Look Back at Hawthorne Plaza Shopping Center: The Life and Decline of a Californian Icon
Hawthorne Plaza Shopping Center, once a bustling retail destination in Hawthorne, California, now stands abandoned, with only memories and stories remaining. This article takes a nostalgic look back at the history of the mall, its decline, and the potential plans for the site.
A Promising Start for the Mall
In February 1977, Hawthorne Plaza opened its doors to the public, offering a shopping experience with 134 stores and three anchor tenants: Montgomery Ward, The Broadway, and JCPenney.
The mall catered to the middle-class residents of the area and featured more affordable stores than nearby malls like South Bay Galleria, Manhattan Village, and Del Amo Fashion Center.
Timeline of the Hawthorne Plaza Shopping Center
|Hawthorne Plaza Redevelopment Project approved
|Groundbreaking for the mall
|Opening of the mall
|Two shootings in the mall
|Economic decline and competition led to the decline of the mall
|Looting and damage during the 1992 Los Angeles riots
|Macy’s Clearance Center closes
The Impact of the Mall on the Local Community
The opening of the Hawthorne Plaza Shopping Center brought a sense of excitement to the local community, as it provided a new shopping destination and job opportunities.
In addition, the mall was a popular spot for families and friends to spend time together, shop, dine, and enjoy events and promotions organized by the mall management.
The Decline: Economic Factors and Competition
Despite its initial popularity, the mall faced challenges from the very beginning. In 1979, two shootings marred its early years.
The decline continued in the 1980s and 1990s due to the economic downturn in the area after cutbacks in aerospace jobs, white flight, and competition from other shopping centers.
As a result, the mall’s number of occupied stores dropped from 130 in the late 1980s to 87 in 1994 and around 70 in 1998.
1992 Los Angeles Riots and the Mall’s Role
In 1992, the mall was looted and damaged during the 1992 Los Angeles riots. The tragic event left a lasting impact on the mall’s image and contributed to its decline.
Despite the damage, sales briefly stayed consistent following the unrest until the decade’s end.
The Struggle to Adapt and Stay Relevant
To revitalize the mall, plans were announced in 1997 to convert it into an open-air shopping center and add an AMC Theatre. However, these renovations failed to materialize, and the mall continued to lose ground with other shopping centers in the area.
The Aftermath: An Abandoned Space with a Rich History
In 1999, the mall closed its doors, leaving behind an abandoned structure and multi-story parking lots. The southern section of the mall was demolished in 1998 and rebuilt as a strip mall, now featuring a supermarket, a pharmacy, and some small restaurants.
The mall’s remaining building is primarily gutted and serves as a police training center and an administrative office for the Hawthorne School District.
The Mall’s Role in Hollywood Productions
The abandoned mall has become a famous filming location for movies, TV shows, and music videos, attracting major productions and celebrities. Its eerie and nostalgic atmosphere provides a unique backdrop for various genres and themes. Some notable productions filmed at Hawthorne Plaza include:
- Minority Report (2002), starring Tom Cruise
- The Fast and the Furious: Tokyo Drift (2006) features an intense car chase scene
- Teen Wolf (2011) uses the mall as a mysterious and creepy setting
- Agents of Shield (2013) showcases the mall’s dystopian feel
- Beyoncé’s “Superpower” music video (2013) features a post-apocalyptic setting
- Gone Girl (2014) with Ben Affleck
- Lindsey Stirling’s “Heist” music video (2014) showcasing her signature violin and dance performance
- Westworld (2016), transforming the mall into a futuristic world
- Taylor Swift’s “…Ready for It?” music video (2017) presents a sci-fi-inspired setting
- BTS’ “Black Swan” (2020) utilizes the mall’s haunting atmosphere
- Tenet (2020), directed by Christopher Nolan and starring John David Washington and Robert Pattinson
The Future: Redevelopment Plans and Challenges
Numerous redevelopment plans have been proposed since 1998, but none have come to fruition. The mall’s future remains uncertain, as various revitalization efforts have faced challenges and setbacks.
Revitalization Efforts and Obstacles
In 2014, ABC News announced that the mall would be revitalized as an outlet mall. In 2016, the city council approved the Hawthorne Specific Plan, calling for 500 high-end housing units, innovative office units, commercial outlets, and outdoor dining sites.
However, the construction never began, and the property owner Charles Co. did not initiate the redevelopment process.
In November 2016, the Hawthorne City Hall commission revealed intentions to raze Hawthorne Plaza and construct a new development resembling the iconic Farmers Market in Los Angeles. As of 2021, future developments have been put on indefinite hold.
Legal Troubles and Uncertain Future
On December 15, 2022, the mall’s owner received a four-year prison sentence for bribing a Los Angeles County official as part of a plot to secure a profitable lease agreement for the deserted shopping center. This legal issue adds another layer of complexity to the potential redevelopment of the site.
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