The Rise and Fall of Hawthorne Plaza Mall in Hawthorne, CA – A Nostalgic Journey Through Time

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

Year Event
1969 Hawthorne Plaza Redevelopment Project approved
1974 Groundbreaking for the mall
1977 Opening of the mall
1979 Two shootings in the mall
1980s-1990s Economic decline and competition led to the decline of the mall
1992 Looting and damage during the 1992 Los Angeles riots
1997 Macy’s Clearance Center closes
1998 JCPenney closes
1999 Mall 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.

Hawthorne Plaza
Hawthorne Plaza” by Amin Eshaker is licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0

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.

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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.

12000 Hawthorne Blvd
12000 Hawthorne Blvd” by Leica Bill is licensed under CC BY-NC 2.0

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.

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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Comments: 12
  1. Avatar of lisa scott
    lisa scott

    they need ti do something with building its just there looking abandoned

    1. Avatar of Spencer Walsh
      Spencer Walsh (author)

      It’s sad to see a big old building like that just sitting there, abandoned and unused. I can imagine how frustrating it must be for people in the community to see that space going to waste. It would be really cool if they could find a way to turn the Hawthorne Plaza into something that could benefit the community.

  2. Avatar of Jackie

    Fond memories of Hawthorne Mall. Every Friday was “treat day” for my daughter. Her favorite spot was the shop that sold hot gingerbread and whipped cream. Slowly the atmosphere in the mall changed drastically and it became an unsavory place to be. Miss the good days. Hawthorne PD provided a safe environment for you to take your game and. Thank you HPD and God bless.

    1. Avatar of Spencer Walsh
      Spencer Walsh (author)

      Nice to hear about people’s fond memories of places like Hawthorne Plaza. Those little rituals and traditions can be so special and create lasting memories. It’s important to remember that while things may change over time, we can still hold onto the positive memories and experiences we had in the past. And who knows, perhaps there will be new opportunities to create new traditions and memories in the Hawthorne community.

  3. Avatar of Eva Love
    Eva Love

    I have very fond memories of the Hawthorne mall in the 80’s I would take my daughter there to get an “Icee” that’s the only place she wanted to go for that!!😂. She was 4-5 years old and then beyond that. Now she’s 38, married moved away and 2 children . Great memories :smile:

    1. Avatar of Spencer Walsh
      Spencer Walsh (author)

      It’s heartwarming to hear about your cherished memories at the Hawthorne Plaza Mall in the ’80s. Those precious moments spent with your daughter are truly priceless. May such joyful memories continue to bring a smile to your face! 😊

  4. Avatar of Kina

    I have memories of going to Hawthorne Mall and especially the movie theater that was right across the street from the mall. Maybe it should be housing and training center for low income housing individuals and families.

    1. Avatar of Spencer Walsh
      Spencer Walsh (author)

      Thank you for sharing your memories of Hawthorne Plaza. Transforming the space into a facility that provides not only housing but also education and resources for personal development could have a significant positive impact on many people’s lives.

  5. Avatar of Merilyn Love
    Merilyn Love

    it would be a beautiful thing if the mall could/would reopen! maybe a skating ring would be soooo nice! outlets like in Vegas, restaurants, classes like in libraries, movie theaters, crafts, computer classes, cooking classes,,a gym, heritage events of all kinds,, all in one place with the police right across the street!

    1. Avatar of Spencer Walsh
      Spencer Walsh (author)

      Thank you for sharing your imaginative vision for the Hawthorne Plaza. A skating rink would indeed add a unique charm. Offering various classes, from crafts to cooking, is a brilliant way to make the mall a community hub.

  6. Avatar of Helen

    May I suggest the own or city build a large hotel with a gorgeous restaurant, this would bring revenue to the city and jobs to the community.
    The city of Hawthorne has a lot of amenities, near the Air Force Base and Aerspace industries, we have the Pacific Ocean, rapid transit near by.
    Security would have to be enforced by police to make visitors safe.

    1. Avatar of Spencer Walsh
      Spencer Walsh (author)

      The proximity to the Air Force Base and Aerospace industries makes Hawthorne attractive for such a venture. Your idea could catalyze job creation and community development, making it a win-win for everyone involved.

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