The Abandoned Spaces of Triangle Town Center Mall in Raleigh, NC: What Went Wrong?

The Early Years and Original Design

In the early 2000s, Triangle Town Center was the talk of Raleigh, North Carolina. Opening its doors on August 14, 2002, the mall was strategically located off U.S. Highway 1 and Interstate 540, making it easily accessible to residents. The mall was designed to be a one-stop shopping destination with original anchor stores like Dillard’s, Sears, Belk, and Hecht’s.

The mall’s layout was unique, featuring indoor and outdoor sections offering a comprehensive shopping experience. The indoor area was anchored by big names, including North Carolina‘s first Saks Fifth Avenue, which opened in 2004. A two-level Barnes & Noble also served as a junior anchor, attracting book lovers from all around.

The mall quickly became a community hub, not just for shopping but also for social gatherings. The indoor section was bustling, with various stores catering to different tastes and needs. Although less frequented, the outdoor area offered a refreshing and different open-air experience.

The Golden Era of the Triangle Town Center

The years following the Triangle Town Center opening could be described as its golden era. Stores like Barnes & Noble, American Eagle Outfitters, and Macy’s were the go-to places for fashion, books, and luxury items.

The mall was more than just a collection of stores; it was a place where people came to spend their weekends, meet friends, and enjoy family outings.

During this period, the mall also significantly impacted local businesses. The foot traffic it generated helped nearby restaurants, gas stations, and other small businesses thrive. It was a win-win situation for everyone: the mall attracted customers, and the customers had access to various services.

The entrance to Triangle Town Center
The entrance to Triangle Town Center Southern Prep at English Wikipedia, CC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons

The Forgotten Outdoor Section

Triangle Town Center’s outdoor section started showing signs of neglect as years passed. Stores closed down, and the area became less inviting. The contrast between the indoor and outdoor units became more evident, affecting the mall’s overall reputation.

Several attempts were made to revitalize the outdoor area, but none seemed to stick. It was as if this mall part was destined to be forgotten, overshadowed by the more successful indoor section. The outdoor area’s decline became a metaphor for the mall’s overall challenges.

The imbalance between the two sections also had financial implications. Maintaining an underutilized space is costly, and it became clear that something must be done to address the issue. Yet, despite various efforts, the outdoor section remains abandoned mainly, serving as a stark reminder of the mall’s dichotomy.

Triangle Town Center
Triangle Town Center” by Cgb628 is licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0

Signs of Overall Decline

The first significant blow to the mall came on October 10, 2018, when a water main break led to its temporary closure. This incident was a wake-up call, highlighting the mall’s aging infrastructure. Following the water main break, several stores closed for renovations but never reopened, further contributing to the mall’s decline.

Foot traffic started to decrease, and vacant spaces became more noticeable. The COVID-19 pandemic only exacerbated the situation, forcing many stores to shut down temporarily, with some never returning. The mall, once a bustling hub of activity, was now struggling to attract visitors.

The decline was not limited to the indoor section; the struggling outdoor area was hit even harder. The contrast between the two sections became more pronounced, making it clear that the mall faced challenges on multiple fronts.

Triangle Town Center
Triangle Town Center” by alastairvance is licensed under CC BY 2.0

Ownership Changes and Financial Troubles

The closure of Sears on August 6, 2021, was a significant loss, as it was one of the mall’s original anchors. This closure was part of Sears’ broader strategy to phase out its traditional brick-and-mortar stores. In November 2021, the mall was sold to Kohan Retail Investment Group, signaling a potential new beginning.

The mall’s financial troubles were becoming increasingly evident. There were rumors of foreclosure, and it was clear that the new owners had their work cut out for them. Despite the ownership change, the mall’s future remained uncertain.

The sale to Kohan Retail Investment Group also raised questions about the mall’s direction. Would the new owners be able to turn things around, or was the mall destined for further decline?

Crime and Safety Concerns

Recent years have seen increased crime around the mall, including shootings and carjackings. These events have raised safety concerns, affecting the mall’s reputation and making people think twice before visiting. A heightened police presence was introduced, but the damage to the mall’s image was already done.

The community’s response to these incidents has been mixed. While some argue that the mall is still a safe place to visit, others are less convinced. The mall’s management has been working to improve security measures, but public perception is hard to change.

The Current Tenants: A Diverse Mix of Retail and Services

Triangle Town Center in Raleigh, NC, continues to host a variety of tenants that cater to different tastes and needs. Among them is A Mother’s Touch, a store specializing in products for mothers and babies, offering a range of items from clothing to accessories.

All In Adventures is another tenant that stands out, providing an escape room experience that engages both the mind and the senses.

Triangle Town Center mall, Raleigh, North Carolina
Triangle Town Center mall, Raleigh, North Carolina Jmturner, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons

American Eagle Outfitters remains a staple for fashion-conscious shoppers, offering trendy clothing and accessories. For book lovers, Barnes & Noble provides a sanctuary with its two-level store that includes a café where customers can sip coffee while diving into a good read. Macy’s, another anchor tenant, offers a wide range of products, from clothing and cosmetics to home goods.

The mall offers several options for quick bites or a sit-down meal. Chick-fil-A and Chili’s Grill & Bar are popular fast food and casual dining choices, respectively. The mall also hosts specialized stores like Feah Brows Beauty for beauty treatments and LensCrafters for eye care.

With such a diverse range of tenants, Triangle Town Center continues to serve as a multi-purpose destination for the Raleigh community.

The Future of Triangle Town Center: A Canvas for Mixed-Use Development

Recent developments indicate that Triangle Town Center in Raleigh, NC, is far from a lost cause. The new ownership seems to have plans focusing on mixed-use development. This could mean integrating residential spaces, offices, and retail, transforming the mall into a more versatile community hub.

The northeast part of Raleigh, where the mall is located, is also targeted for future development. This could synergize well with the mall’s redevelopment plans, creating a more vibrant and functional area. The mall’s strategic location near major highways could make it attractive for mixed-use development.

While the specifics are yet to be unveiled, the signs point to a more optimistic future for the mall. It’s not just about retail anymore; the mall could become a part of a larger community ecosystem, offering a variety of services and experiences to residents.

Conclusion: A Tale of Resilience and Potential

Triangle Town Center has had its share of ups and downs since its opening in 2002. While it has faced challenges, the mall is far from a lost cause. New ownership and plans for mixed-use development suggest that the mall could transform, adapting to modern needs and trends.

The mall’s dual nature, with a thriving indoor section and a less frequented outdoor area, could become its strength in the future. The mall’s story is far from over, and the coming years could see it evolve into a more diverse and vibrant community space, shedding its image as a “dying mall” and emerging as a model for modern, mixed-use development.

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