Steeplegate Mall: The End of an Era in Concord, NH

The Grand Opening and Early Years

In 1990, Concord, New Hampshire, welcomed a new addition that would quickly become a cornerstone of community life: Steeplegate Mall. With its grand opening, the mall offered a modern shopping experience, boasting space for about 60 stores.

Anchor stores JCPenney, Sears, Steinbach, and Sage-Allen were the initial attractions, drawing in crowds from all over the region.

The mall’s layout was designed to be more than just a series of retail spaces; it was a labyrinth of possibilities. From fashion outlets to electronic stores, Steeplegate had something for everyone. The food court became a popular hangout, offering a variety of cuisines that catered to different tastes.

In those early years, Steeplegate was more than a mall; it symbolized Concord’s growth and modernization. It provided hundreds of jobs and significantly contributed to the local economy.

The mall was not just a place to shop; it was a place where the community came together, a testament to its initial success.

Steeplegate Mall as a Social Hub

Steeplegate Mall was never just about shopping; it was a social hub where friendships were formed and relationships blossomed.

Teens and young adults found it to be a sanctuary where they could hang out without the watchful eyes of their parents.

The food court and various smaller outlets like Spencer’s Gifts became popular spots for these informal gatherings.

Stories abound of couples who met while shopping or working at Steeplegate. The mall was a stage where life’s little dramas played out, from awkward first dates to marriage proposals.

However, as the years passed, the mall started to lose its social luster. Online shopping and the rise of social media platforms provided alternatives to mall outings.

The younger generation found new ways to socialize, and Steeplegate began to feel like a relic of a bygone era.

A Decade of Ownership Changes and Tenant Shuffles

At its peak, Steeplegate Mall was an economic powerhouse. It provided many jobs, directly and indirectly, and contributed to the city’s revenue through property and sales taxes.

The mall was valued at $12.6 million, making it one of Concord‘s most valuable commercial properties.

In 2011, a significant shift occurred when General Growth Properties transferred ownership of Steeplegate Mall to its Rouse Properties subsidiary, along with 29 other underperforming malls. This move was a precursor to the mall’s financial troubles.

By August 2014, Rouse Properties announced a default on its loan for Steeplegate, leading to a takeover by a consortium of lenders, including Wells Fargo Bank and Midland Loan Servicing. Colliers International then managed the property.

The mall’s tenant landscape also began to change dramatically. In January 2015, Old Navy, one of the four main anchors, shut its doors.

This was followed by a change in ownership in May 2016, when Namdar Realty Group purchased the mall for $10.4 million.

That same year, the mall attempted to diversify its offerings. Hatbox Theater opened in the former Coldwater Creek space, and VIP Bounce Houses and Laser Tag took over the vacant Old Navy location.

In 2018 and 2019, there were more changes. Bon-Ton closed both stores and Capital City Charter School moved into the former men’s clothing and houseware store, although it filed for bankruptcy in 2021.

Altitude Trampoline Park opened in the former Circuit City space, and The Zoo, a health club, took over the former Bon-Ton women’s and children’s store.

However, True Confections Candies & Gifts, one of the mall’s oldest tenants, moved out, citing declining foot traffic and high rent.

By February 2020, Sears closed its Steeplegate store, leaving JCPenney as the only traditional anchor.

Interestingly, the former Sears store was repurposed as a state vaccination site during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Steeplegate Mall
JCPenney (Steeplegate Mall)” by jjbers is licensed under CC BY 2.0

The Decline and Closure

By 2022, Steeplegate Mall had reached a critical point. The interior was closed, and the five remaining tenants were evicted.

Businesses like Blue Sky Hair Studio and The Jeweler’s Workbench were forced to relocate, leaving the mall virtually empty.

The decline was not just about economics; it was about the loss of a community space. Once a bustling area, the food court was now devoid of life. The echoing voices and empty storefronts starkly contrasted the mall’s vibrant past.

The exterior-facing tenants, including The Hatbox Theatre and JC Penney, were allowed to remain.

However, the mall’s main doors were closed, signaling the end of an era. Steeplegate Mall, once a hub of activity, had become a shell of its former self.

Community Reaction and Future Plans

The community’s reaction to the decline of Steeplegate Mall has been one of disappointment and frustration.

The lack of information from Namdar Realty Group has left many feeling in the dark about the mall’s future.

Former tenants expressed dissatisfaction with how the evictions were handled, calling it a “blindsided” move.

Despite the uncertainty, there is still hope for the mall’s future. The city has expressed interest in converting the property into a mixed-use space, combining retail and housing.

For now, Steeplegate Mall remains a topic of community discussion. Its future is uncertain, but its past will always be a part of Concord’s history.

As the city looks forward, the mall serves as a reminder of the ever-changing nature of community spaces and the importance of adaptability.

Steeplegate Mall has found its way into local media, often featured in articles reminiscing about its glory days.

While no significant films or documentaries have been made about the mall, it has been the subject of various social media posts and local news stories.

YouTube videos document the mall’s decline, capturing its empty halls and closed stores. These videos serve as a digital archive, preserving the memory of a place once a vital part of the community.

In a way, Steeplegate Mall has become a symbol of a bygone era, a relic that tells the story of changing times.

It reminds us of the transient nature of commercial spaces and the need for communities to adapt and evolve.

Conclusion

Steeplegate Mall’s story is one of rise, decline, and uncertainty. The mall has seen it all, from its early days as a bustling community hub to its current state of near abandonment. Its story is not unique; it mirrors the fate of many malls across America.

The mall’s decline has a ripple effect, impacting the local economy and changing the community’s social fabric. Yet, despite its current state, Steeplegate Mall remains a significant part of Concord’s history.

As the community looks to the future, the mall’s story serves as a lesson in adaptability and the impermanence of commercial spaces. While its doors may be closed, its impact on the community will long be remembered.

Steeplegate Mall
Bon-Ton (Steeplegate Mall)” by jjbers is licensed under CC BY 2.0

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