Dead Mall: Richmond Town Square (Richmond Heights, Ohio)

TL;DR: Fuck this place.

History: The Richmond Mall opened in 1966 as part of the Edward J. DeBartolo, Sr. empire – at one point the largest operator of malls in the country – with anchors JCPenney and Sears at each end, and Woolworth as a minor anchor near the center court. Elsewhere in its history, the mall also had a Kroger supermarket and a single-screen Loews East that was ultimately carved into eight (!!) screens.

Three decades later, DeBartolo’s company was acquired by Simon Malls, and Richmond underwent a serious revitalization project and expansion. Along with the name change to Richmond Town Square and major renovations inside and out: the mall added a food court in the former Kroger space, a modern 20-screen Lowes megaplex next door, and expanded with a new two-story Kaufmann’s department store as an east anchor – which had been lured away from the struggling Euclid Square Mall. All were completed by 1998. Richmond Town SquareSimon sold the mall in 2014 and it changed hands again just last December. Federated Department Stores assimilated Kaufmann’s into the Macy’s brand in 2006, and in the early phase of their current turmoil: closed this store. The mall has been in a slow decline ever since, with the shells of many national retailers now either vacant or replaced by independent and hip-hop oriented retailers (and a huge wig superstore); but just in the last five months have things really shit the bed with both Sears AND JCPenney announcing their store closings within two months of each other, which will effectively leave this mall completely anchorless.

…and management is in serious panic mode trying to repurpose the vacant anchor stores, as well as stave off any bad press. How do we know the latter, you ask?

Explore: I was in Cleveland for a night, so I met up with longtime Flickr friend, otterphoto, who was cool to show me some of the highs and lows of Cleveland-area retail. After a quick detour through the ritzy Legacy Village lifestyle center, we landed here about a half-hour before closing. The plan was to wander briefly, then shoot what we could before the inevitable “GTFO” from mall security and move onto another. Richmond Town Square
Other than some signage falling off at the mall entrance just northwest of JCPenney, the interior was actually rather clean and seemed well-kept. We never did get to shoot this half of the mall… we started at the other end by Sears, whose space was last being used for special events like holiday photo ops and celebrity appearances.
Richmond Town SquareRichmond Town SquareThe newer Macy’s wing is interesting as the store was built with two floors, and had entrances to both levels from within the mall, even though the mall itself has always been single-story. These escalators are, however, blocked off.
Richmond Town SquareThe food court once featured a Ruby Tuesday sitdown restaurant, across from the traditional lineup of mall eateries and a large seating area. This area on the east end of the mall was originally the Kroger supermarket and old Loews East theater. Also, note the older Subway signage…

Despite keeping our presence lowkey so as not to creep out shoppers and employees, security quickly caught onto us after this last flick, and we were confronted by a lone guard.

For context: in wake of post-9/11 paranoia, nearly every shopping mall in America has since explicitly banned photography of any kind for one asinine reason or another, and it’s become increasingly difficult to document these places that are disappearing amid a social and economic climate that’s drastically changed since their construction. These are, however, mere property rules — and until things really get pervy or invasive, there is nothing criminal (at all) about photography at a mall. Both of us were used to being caught taking pictures at other malls, and in every prior case we’ve either been asked to stop and/or leave the property. That’s about the extent of mall security’s power until things become a felony matter, but as usual we were prepared to comply with either reasonable request.

This place is far more aggressive, however… we were detained and held until we erased our pictures — both illegal. We made this very clear while the guy continued to try and intimidate us and threaten to call the police, but I finally ceded because we were time strapped… much as I’d have liked the cops to show up and slap this power-tripping prick for wasting their time. Not to mention recovering deleted photos from an SD card is actually way easier than recovering a dead mall.

We were then let go, but yelled at again for trying to go out the door we actually came in, and wound up out the door south of the former Kaufmacy’s. Anyone else who tries shooting here (do it!): beware of the security guard with a tongue piercing and know your rights. Oh, and tell him “Chicago” says hi.

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