Remembering Westland Mall: A Look Back at Columbus’ Beloved Shopping Center

The Westland Mall, a once-bustling shopping center in Columbus, Ohio, has fallen into disuse recently.

It covers an area of 860,000 square feet and is used to house popular anchor stores like Sears, JCPenney, Woolworth, and Lazarus.

Today, the mall is a mere shell of its former self, with many stores barely operating.

Westland Mall

History of Westland Mall

The Westland Mall opened in February 1969 as an open-air shopping center with Lazarus, Sears, JCPenney, and Woolworth as anchor stores.

From 1977 to 1980, Westland Mall gained fame as the host of the teenage variety show “America Goes Bananaz.”

In 1982, the mall was enclosed, and Sears closed its upper floor, which was later converted into offices for Discover, the in-house credit card of Sears. In 1994, Woolworth closed, and the space was renovated into a Staples store.

Directionally-Named Shopping Centers in Columbus

Columbus once hosted four directionally-named shopping centers, including the Northland Mall, the city’s first mall.

The Northland Mall closed in 2002 and was eventually demolished in 2004. The other malls were the Westland Mall, the Eastland Mall, and the Southland Mall.

All but the Southland Mall were constructed and operated by the Richard E. Jacobs Group and featured the same anchor stores.

Changes and Challenges for Westland Mall

Despite being a significant landmark within the Columbus area, Westland Mall faced several challenges in the 21st century, including a loss of status as one of the premier shopping destinations in the city.

The opening of the nearby mall at Tuttle Crossing in 1997 drew many of Westland’s former customers, leading to JCPenney relocating to the Tuttle mall.

Some other major stores, such as Express and The Limited, also left Westland in favor of a better location.

In 2003, Kashani, a developer who owned North Towne Square in Toledo, Ohio, purchased the mall. Kashani attempted to reposition the mall as a “bazaar-style” mall with many specialty shops, including a used bookstore, numerous arts and crafts dealers, and even a karate school.

The Lazarus store in the mall eventually converted to Lazarus-Macy’s in 2003 before fully converting to Macy’s in 2005.

However, Macy’s only operated for two years before closing in 2007, and almost all of the newer stores added under Kashani’s ownership had also been shut down.

The Decline of Westland Mall

By 2010, Westland Mall’s future looked bleak, with almost no hope for the once-popular shopping center.

The mall contained fewer than 15 active businesses, with only Sears, Finish Line, Champs Sports, GNC, and Staples remaining national retailers.

Other storefronts still operating were small, bazaar-style shops, a few eateries, and a local Franklin County Sheriff’s office branch.

Westland Mall Space
Westland Mall Space” by Sam Howzit is licensed under CC BY 2.0

Over the next four years, Westland Mall’s decline continued as Sears closed their entrance to the mall in September 2011, although the store remained in operation.

There was talk in 2008 that home-improvement retailer Menards was working on plans to expand into the Columbus market at the mall, which would have meant the mall being redeveloped into an open-air shopping center once again.

However, later that year, Menards announced that these expansion plans were being put on hold mainly due to the Great Recession, a general economic decline from 2007-2009.

New Growth in the Area

In 2012, a new Hollywood Casino opened in the area surrounding the Westland Mall, providing some new growth to the struggling community.

Westland Mall Columbus
Westland Mall Bench” by Sam Howzit is licensed under CC BY 2.0

However, the mall continued to decline, and most of its remaining businesses had shut down by 2016. In 2017, Sears, the last remaining anchor store, announced its closure, resulting in the complete vacancy of the mall.

Plans for Redevelopment

Today, redevelopment plans are still being discussed for the site of the abandoned Westland Mall. Ideas for a mixed-use project, including residential and commercial spaces, have been suggested.

By February 2023, Westland Mall in Columbus, Ohio, still boasts several vertical structures, including Sears, Sears Auto Center, former NTB building, JCPenney, Main Mall/outlet center, Macy’s, Staples, Firestone, and a small shopping center southeast of the main building that houses a Mexican grocery market and a small gun shop.

However, a recent NBC4 news article (published on February 3, 2023) has shed light on a good revitalization plan for the area, set to commence with the impending demolition of Westland Mall in Spring 2023.

Governor Mike DeWine has allocated $20,000,000+ to redevelop the site, bringing hope for a brighter future for the community.

Avatar of Spencer Walsh

I'm Spencer Walsh, a professional traveler who loves to help people discover new places and learn about different cultures. I've traveled worldwide, from Europe to Asia and Africa to South America. My favorite thing about traveling is getting lost because it allows me to discover unexpected gems—finding a hidden museum or stumbling upon a beautiful park in the middle of the city.

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