re-dedicated on November 4, 2006, but soon entered a downward spiral. This was exacerbated by an increase in crime in and around the complex and competition from other area malls. In order to avoid foreclosure, CBL gave the struggling shopping hub back to the lending entity in June 2014. Ownership reverted to US Bank. They brought in Ann Arbor, Michigan’s McKinley Management to oversee operations. Several key tenants, such as The Gap and Game Stop, had pulled up stakes. Then, two anchor stores closed for good. Macy’s went dark in March 2016. Sears followed suit in March of the following year.

Kohan Retail Investment Group acquired Chapel Hill Mall in June 2016.

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