Between the 1960s and 2000s, US developers built hundreds of malls on the assumption that department stores would remain the anchor of the retail landscape. But consumer preferences have changed, and department stores have been struggling for years. Developers didn’t anticipate this evolution creating a vicious cycle that has resulted in the deterioration of physical plants and a graveyard of dead malls.
The Century III mall, opened in 1979 in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, was featured in Atlas Obscura when they took a tour of what they termed a “deserted, dystopian mall.” At its opening, Century III was the third-largest enclosed shopping center on earth, with three stories and over 200 stores. As with most malls at that time, it was a social hub for the city—the place to shop, hang out, and eat, and the place for teenagers to get in trouble. Today Century III is considered a dead mall, losing two anchor retailers—Sears in 2014 and Macy’s in 2016—and while it is not entirely abandoned, it is hauntingly empty.
These dead malls feel like depressing time capsules, and should be a constant reminder for department stores to get their acts together or join the retail graveyard.
Check out Dan Bells Dead Mall series on YouTube.
Photo: Abandoned Southeast