The Origins of Eastgate Mall
Eastgate Mall opened its doors in 1980, becoming a cornerstone of Cincinnati‘s retail landscape. Developed by Jacobs Visconsi & Jacobs, the mall was initially anchored by JCPenney and Sears, two giants in the retail industry at the time. The mall quickly became a hub for shoppers, offering a variety of stores that catered to different tastes and needs.
In the late ’80s, the mall gained national attention when celebrities like Tom Cruise and Dustin Hoffman publicly appeared.
These events drew large crowds and solidified Eastgate Mall’s status as a go-to destination for shopping and entertainment. The mall was more than just a collection of stores; it was a social gathering place, a symbol of community and economic prosperity.
The Glory Days
The 1990s were a golden era for Eastgate Mall. The mall underwent significant expansions, adding McAlpin’s, which later transformed into Dillard’s.
In 1995, Kohl’s joined as the fourth anchor store, making the mall even more appealing to a broader range of shoppers. The mall was bustling, filled with families, teenagers, and seniors enjoying a day in this retail paradise.
During these peak years, the mall was not just about shopping; it was an experience. The food court was always packed, especially on weekends, and the mall hosted events and activities that turned ordinary shopping trips into memorable outings. The atmosphere was electric, and it seemed like Eastgate Mall was unstoppable.
Signs of Decline
However, the new millennium brought challenges. The mall, which once boasted over 90 stores and services, showed signs of decline.
Dillard’s transitioned into a clearance center in 2015, signaling a shift in the mall’s fortunes. The most significant blow came in December 2019, when Sears, one of the original anchor stores, closed its doors for good.
The current anchor tenants are Dillard’s Clearance, Kohl’s, and JCPenney, but the mall has lost much of its former glory. The foot traffic has decreased, and many smaller stores have shut down or moved to other locations. The mall, once a bustling hub of activity, now has a quieter, more subdued atmosphere.
Current Tenants and Offerings
Despite the challenges, Eastgate Mall has various tenants catering to different needs. Stores like American Eagle Outfitters and Bath & Body Works continue to attract younger shoppers, while specialty shops like Dakota Watch Co. and Libby’s Country Candles offer unique products.
For those looking to grab a bite, options range from Auntie Anne’s Pretzels to O’Charley’s Restaurant + Bar. The mall also offers entertainment options like Discovery Zone and Glow Golf, making it a one-stop destination for a family day out.
However, the mall is not as packed as it used to be, and the variety of stores has diminished. The current tenant list is a mix of national chains and locally owned shops, but the absence of high-end brands is noticeable.
The Community’s Perspective
The local community has mixed feelings about the mall’s current state and described the mall as “desolate.” Union Township has recognized the need for revitalization and has taken initial steps toward redevelopment.
The mall’s property is fragmented and owned by 11 entities, making redevelopment complex. However, the township has hired a master planning firm, McGill Smith Punshon, to gather community and business feedback for the mall’s future.
Future Prospects and Redevelopment Plans
There’s a glimmer of hope for Eastgate Mall. Kroger purchased the former Sears store in 2021, indicating potential for redevelopment. McGill Smith Punshon is working to gather data and community feedback to determine the best use for the mall’s space.
Clermont County is poised for an economic boom, and the mall’s prime location off of I-275 makes it too valuable to ignore. While it may take time to finalize plans, the wheels are in motion, and the community is optimistic about the future of this once-vibrant mall.
Dart Ops – A Glimmer of Hope?
In June 2023, a new tenant called Dart Ops opened its doors in the mall. Dart Ops offers an 8,000-square-foot Nerf battle arena near the old Sears store. This new addition has brought much-needed energy and foot traffic back to the mall.
The founder of Dart Ops believes that the mall still has potential. The Nerf battle arena has been a hit, especially among families and young adults looking for a fun outing. While Dart Ops alone may not be enough to revive the mall, it’s a step in the right direction.