Signal Hill Mall in Statesville, NC: from Boom to New Realities

The Dawn of Signal Hill Mall

In August 1973, Signal Hill Mall opened its doors to the public, marking a new era for retail in Statesville, North Carolina. Developed by C&J Associates, this regional shopping center was poised to become a central hub for commerce and social gatherings.

The mall’s original anchor stores, Belk, Woolworth, and Spainhour’s, were well-established names that promised a robust shopping experience.

Woolworth, known for its variety and value, brought everyday essentials closer to the community. With a history in Statesville dating back to 1912, Belk offered fashion and quality goods, strengthening its bond with local shoppers. Spainhour’s, another department store, added unique offerings and local charm.

The opening of Signal Hill Mall was not just a business venture but a community event. Located at 1685 E. Broad St, the mall quickly became a favorite destination for families and individuals, offering various stores and services.

With 275,000 square feet of retail space and room for 30 stores, it provided a one-stop shopping solution previously unavailable in the area.

The mall’s impact on Statesville was immediate. It drew shoppers from surrounding areas, boosting the local economy and providing new employment opportunities.

The presence of major retailers also encouraged smaller businesses to set up shop, creating a diverse retail environment.

As the 1970s progressed, Signal Hill Mall continued to expand its influence. The addition of a Winn Dixie grocery store behind the mall added convenience, making it a primary shopping destination.

The mall’s success reflected the growing trend of enclosed shopping centers, a sign of changing consumer preferences and the evolution of the American retail landscape.

Signal Hill Mall would see changes, challenges, and growth in the years following its opening. But its inception in 1973 laid the groundwork for what would become an integral part of Statesville’s commercial and social fabric.

As residents look back, they remember the mall for its stores and the memories made within its walls. For those seeking things to do in Statesville, North Carolina, the mall once offered various options that catered to all ages and interests, from shopping to dining.

Expansion and Evolution in the 1980s

The 1980s marked a period of significant growth for Signal Hill Mall. In 1979, the mall embarked on an ambitious expansion project.

This included renovating the existing Spainhour’s building and adding a new mall wing. The expansion introduced a relocated Spainhour’s, now in a 41,000 sq ft space, and a new 51,000 sq ft JCPenney, enhancing the mall’s retail offerings.

The renovations and expansion cost a substantial $5 million. This investment paid off by attracting eight new stores, increasing the total to 42.

Notable additions included GNC, Endicott Johnson, Lerner New York (now New York & Company), Chick-fil-A, Record Bar, Pearle Vision Center, and Southern Bell Telephone Company.

These new tenants diversified the shopping experience, catering to a wider range of consumer needs and preferences.

The renovation work culminated in grand opening ceremonies held in 1980: August 6 for the anchor stores and October 15 for the interior tenants.

These events marked the completion of a significant phase in the mall’s history, setting the stage for continued success and community engagement.

Challenges and Changes in the 1990s

The 1990s brought new challenges to Signal Hill Mall. The decade began with the closure of Spainhour’s in late 1992, ending its 50-year presence in Statesville.

This was a significant loss, as Spainhour’s had been one of the mall’s original anchor stores. Shortly after, in January 1993, Woolworth closed its doors, marking another end to a longstanding retail relationship.

The vacancies left by Spainhour’s and Woolworth remained full for a while. Peebles opened in the former Spainhour’s location by the end of 1993, following a six-month renovation.

This new store brought fresh energy to the mall, and it was celebrated with a grand opening that featured a live performance by The Muscat Ramblers, a band from Charlotte.

However, the mid-90s saw further changes. Winn Dixie closed on December 14, 1994, as part of a broader strategy to replace smaller stores with larger ones.

Then, in 1995, Hills department store took over the former Woolworth space. This 83,000-square-foot area underwent a $2 million renovation before Hills opened its doors.

Despite these efforts, Hills closed in April 1997 but was quickly replaced by Sears in October of the same year.

Sears’ arrival was met with enthusiasm, as it was a highly requested store by mall patrons, offering new hope for the mall’s future.

Decline in the New Millennium

The early 2000s marked the beginning of a challenging era for Signal Hill Mall. In December 2003, Peebles initiated a going-out-of-business sale, closing its doors for good in January 2004. This departure signaled a troubling trend for the mall as it struggled to retain its key tenants.

Around the same time, C&J Associates, the mall’s management, announced renovation plans to revitalize the shopping center.

However, economic difficulties could have improved these plans, leading to non-renewal of leases for some stores.

Chick-fil-A, a popular eatery within the mall, closed its doors on December 31, 2005. This was a significant loss, as food outlets are crucial in attracting and retaining mall visitors.

Another blow came with the closure of Pet Pros, a pet store whose owner cited a 40% decrease in sales leading up to its shutdown.

These closures reflected the mall’s broader challenges, including decreased foot traffic and changing consumer habits.

Despite efforts to adapt and attract new businesses, the mall struggled. The loss of anchor stores and specialty shops contributed to a decline in visitor numbers, impacting the remaining retailers.

The early 2000s were uncertain for Signal Hill Mall as it faced the realities of a changing retail landscape.

The 2010s: A Decade of Decline

The decline of Signal Hill Mall continued into the 2010s, a decade marked by significant store closures and dwindling visitor numbers.

In 2012, Sears announced it would close over 100 stores nationwide, including its Signal Hill location. This was a major setback, as Sears had been one of the mall’s key anchor tenants since its opening in 1997.

The situation worsened in 2015 when JCPenney, another major anchor, closed its doors as part of a 40-store reduction plan.

This left the mall with fewer reasons for shoppers to visit, exacerbating the decline in foot traffic and sales.

The departure of JCPenney underscored the challenges facing traditional malls as consumers increasingly turned to online shopping and alternative retail options.

Throughout the 2010s, Signal Hill Mall became a symbol of the “dead mall” phenomenon, receiving significant media attention for its empty corridors and shuttered stores.

By 2016, major closures included the Bookland bookstore, further reducing the mall’s appeal. The decade saw the mall transition from a bustling retail center to a largely vacant space, with failed attempts at redevelopment and a dwindling number of remaining stores.

The 2010s starkly contrasted the mall’s heyday, highlighting the shifting dynamics of retail and community engagement.

The Final Years and Closure

By the early 2020s, Signal Hill Mall was a shadow of its former self. The number of operational stores had dwindled significantly, with only a few remaining.

Belk, the last of the original anchor tenants, was a solitary reminder of the mall’s past vibrancy. Despite Belk’s presence, the mall’s interior saw fewer and fewer visitors, leading to a quiet and empty atmosphere.

In January 2024, the inevitable happened: the interior of Signal Hill Mall closed its doors for the last time. This marked the end of an era for Statesville’s once-thriving shopping center.

The closure was a loss for the remaining retailers and the community growing around the mall over the past five decades.

The mall’s decline and eventual closure reflected broader retail and consumer behavior trends. The rise of online shopping, combined with changing tastes and shopping habits, has made traditional malls less appealing.

Like many others nationwide, Signal Hill Mall struggled to adapt to these changes, ultimately leading to its shutdown.

The Future of the Signal Hill Property

Despite Signal Hill Mall’s closure, the property’s future holds potential. In recent years, developers have shown growing interest in repurposing the site, which is located at a strategic intersection near Interstate 77 and Interstate 40.

Colliers International, representing C&J Associates, has been marketing the property for potential sale. The site’s vision includes a multi-use development featuring a mix of residential units, small retail shops, and food and hospitality businesses.

This approach aims to create a vibrant, mixed-use space that meets the modern consumer’s needs and breathes new life into the area.

The transformation of the Signal Hill property is seen as a significant opportunity for Statesville. With the city experiencing a surge in investment and growth, the redevelopment could catalyze further economic development.

The community remains hopeful that the site will once again become a bustling hub of activity, reflecting the evolving landscape of retail and urban development.

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Comments: 6
  1. Avatar of Todd Crider
    Todd Crider

    Hopefully our Statesville City officials will back the rejuvenation and bring back the Mall from extinction. It would be great to have a place to shop without going out of town. Bring in some great outlet stores such as Nike, Levi’s, Craftsman Tools, Outfitters, Duckhead, Justin Boots, Aeropostale etc.
    It also could be torn down from Signal Hill to I77 and start over. We are the crossroads of NC, we should have more shopping than any city in NC. We already have more restaurants than we need.
    Hopefully all this will take place to make us grow into a city people will be proud of and want to come here instead of run down gang infested city were people wanting to leave and are scared to visit our city.

    1. Avatar of Spencer Walsh
      Spencer Walsh (author)

      Thank you for sharing your vision for Signal Hill Mall. Your ideas for rejuvenation and specific store suggestions reflect a strong desire for community growth. Your passion and wish to make Statesville a place people are proud of is commendable.

  2. Avatar of Denise Sharrow
    Denise Sharrow

    we desperately need, not more shopping or overpriced housing, affordable income based housing for working poor families. This vital to our community.

    1. Avatar of Spencer Walsh
      Spencer Walsh (author)

      Your comment hits home on the pressing need for affordable, income-based housing. Converting parts of Signal Hill Mall into such spaces is worth exploring and could significantly benefit the community.

  3. Avatar of David

    The Mayor and council will make sure there is no good stores coming to Statesville. Statesville doesn’t have anything to offer the younger generations Even for active people over 50 there is nothing here! The people keep voting the same people into office and nothing changes!!! Talk about idiots!

    1. Avatar of Spencer Walsh
      Spencer Walsh (author)

      Thank you for your passionate input. It’s clear change is on many people’s minds. Engaging in local elections and community discussions can be a step towards the diverse and vibrant offerings hope to see in Statesville.

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