NewsCovering Colorado

Actions

Do you remember these 7 iconic Denver area malls?

Do some window shopping through Denver’s retail history
mallpic.png
Posted at 7:53 AM, Jul 13, 2023

DENVER – A once-ubiquitous staple of American suburbia is slowly dying. Malls are disappearing from the retail landscape. And perhaps no better sign of the inevitable doom of malls are the recent announcements of sweeping closures from major mall retailers.

The Denver metro area was once home to several indoor malls. Many struggled to stay afloat amid an increasingly competitive market and closed. Some of them were resurrected into outdoor shopping centers, a recent trend in the retail world.

The memories of going with your mom to the mall, “let's meet in front of Joslin's,” or hanging out with friends on the weekends are all gone for these seven Denver area malls, which have all been brought down and replaced with something different.

See why our favorite past time is changing and how Denver lost more than half its malls | How the Denver area lost more than half of its malls and why their replacements may have a shelf life too

Here are seven indoor malls in the Denver metro area that are no more. Some of the information in the following article is sourced from Mall Hall of Fame.

cinderelaatitle.png
cinderella city2.png

Cinderella City was located in Englewood at West Hampden Avenue and South Santa Fe Drive. The operational end of the mall came in 1997. The 1.35 million square foot mall was called the largest shopping center under one roof in the world when it opened in 1968.

The three-level mall had 250 stores and restaurants and was sectioned into five individually named areas that covered about two miles and were connected by a center court, known as the Blue Mall.

Development began in 1963 when Denver developer Gerri Von Frellick planned to build a mall on East Hampden, near where the KLZ radio tower was located. But neighbors weren't happy with his plan so he moved it down the street, giving the city of Englewood $1 million to purchase the 55-acre City Park.

"Local shoppers went absolutely nuts for the fairy tale shopping space. For decades, it was the place to shop in the Denver area, and customers streamed in from across the Mountain West," wrote Brian K. Trembath with the Denver Public Library.

But not everyone was happy about Cinderella City.

An essay — written by Richard Lutz and titled Chaos in Cinderella City — published May 4, 1972, in the alternative weekly publication "The Straight Creek Journal," symbolically used the then-largest indoor mall in the world to point out everything wrong with Colorado and the growth the state was experiencing at the time.

“Cinderella City itself is Walt Disney’s dream come true. Four stories of every imaginable useless store in the world. Four stories of indoor sidewalks (with streetlights), legions of angry mommies yelling at their kids, the gang cruisin’ the linoleum streets, and hassled husbands checking out the fishing tackle,” Lutz wrote.

The fairy tale began to fade in the early 80s, according to the City of Englewood History of Cinderella City Mall. And by the early to mid-90s, the city was looking to redevelop the land as the once-packed mall was virtually deserted. Montgomery Ward was the final tenant to vacate the premises in December of 1997, according to the city.

More images of Cinderella City in the gallery below:

villa italia title.png
villa2.png

The Villa Italia Mall opened in 1966 and closed in 2001. Belmar Downtown Lakewood sits where Villa Italia once stood.

The 1.2 million square foot mall had 140 stores and four Anchor Stores, Foleys, Dillards, Montgomery Wards and JCPenny.

In a March 11, 1966, article published in the “Intermountain Jewish News,” the headline reads: "VILLA ITALIA COMBINES OLD-WORLD ELEGANCE, AMERICAN CONVENIENCE."

The 15-acre indoor mall was described as having a modern Italian design. The mall’s architect, Gerri Von Frellick, also designed Cinderella City. The two malls opened close to around the same time and were similar in size and layout.

In the same Intermountain Jewish News article, the writer points out the mall's decor and reports that the shopping center was garnering international attention.

"The landscaped parking area for 5,000 cars, the statuary and fountains, the blooming flowers in planters throughout the complex are attracting nation-wide attention and the blessings of the consular representatives of a score of foreign lands," the article reads.

The mall was a favorite for metro area shoppers for decades and perhaps best known for having several ramps and steps on the first level of the mall (what was that all about?!?). It underwent a major renovation project in the early to mid-80s when many of its Italian features were covered up.

However, the renovations and the score of international blessings bestowed upon it weren't enough to save it from demolition. The land under Villa Italia was sold in 1999 and construction on the new Bellmar outdoor shopping complex began in 2002.

Arrivederci, Villa Italia!

southglenntitle.png
southglenn2.png

Southglenn Mall opened in 1974 and was located at Arapahoe Road and South University, where the Streets of SouthGlenn is located now.

When it opened, the $40 million ($290 million in 2023) indoor mall was advertised as being the first mall in Colorado to have a May D&F, Sears and the Denver Dry Goods store in the same shopping center.

Southglenn Mall was 700,000 square feet and situated on 74 acres of land. In addition to the anchor stores, seventeen stores greeted shoppers when the mall opened in 1974.

The man behind the project, Jordan Perlmutter, was a well-known Denver developer and responsible for other projects like planned neighborhoods in Northglenn and Montbello in Denver.

The mall went through a renovation project in 1987 when asbestos was discovered in the mall’s ceiling, forcing officials to close the mall for a short time. The mall reopened after an abatement was completed.

Another expansion occurred in the early 90s. The mall grew to over 900,000 square feet. But the mall began to decline as soon as Park Meadows opened in 1996, which siphoned most of Southglenn's anchor retailers away.

The mall permanently closed in 2006 and was mostly demolished to make way for the Streets of SouthGlenn, a mixed retail and residential development.

More images of Southglenn Mall in the gallery below:

westymalltitle.png
westymall2.png

The Westminster Mall opened in 1977 and closed in 2011. It was located at West 92nd Avenue and U.S. 36 in Westminster.

Locals may remember the mall's iconic hot air balloons that hung in certain areas of the shopping center.

"WESTMINSTER MALL was developed in three stages, over a period of 17 years. Its first phase encompassed approximately 320,000 leasable square feet and seventy-eight stores and services. Denver-based Joslins anchored the original mall, with a 2-level (153,200 square foot) store. This was officially dedicated on February 20, 1977. A formal grand opening for the inline store section of the complex was held on September 29, 1977," according to Mall Hall of Fame.

After multiple expansions and remodels, the mall became one of the largest in Colorado with six department store anchors, expanding to more than 1.5 million square feet in the 90s.

That growth spurred competition among surrounding suburban municipalities in the early to mid-80s, including the towns of Arvada and Louisville—both of which were courting developers for their own mega malls that never took off.

But by the early 2000s, the mall was losing anchor stores that were bailing on the center to relocate to the newly-opened Flat Iron Crossing Mall. The mall was finally closed and demolished in 2011, but a few department stores hung around, like JCPenney.

The land where the mall once stood is being developed into a mixed residential and outdoor shopping center.

buckinghamtitle.png
bucky2.png

Buckingham Square Mall opened on August 5, 1971, on the northeast corner of Mississippi and S. Havana in Aurora. The 70,000 square feet complex featured a Montgomery Wards, Safeway, Woolworths, Fashion Bar, and 72 other shops when it opened.

Announced in 1964, the center was developed by MDH Development Company and designed by Boyle and Wilson Architects. The mall's theme was a "Merry Olde England" motif, according to the Mall Hall of Fame, but was considered an ultra-modern design in 1971.

In a January 13, 1971 article in the Aurora Advocate, the newspaper talked to a partner with the architectural firm who described the mall as having "special lighting effects."

"In describing the design plans, Bill Wilson, a partner in the architectural firm, said that the pedestrian mall would cover 70,000 square feet and would be landscaped and decorated with special lighting effects to create a relaxing and comfortable atmosphere for shoppers. The enclosed mall area will also be used for staging fashion shows, art exhibits, and other community-oriented events," according to the Aurora Advocate article.

The mall expanded over the years, growing to over 90,000 square feet by 1986. Competition from nearby Aurora Mall was heating up by the early 90s, sending the shopping center into a downward spiral.

"In the mid-1990s, BUCKINGHAM SQUARE had contained ninety-five operational stores and services. By late 2005, this number had dropped to fifty-four. Most of these were local mom & pop-type tenants, such as Forbidden City Buffet, Igor's T-Shirts & More, Kim's Wig Botik and Picture Perfect," according to a Mall Hall of Fame blog post.

That competition, combined with the closures of major anchor retailers, was too much for the shopping center to survive. By 2008, the complex was completely leveled and in its place, an open-air shopping center was constructed.

northglenntitle.png
northglenn2.png

The Northglenn Mall opened the same year as Cinderella City but it was located several miles north of the Englewood shopping center.

On March 14, 1968, a ribbon-snipping ceremony was held to open the 850,000 square feet indoor shopping center—the second largest mall in the region at the time.

The land was initially planned as a self-contained city of sorts complete with a civic center and a 3,000-home development, the latter of which — called North Glenn — opened in 1959.

A small strip mall was already opened by the time construction began on Northglenn Mall in 1966 but was turned into out parcel commercial pads that surrounded the complex when it opened.

The mall’s anchor stores included a Denver Dry Goods, Sears and JCPenney. It also had a Fashion bar (a mall staple at the time), Woolworths and a movie theater.

At the time the mall opened, the shopping center was located in unincorporated Adams County and the nearby city of Thornton was looking to annex it. But residents of the “North Glenn” neighborhood voted in 1964 to incorporate, which eventually led to the founding of the city of Northglenn in 1969, according to the city’s website.

The mall went through multiple expansions in the 70s and 80s. By the late 80s, the now two-level mall had expanded to more than 995,000 square feet. But despite those efforts, the mall was edging closer to the brink.

Through a combination of anchor store closures, increased competition and dated architecture, the mall was quickly becoming a showcase of empty storefronts. By the mid to late-90s, the decision to demolish the complex and rebuild from scratch began.

In 2001, the outdoor shopping center, Marketplace at Northglenn, was completed. The new shopping center contained several big box retailers that would later go bankrupt, including Mervyn’s and Circuit City.

lakeside title.png
lakeside2.png

The smallest municipality in Colorado was also home to the state’s first indoor mall. Lakeside Mall opened in 1956.

The mall was considered the third largest mall in the country upon its opening, according to a July 26, 1956 article in Cervi's Rocky Mountain Journal.

"The center will have 450,000 square feet of selling space under one roof and parking for 5,000 cars plus a separate parking lot for 400 employees. The only two larger shopping centers in the country are located in Los Angeles and Houston," according to the Cervi's Rocky Mountain Journal.

The major tenants in 1956 included Denver Dry Goods Co., King Soopers, White's Stores, W.T. Grant, Woolworth, Skaggs Drugs, Luby Cafeteria, Fashion Bar, and twenty other stores.

In the 70s, the mall was renovated and the structure was fully enclosed. The basement of the mall — called the Lake Level — was turned into a food court. Another renovation in the 80s added a Target store on the mall's east side.

The 90s brought the beginning of the end for the mall. A familiar formula of increased competition and anchor store closures was the final nail on the coffin. The complex was demolished in 2007 and an outdoor shopping center took its place.