Midway Mall in Elyria, OH: Symbol of Transformation and Hope

The Birth and Rise of Midway Mall

Midway Mall, nestled in Elyria, Ohio, opened its doors to the public in the autumn of 1966. This event marked the culmination of efforts by the Richard E. Jacobs Company, a notable name in shopping center development.

The mall’s establishment introduced a new era of shopping and social interaction in Lorain County, the only enclosed regional mall in the area.

The initial plan was to open the mall in late August 1966. However, due to unforeseen delays, the grand opening was postponed to September 22, 1966. Despite the delay, the anticipation and excitement among the local community did not wane.

The opening was a significant event, with anchor stores such as Higbees greeting its first customers on August 1, 1966, JCPenney on September 29, 1966, and Sears joining the lineup in late 1967.

These stores were not just retail spaces; they were the heartbeats of Midway Mall, drawing in crowds and setting the stage for a bustling shopping environment.

The mall’s architecture and design reflected the trends and preferences of the time, with a single-floor layout spread across 940,000 sq ft. However, certain stores like the former Dillard’s, former JCPenney, and former Sears were exceptions, boasting two floors.

This design not only accommodated a wide variety of stores and services but also catered to the convenience of shoppers. As of its opening, Midway Mall featured an impressive lineup of stores and services, with room for six anchor tenants at its peak.

This variety ensured that there was something for everyone, making it a central hub for shopping and socializing in the region.

The mall’s early years were marked by prosperity and growth, as it quickly became a favored destination for families, teenagers, and tourists looking for things to do in Elyria, Ohio.

The presence of major department stores alongside a mix of local and national retailers provided a comprehensive shopping experience, contributing significantly to the mall’s status as a community cornerstone.

The success of Midway Mall during these formative years set a strong foundation for its future, embedding it as a key player in the local economy and a symbol of modern retail in Lorain County.

The Golden Years and Subsequent Declines

Following its successful launch, Midway Mall enjoyed a period of prosperity and became a beloved shopping destination in Elyria. The mall’s golden years were characterized by a bustling atmosphere, with shoppers from all over Lorain County and beyond.

USA Quiz

How many questions would you like?

Your result:

During this time, the mall was home to various stores, including national chains and local businesses, providing multiple products and services to visitors.

However, the late 1990s and early 2000s marked the beginning of a challenging period for Midway Mall. The retail industry began to change with the rise of online shopping and the development of new shopping centers nearby.

These changes led to a gradual decline in foot traffic at the mall. In 1994, Woolworth, one of the original tenants, closed its doors, a sign of the shifting retail landscape.

This was followed by the replacement of Best Buy in 1995, which brought a new type of retail but could not stem the tide of change.

The decline became more pronounced with the closure of major anchor stores and key attractions for the mall. Dillard’s closed in 2007, a significant blow to the mall’s foot traffic and appeal.

This was followed by Macy’s in 2016, Sears in 2017, and JCPenney in 2019, leaving large empty spaces and reducing the mall’s ability to attract visitors.

These closures reflected broader trends in the retail industry. They had a profound impact on Midway Mall, leading to a decrease in the number of shoppers and a decline in the overall vibrancy of the mall.

Ownership Changes and Attempts at Revitalization

As Midway Mall faced increasing challenges, changes in ownership and management were made to revitalize the struggling shopping center.

In 2001, the Jacobs Group sold the mall as part of a divestment program to The Westfield Group, a global shopping center company. This change brought a new vision for the mall, renamed Westfield Shoppingtown Midway.

However, this new direction lasted only a short time. In the spring of 2006, Westfield declared that the mall did not fit into their strategic plan and sold it to Centro Properties Group.

Under Centro’s ownership, the mall returned to its original name, Midway Mall, to reconnect with the local community and restore its former glory.

Despite these efforts, the challenges proved too great, and the mall struggled with declining visitor numbers and store closures.

In a subsequent attempt to turn the tide, management was transferred to The Woodmont Company, known for its experience in retail management and redevelopment.

Despite these changes in ownership and management, revitalization efforts faced significant hurdles. The retail environment has evolved, shifting consumer preferences from traditional malls to online shopping and open-air shopping centers.

Attempts to introduce new stores and attractions were made. Still, the loss of key anchor tenants and the changing retail landscape made it difficult to bring back the mall’s heyday.

The ownership changes, and attempts at revitalization highlight the complex challenges faced by Midway Mall and similar shopping centers across the country.

The Final Years and Closure

The decline of Midway Mall accelerated in the late 2010s, marking a significant shift in the mall’s history. The departure of Best Buy in March 2020, following the earlier closures of Dillard’s, Macy’s, and Sears, left the mall with fewer reasons for visitors.

This loss of major retailers was a critical hit, as anchor stores traditionally draw significant foot traffic, supporting smaller stores and services within the mall.

The impact of these closures was felt throughout Midway Mall. The remaining stores experienced a significant customer drop, and the once-busy corridors grew increasingly quiet.

The decline in foot traffic and sales led to a domino effect, with more stores deciding to close their doors. By 2023, the mall was a shadow of its former self, with only 20 stores and services remaining. This led to its classification as a “dead mall.”

In a significant development, the Lorain County Port Authority stepped in, voting on January 12, 2023, to purchase and develop the mall site.

This decision marked the end of Midway Mall as a retail center and the beginning of a new chapter for the property.

The move by the Port Authority was driven by a desire to repurpose the site for new uses that could better serve the community and stimulate economic growth in the area.

The Transformation of Midway Mall: A New Chapter for Elyria, Ohio

The Midway Mall in Elyria, Ohio, is embarking on a new journey of revitalization and redevelopment, marking a significant shift from its traditional role as a retail hub.

This transition reflects broader changes in the retail industry and the community’s adaptation to evolving economic landscapes.

Revitalization Efforts and Future Prospects

In 2022, the City of Elyria outlined a transformative vision for the Midway Mall area. The plan emphasized transforming the location into a health, wellness, and industrial innovation center known as the “Hawaii Park Project.”

This ambitious plan aimed to shift the mall’s focus away from traditional retail, opting for fewer but significant tenants in the medical, health, wellness, and light industrial sectors, such as smart manufacturing.

The Elyria City Council has also played a pivotal role in this transformation by approving a zoning overlay for the Midway Mall.

This strategic move is intended to facilitate business development by making it easier for various types of businesses to set up operations at the site.

The new zoning framework is seen as a groundbreaking step for the city, creating new possibilities for the mall to attract innovative uses, including potential as a distribution center​​.

Competing Proposals and the Path Forward

In 2024, Lorain County leaders are weighing two final proposals for the mall’s redevelopment, each presenting a distinct vision for the site’s future. 

The first proposal, from The Center for Food Innovation (CFI), an Oberlin-based nonprofit organization, has put forward an ambitious redevelopment plan for the Midway Mall in Elyria, Ohio.

Named “The Garden,” this proposal envisions transforming the mall space into a modern, mixed-use facility dedicated to agricultural innovation and food processing.

The plan includes the construction of indoor vertical farms and outdoor greenhouse farms alongside spaces for cold storage, food processing, and distribution businesses.

This comprehensive approach aims to repurpose the existing mall area and establish it as a central hub for sustainable development and local food production in the region.

With a significant investment projected at $320 million, CFI’s proposal outlines a future where the Midway Mall area becomes one of the largest year-round agricultural centers in the country.

This vision aligns with contemporary trends toward sustainability and self-sufficiency in food production, reflecting a growing emphasis on local food sources and innovative agricultural techniques.

The project aims to revitalize the local economy, provide new job opportunities, and enhance food security in the Northeast Ohio region by reimagining the space in this way.

The second proposal, from Industrial Commercial Properties, includes two options. The initial option, “Business Park Redevelopment,” aims to retain and repurpose many existing structures within the Midway Mall area into a mixed-use business park.

This approach would maintain the viability of current retail and restaurant spaces outside the main mall structure. In contrast, the central mall building would undergo significant structural and layout modifications.

The second option is more radical, proposing the complete demolition of the existing mall and parking areas to make way for a new construction.

This new structure is envisioned as a state-of-the-art industrial building designed to meet specific tenant standards, enhancing productivity and efficiency. 

These efforts reflect a broader trend of repurposing large retail spaces to meet contemporary needs and economic conditions better.

As Elyria looks to the future, the redevelopment of Midway Mall is a significant symbol of the city’s resilience and adaptability.

The community’s leaders are committed to revitalizing this once-thriving retail space into a vibrant hub for innovation and wellness, promising a brighter future for the residents of Elyria and the surrounding region.

Add a comment

;-) :| :x :twisted: :smile: :shock: :sad: :roll: :razz: :oops: :o :mrgreen: :lol: :idea: :grin: :evil: :cry: :cool: :arrow: :???: :?: :!: