The Rise, Fall, and Uncertain Future of Emerald Square Mall in North Attleboro, MA

The Inception of Emerald Square Mall

Emerald Square Mall debuted in North Attleboro, MA, on August 10, 1989. A joint venture between New England Development and The Pyramid Companies, the mall was designed as a shopping haven. With its modern architecture and a wide array of stores, it quickly became a go-to destination for shoppers from all over the region.

The mall’s original anchor stores were JCPenney, Sears, and G. Fox. These big names drew crowds and set the stage for the mall’s success. The mall wasn’t just a shopping center but a social hub where people could spend their weekends, meet friends, and enjoy some retail therapy.

The mall’s location at 999 South Washington Street was strategic, offering easy access to a large customer base. With three floors and a total retail floor area of 1,022,000 square feet, it was a sprawling complex that promised something for everyone.

In the early days, the mall was more than just a place to shop; it symbolized the booming ’90s economy and the American love affair with consumerism. It was a place where families could spend an entire day, from shopping for clothes to enjoying a meal in the food court.

The Golden Years of Emerald Square

The early ’90s were good for Emerald Square. In 1992, the mall welcomed Lechmere, an electronics and home goods store, adding diversity to its retail offerings. Around the same time, the G. Fox store transformed and was renamed Filene’s, aligning with a more upscale brand image.

In 1999, a carousel was installed in the food court, adding a touch of whimsy and making the mall even more family-friendly. Parents could shop while their kids enjoyed a magical ride on the carousel, making it a win-win for everyone.

However, changes were afoot. In 1998, Pyramid sold its interest in the mall to New England Development. This change in ownership was the first sign of the shifts that would characterize the mall’s later years.

The mall continued to thrive into the early 2000s, with various stores that appealed to different age groups and demographics. It was the place to be, especially for those looking for things to do in Attleboro, Massachusetts.

Ownership Changes and Their Impact on Emerald Square

In 1999, New England Development sold most of its shopping mall portfolio, including Emerald Square, to a joint venture led by Simon Property Group. This change in ownership marked the beginning of a new era for the mall, but not necessarily for the better.

Lord & Taylor, which had bought a vacant location in the mall in 1998, closed its doors in 2004. The space was quickly converted to Filene’s, which also opened a separate Men’s & Home store in 2005. However, this didn’t last long either; in 2006, all of Filene’s stores were rebranded as Macy’s.

The constant changes in anchor stores were confusing for regular shoppers. The mall was losing its identity, and the frequent changes made it hard for people to form a lasting connection with the place.

By this time, the mall was showing signs of wear and tear. The once-bustling corridors were less crowded, and the shiny newness had worn off. The mall needed a revamp for its physical appearance and retail offerings.

The Decline of Emerald Square Mall

The decline of Emerald Square became evident when Sears announced its closure on January 29, 2021. The store officially closed its doors on April 18, 2021, leaving yet another vacant space in the mall and fewer reasons for people to visit.

This was a more significant trend, as Sears closed 23 stores nationwide. The Covid pandemic and the loss of Sears was a solid blow to the mall, as anchor stores play a crucial role in attracting foot traffic.

In September 2022, Kohan Retail Investment Group bought the mall, signaling another change in ownership. While it’s too early to say what impact this will have, it’s clear that the mall is at a crossroads.

This new ownership could signal yet another chapter in the mall’s history, raising questions about potential changes in store selection, renovations, or even a complete overhaul of the mall’s current setup. Only time will tell what this latest change in ownership will mean for Emerald Square and its role in the North Attleborough community.

The mall’s decline is not just about the loss of stores; it’s about the loss of a community space. Once a bustling hub of activity, the mall is now struggling to maintain its relevance in an era dominated by online shopping and changing consumer habits.

Current Tenants and the Mall’s Struggle for Relevance

Despite the challenges, Emerald Square is home to several stores and services. Anchor stores like JCPenney and Macy’s continue to operate, along with other retailers like H&M, Forever 21, and Hollister.

However, the mall is struggling to maintain foot traffic. The variety of stores is not as diverse as it once was, and the community feels the absence of certain vital retailers.

The mall has tried to adapt by adding more experiential stores and services, but it’s an uphill battle. Retail has changed dramatically, and malls like Emerald Square are fighting to stay relevant.

The mall is not just a collection of stores; it’s a part of the community’s history and social fabric. As such, its decline is not just a business failure; it’s a loss for the community.

The Future of Emerald Square Mall

What does the future hold for Emerald Square Mall? With a total retail floor area of over a million square feet, the mall has the potential for transformation. However, the kind of transformation it undergoes will depend on various factors, including the vision of its new owners and the community’s evolving needs.

There’s been speculation about potential redevelopment or repurposing options. Could the mall transform into a mixed-use space, combining retail with residential or office spaces? Or will it find a way to reinvent itself purely as a retail destination?

While the future is uncertain, one thing is clear: the mall needs to adapt to survive. Its challenges are not unique; they indicate broader trends affecting retail spaces nationwide.

Ultimately, the mall’s future may serve as a case study for other struggling malls. Whether it successfully reinvents itself or continues on its current path, its story is far from over.

Conclusion

Emerald Square has had a rollercoaster, from its bustling early days to its current state of uncertainty. Its story is not just about retail trends and changing ownership; it’s about the rise and fall of a community space.

The mall’s decline is a sign of the times, reflecting broader changes in shopping and interaction. Yet, its story also serves as a reminder of what malls can represent: not just places to shop but places to be.

As we look to the future, the mall’s fate remains uncertain. But whatever happens, its story is a part of North Attleboro’s history, a chapter in the larger narrative of American retail.

Emerald Square may be at a crossroads, but it’s a crossroads that many are watching closely, wondering what will come next in this ever-evolving tale.

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