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.
Simon 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, mostly urban apparel 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. Funny story about that…
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.
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.
The newer Macy’s wing is interesting as the store was built with two floors, and had entrances to both levels from within the otherwise single-story mall. Apparently the escalator is a remnant from a mezzanine level that once flanked the mall’s center court — removed in the mall’s latter renovation.
The 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.
Security caught-on at this point and we were approached by a lone guard. We’re used to this. Largely in response to post-9/11 paranoia, nearly every shopping mall in America banned photography – commercial or not – on their properties. As retail, shopping and architecture trends are in a transitional phase, however: this has been a prime time to document malls of this era, but unfortunately (albeit understandably) management of most centers view the context of documenting dead malls with complete disinterest. We do it anyway because… well, either we get our shots or get kicked out, which is really the most a mall security guard can do to a photog unless they’re getting pervy.
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; I finally ceded because we were time strapped, and it’s actually far easier to recover deleted photos from an SD card than to recover 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.