A Virginia Peninsula shopping mainstay since 1973 is about to close. Coliseum Mall, which opened on October 31, 1973, will formally shut the doors on most of its merchants Sunday, January 13, 2007. Only the mall’s three remaining anchor stores – – Macy’s, J.C. Penney, and Burlington Coat Factory – – will remain open for the time being. They are joined by the three free standing restaurants located in front of the mall property – – Steak and Ale, Outback, and Bennigan’s. Barnes and Noble, Life Uniforms, and Lee Nails will continue to operate until mid-February. At that time they will also close and disappear along with the more than 100 stores that were once a part of the mall.
The Virginia Peninsula area, once boasted three excellent shopping malls, but will now have only one remaining: Patrick Henry Mall in Newport News. Newmarket Mall, which originally shared popularity with Coliseum Mall, began to fade away in the late 80’s and was eventually reconfigured to house businesses. Only one retail merchant remains there: Sears.
Once the Peninsula’s largest mall and a popular site for community events throughout the 70’s and 80’s, Coliseum Mall began losing merchants in the mid-90’s. Many stores simply opted not to renew their leases and either moved to other locations or left the Peninsula altogether. Even the few new businesses that located within the mall over the last 10 years did not remain for long. Retail sales dropped from $142 million in 1999 to $112 million in 2004 with an even more alarming decline of only $99 million by 2005. Continuing decline of sales forced community leaders to look at alternative options which eventually led to the decision to give Coliseum a $207 million makeover into what will be called The Peninsula Town Center. The new center is expected to be a busy hub of retail and commercial businesses in a less formal community format.
Preliminary demolition of the mall actually began in fall, 2006. Stores that had been closed for some time, such as the former anchor Dillard’s, and the space originally occupied by Rices-Nachmans were among the first to be demolished. A few stores were temporarily relocated to other locations within the mall in order to allow the merchants time to clear out merchandise and help their employees find alternative employment. Most of those stores closed upon completion of the Christmas season, 2006. Those that remained began offering steep discounts in January in an attempt to clear remaining merchandise.
Representatives of J.C. Penney say that their existing store intends to remain open until their new store, which will be a part of The Peninsula Town Center, is completed. They anticipate that the store will only remain closed for a brief amount of time in order to move merchandise into the new location. It is anticipated that this move will occur in late spring or early summer. Macy’s representatives declined to comment other than to say that they too expect to only be closed down for a short period of time, if at all. Burlington Coat Factory declined any comment.
While some locals are excited about the new town center, others remain nostalgic for the days when the mall parking lots were full and the buildiing was crowded with happy people. “I was a child when we moved to Virginia in 1978,” notes one young York County woman. “I spent many Saturdays shopping in this mall with my family. It is hard to believe that it will no longer exist.”
In communities throughout the United States malls are being overhauled, demolished, or otherwise reconfigured to meet the changing trends of today’s world. Like the down town areas that these malls once replaced, they too have fallen by the wayside. It makes one wonder: What will we see in another 50 years when the trend for town centers has also grown cold? This reporter suspects that with today’s ever changing technology, shopping in the future will be rooted in that technology with more television shopping channels and bigger and better Internet opportunities. But I guess we will just have to wait and see.