What Happened to Eastland Mall in Columbus, OH?

The Birth of Eastland Mall

In the heart of Columbus, Ohio, a significant landmark emerged on February 14, 1968. Eastland Mall, the area’s first fully enclosed shopping mall, opened its doors to the public.

The mall was a marvel of its time, boasting a unique design and layout that set it apart from other shopping centers. It quickly became a bustling hub of activity, drawing in locals and visitors alike with its wide array of stores and attractions.

The mall’s establishment was more than just opening a new shopping center; it was the birth of a community gathering place. Eastland Mall was not just a place to shop but to socialize, dine, and create memories.

From the excitement of holiday shopping to the simple joy of a weekend outing, the mall was woven into the fabric of Columbus life.

The Golden Years

Eastland Mall’s golden years were a testament to its success. The mall was home to various stores that catered to a wide range of tastes and needs. Anchor stores like Macy’s, Sears, and JCPenney drew in crowds, while smaller, local businesses added a unique flavor to the shopping experience.

During these years, the mall was more than just a commercial center; it was a cultural hub. It played a significant role in the local economy, providing jobs and contributing to the city’s growth.

The mall was also a place of shared experiences and memories. Many Columbus residents can recall the thrill of a shopping trip to Eastland Mall, the anticipation of a new store opening, or the simple pleasure of a meal in the food court.

The Decline

The decline of Eastland Mall was a gradual process, mirroring the challenges faced by many traditional shopping malls across the United States. The advent of online shopping and alternative retail destinations posed significant competition. As consumers’ shopping habits evolved, Eastland Mall struggled to keep pace.

The first signs of trouble came with the closure of anchor stores. These large department stores, including JCPenney (May 2015), Macy’s (March 2017), and Sears (September 2017), had been significant draws for the mall, attracting shoppers visiting smaller stores.

Their departure left a void that was difficult to fill, both physically in terms of vacant space and metaphorically in terms of lost foot traffic.

But the challenges were not just external. Internally, the mall faced health and safety issues that tarnished its image and made it less appealing to shoppers. The parking lot became riddled with potholes, litter, and waste accumulated.

Grass and weeds overgrew, graffiti marred the walls, and broken lights and concrete became common sights. These issues were more than just aesthetic problems; they signaled a lack of care and investment in the mall’s upkeep.

In March 2022, the city’s attorney’s office filed health and safety violations against the mall’s owners. Franklin County Environmental Judge declared the mall a nuisance by July.

The mall’s owners were ordered to make repairs, but the damage to the mall’s reputation was already done. The decline of Eastland Mall had set in, and it seemed irreversible.

The Closure

The end of 2022 marked the end of an era for Eastland Mall. After 54 years of operation, the mall closed its doors for the last time.

The closure was met with a mix of sadness and nostalgia from the community. For many, the mall was not just a building but a part of their lives and memories.

A sense of loss marked the mall’s final days. A water line break forced an early closure, adding to the melancholy. Businesses and residents were left to grapple with the reality of the mall’s closure and the impact it would have on their lives.

Eastland Mall in Columbus
Eastland Mall Columbus, OH April 2021” by MikeKalasnik is licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0

Eastland Mall Timeline

Year Event
1966 The ground was broken on Eastland Mall construction.
1966 Lazarus, which would later become Macy’s, opened at Eastland Mall.
1968 Richard Jacobs, the developer, opened Eastland Mall, featuring an impressive lineup of 56 stores.
1998 A new mall entrance, a dozen more stores, and a food court are open.
2001 Cigna Investments takes over ownership after Jacobs defaults.
2003 Glimcher Realty Trust acquires the mall for $29.7 million.
2007 Glimcher announces Macy’s store would be razed to make way for a new JCPenney prototype.
2014 Glimcher leaves the property, relinquishing ownership to LNR Property.
2015 Eastland Mall property sold for $9.7 million. JCPenney closes Eastland Mall store.
2017 In March, Macy’s closes at Eastland Mall. Later in September, Sears closes its store.
2018 Eastland Mall marks its 50th anniversary with 25 stores.
2021 Columbus city attorney files first of health and safety violations.
2022 Eastland Mall received a public nuisance declaration, directing the owners to carry out necessary repairs. Subsequently, the mall owners faced a court order for contempt in September.
2022 After a significant run of 54 years, Eastland Mall in Columbus ceases its operations.

The Future of the Eastland Mall Site

Despite the closure, the story of Eastland Mall is far from over. The mall’s owners, Eastland Mall Holdings LLC, have plans to demolish the mall and redevelop the site.

The city has expressed its expectations for the redevelopment, emphasizing the need for community engagement and public priorities such as affordable housing, job creation, green spaces, and access to transportation.

The site’s future is still uncertain, but there is hope it will again become a vibrant part of the community. The redevelopment could bring new opportunities and breathe new life into the area, much like the mall did when it first opened.

In the end, the story of Eastland Mall reflects the broader changes in society. It is a tale of growth, change, and resilience.

As we look back on the mall’s history, we are reminded of its role in our lives and its impact on the community. And as we look forward to the future, we are filled with anticipation for what the site will become.

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