Southridge Mall: A Des Moines, IA, Legacy Reinvented

The Inception and Early Years of Southridge Mall

Introduction to Southridge Mall

In the heart of Des Moines, Iowa, Southridge Mall opened its doors on October 15, 1975. Developed by General Growth Properties, this shopping center quickly became a significant player in the city’s retail landscape.

From its inception, Southridge Mall was not just a shopping destination but a pivotal development in the commercial and trade sectors of Des Moines.

It marked a new era in the city’s retail offerings, attracting diverse shoppers and setting a standard for future developments.

Early Anchors and Expansions

The mall’s initial anchor stores played a crucial role in its success. Younkers, a well-known department store, was the first to open, followed by Sears in 1977.

These anchors were household names and drew considerable foot traffic, boosting the mall’s popularity. 1978, the mall expanded to include Montgomery Ward, further enhancing its retail variety.

This expansion was a strategic move to cater to the growing demand for diverse shopping experiences.

By 1982, Richman Gordman had joined as the fourth anchor, solidifying Southridge Mall’s position as a retail powerhouse.

Challenges and Changes in the Early Years

Despite its early success, Southridge Mall faced challenges. A notable event was the planned addition of Dillard’s in 1987, which met with opposition from Younkers.

This led to a legal dispute, reflecting the competitive nature of the retail industry at the time. Although a federal magistrate ruled against Younkers in June 1990, Dillard’s eventually backed out, leaving a gap in the mall’s tenant lineup.

These early challenges highlighted the dynamic and often unpredictable nature of the retail sector, shaping the mall’s trajectory in its formative years.

In these developments, Southridge Mall remained a key destination for things to do in Des Moines, Iowa.

Its blend of shopping, dining, and entertainment options continued attracting visitors despite the evolving retail landscape and its challenges.

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The Evolution of Retail and Tenant Mix at Southridge Mall

Anchor Store Dynamics

The landscape of Southridge Mall changed in the 1990s. 1992 Target emerged as a new anchor, marking a pivotal shift in the mall’s retail strategy.

This introduction was part of a broader renovation that expanded the mall’s floor space to over 1 million square feet.

The same year witnessed the closure of Richman Gordman following the chain’s bankruptcy, a sign of the turbulent times in retail.

JCPenney filled this void in 1994, moving from downtown Des Moines to Southridge and further diversifying the mall’s retail offerings.

Southridge Mall’s tenant mix reflected these changes as the retail industry evolved. The closure of Montgomery Ward in 1999, during the chain’s first bankruptcy, left a significant vacancy.

This event was symbolic of the broader challenges faced by traditional retail stores in the era of evolving consumer preferences and the rise of online shopping.

Like many others, Southridge Mall began to see a shift in the types of businesses it housed, moving away from traditional department stores to a more varied mix of retailers.

The Decline of Traditional Retail

The early 2000s marked a decline for traditional retail outlets at Southridge Mall. The occupancy rate began to drop, a trend seen in many malls nationwide.

By 2009, U.S. News & World Report had listed Southridge as one of 84 “endangered malls,” citing low sales per square foot and a high vacancy rate.

This decline was part of a larger narrative affecting malls nationwide, as consumer habits shifted and competition from other shopping venues, like Jordan Creek Town Center, intensified.

Renovations and Rebranding Efforts at Southridge Mall

2006-2007 Renovations

Southridge Mall was renovated in response to these challenges between 2006 and 2007. These upgrades included adding a new children’s play area in the food court, introducing Wi-Fi access, adding new seating areas, and remodeling restrooms.

These improvements aimed to enhance the shopping experience and make the mall more appealing to a broader demographic.

The Shift to Open-Air Retail

A significant transformation occurred in 2012 when Southridge Mall began converting most of its structure to outdoor-facing retail.

This renovation involved the demolition of 296,000 square feet of retail space. New stores like Foot Locker, Shoe Carnival, T-Mobile, and Rue 21 opened in the outdoor segment, signaling a shift in the mall’s strategy to adapt to changing retail trends.

This move towards open-air retail was a bold step in reimagining the mall’s identity and appeal.

Impact of Renovations

The impact of these renovations on Southridge Mall was multi-faceted. While they brought a fresh look and new tenants, the mall faced challenges attracting and retaining shoppers.

The shift to a mixed-use development, incorporating elements beyond traditional retail, was a response to the changing dynamics of the retail industry.

These efforts reflected a broader trend in the retail sector, where malls were increasingly looking to diversify their offerings to stay relevant in a rapidly changing market.

The Role of Des Moines Area Community College at Southridge Mall

Introduction of Educational Facilities

A significant transformation in the landscape of Southridge Mall occurred with the introduction of educational facilities in 2013.

Des Moines Area Community College (DMACC) opened its Center for Career and Professional Development in JCPenney’s formerly occupied space.

This innovative move, blending retail with education, was a strategic response to the community’s evolving needs and the challenges traditional malls face.

Educational Impact on the Mall

The presence of DMACC within Southridge Mall marked a unique fusion of retail and education.

This integration brought new foot traffic to the mall, including students, faculty, and educational professionals.

The 65,000-square-foot educational facility provided learning opportunities and contributed to diversifying the mall’s use.

It represented a shift in the mall’s function from a purely commercial space to a community-centric environment.

Future Prospects

Including DMACC in Southridge Mall’s ecosystem opened up new possibilities for the future.

This educational venture could serve as a model for other malls facing similar challenges, demonstrating the potential of mixed-use developments.

The long-term impact of having educational facilities in retail could lead to more integrated community spaces, blending shopping, learning, and entertainment.

Current Anchors and Their Stories at Southridge Mall

Target’s Role in the Mall

Target, one of the current anchors at Southridge Mall, has played a significant role in the mall’s dynamics.

Target opened in 1992, bringing a new dimension to the mall’s retail mix. Known for its wide range of products and appeal to a diverse customer base, Target has been a key player in attracting consistent foot traffic to the mall.

Its presence has been crucial in maintaining the mall’s relevance in retail.

Shoe Carnival, Marshalls, and Ross Dress for Less

Shoe Carnival, Marshalls, and Ross Dress for Less are among the other current anchors that have contributed to the evolving face of Southridge Mall.

Each of these stores brought unique retail propositions, catering to different segments of shoppers.

Shoe Carnival, known for its vast selection of footwear, Marshalls with its off-price department store model, and Ross Dress for Less, offering discounted clothing and home goods, have all added variety to the shopping experience at Southridge Mall.

Their introduction reflects the mall’s strategy to diversify its retail offerings and adapt to market trends.

The Transformation and Future of Southridge Mall

Recent Developments

In recent years, Southridge Mall has witnessed a series of transformative developments. One of the most notable is the introduction of Genesis Health Club in the former Sears building.

This state-of-the-art facility, announced in 2021 and aiming for completion in early 2024, features multiple basketball courts, an indoor swimming pool, and an entertainment venue with a sports bar and pickleball courts.

This addition is part of a broader strategy to repurpose vacant spaces for recreational and health-oriented services, diversifying the mall’s appeal beyond traditional retail.

The Mall’s Current State

As of 2023, Southridge Mall is a mixed-use development far from its traditional mall origins. The tenant mix includes retail stores, educational facilities, and recreational spaces.

This shift reflects the mall’s adaptation to the changing retail and economic landscape, where flexibility and diversification are key to survival.

Despite the challenges, Southridge Mall serves as a community hub, catering to various needs and interests.

Future Outlook

Looking ahead, the future of Southridge Mall is one of continued evolution. With the integration of diverse facilities like Genesis Health Club and DMACC, the mall is poised to become a multi-faceted destination.

This model could set a precedent for other malls facing similar challenges, highlighting the potential of adaptive reuse in the retail sector.

The mall’s ability to reinvent itself in response to changing trends and consumer preferences will be crucial in determining its long-term success and relevance.


Reflecting on Southridge Mall’s Journey

Southridge Mall’s journey from a bustling retail hub to its current state as a mixed-use development is a testament to its adaptability.

Over the years, the mall has navigated the ups and downs of the retail industry, responding to challenges with innovation and flexibility.

Its evolution reflects broader trends in the retail sector, where adaptation and diversification are essential for survival.

The Mall’s Role in the Community

Throughout its transformations, Southridge Mall has remained an integral part of the Des Moines community.

Its shift from traditional retail to a more diverse mix of services and amenities demonstrates a commitment to meeting the evolving needs of its visitors.

The mall continues to be where people can shop, learn, and enjoy recreational activities under one roof.

Prospects for the Future

As Southridge Mall looks to the future, its role as a community hub and a model for other struggling malls becomes increasingly significant.

Its ability to embrace change and innovate will be key to its success. The mall’s journey exemplifies how adaptability and a willingness to embrace new ideas can breathe new life into traditional retail spaces, ensuring their relevance in a rapidly changing world.

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