Constructed in 1979 on a former slag dump, Century III Mall is an abandoned shopping complex in West Mifflin, Pennsylvania, just 10 miles from downtown Pittsburgh.
It was once the world’s third-largest shopping mall with anchor stores such as Kaufmann’s, Gimbels, JCPenney, Sears, and Montgomery Ward.
History of Century III Mall
Century III Mall opened in 1979 in West Mifflin, Pennsylvania. It was built on a former slag dump and was an ambitious project.
The mall featured five anchor stores – Kaufmann’s, Gimbels, JCPenney, Montgomery Ward, and Sears – and over 200 specialty stores (during its peak) spread across two floors.
In the 1980s and 1990s, Century III Mall was a popular shopping destination and a bustling social hub for the surrounding community.
It attracted shoppers from across the Pittsburgh metropolitan area and beyond. However, in the early 2000s, the mall began to decline, as many anchor stores closed and foot traffic decreased.
In 2019, the mall officially closed its doors after a long and steady decline, leaving behind a once-thriving shopping center in disrepair. Today, Century III Mall stands as a stark reminder of the changing retail landscape and the impact it can have on local communities.
Kaufmann’s and JCPenney
The initial stage of Century III Mall featured 75 stores, with two anchors: a Pittsburgh-based Kaufmann’s spanning 121,300 square feet over two levels and a JCPenney covering 173,200 square feet across two levels.
Kaufmann’s became the chain’s first store to anchor a mall-type center in the Pittsburgh region and the fourth mall store.
Montgomery Ward and Gimbels
The mall’s second phase included a two-level Montgomery Ward, spread across 168,100 square feet, and forty-six additional stores. The Montgomery Ward location was the first for the Chicago-based chain in Allegheny County.
The second phase of Century III Mall incorporated the third, fourth, and fifth anchors to the complex, including a two-level 126,000 square-foot Gimbels-Pittsburgh, which began business in July 1980.
Sears and Joseph Horne Company
The second phase also included a two-level 231,000 square-foot Sears, which opened in October 1980.
The Joseph Horne Company took over the space in Century III Mall in 1986, relocating their store from an older open-air shopping center in Brentwood a few miles north.
Federated Department Stores
In 1994, the location changed names again when Federated Department Stores purchased Horne’s and converted the chain’s locations into its own Lazarus regional nameplate.
In the late 1990s, Federated Department Stores, which had acquired the Lazarus chain, decided to shutter several locations, including the Lazarus store at Century III Mall.
Kaufmann’s and Macy’s
After being acquired by Kaufmann’s, the site was transformed into a furniture showroom. Kaufmann’s was a subsidiary of the May Department Stores Company, headquartered in St. Louis.
The establishment was rebranded as Macy’s in September 2006 and ultimately shuttered its doors in March 2016.
Gimbels and Marshalls
Following the bankruptcy filing of the chain, Gimbels shuttered its doors at the Century III Mall in 1988.
Subsequently, in 1994, the lower and upper levels of the space were leased to TJ Maxx and Marshalls, respectively.
Marshalls closed its store in 1996. Wickes Furniture then took over the space in 1997, and closed in 2004.
TJ Maxx and Steve & Barry’s
TJ Maxx rebranded as TJ Maxx ‘n More in 1998, but the store closed its doors in 2003. Soon after, Steve & Barry took over the space.
Unfortunately, Steve & Barry’s also met financial difficulties and had to declare bankruptcy, leading to the store’s closure in 2009.
Dick’s Sporting Goods
Dick’s Sporting Goods moved into the location in 2004 after Wickes Furniture closed. However, a bankruptcy judge approved rejecting the lease of Dick’s Sporting Goods in 2019, and they closed on March 2019.
The decline of the Century III Mall
Despite its initial success, Century III Mall began to experience a decline in the 2000s. As a result, many of the mall’s anchor stores began to close, including Lazarus in 1999, TJ Maxx ‘n More in 2003, and Wickes Furniture in 2004.
Macy’s Furniture replaced Kaufmann’s in 2006 but closed in 2009, leaving JCPenney and Sears as the only remaining anchor stores.
The closure of anchor stores led to a decrease in foot traffic, which had a ripple effect on the mall’s smaller stores.
Many smaller stores could not stay in business, and the mall became increasingly vacant. The mall’s management attempted to revitalize the mall by adding new stores, but these efforts proved unsuccessful.
Moonbeam Capital Investments
In 2013, Moonbeam Capital Investments purchased Century III Mall. Moonbeam planned to revitalize the mall by adding new stores and attractions.
However, a legal dispute with West Mifflin hindered the company’s plans, which claimed that the mall was not meeting safety and maintenance codes.
The mall was cited for safety violations, including fire safety and electrical code violations. Moonbeam contested the citations, and the dispute dragged on for several years.
In the meantime, the mall continued to deteriorate, and many stores closed their doors.
Final Days of the Century III Mall
Century III Mall had become a ghost town in the years leading up to its closure. Many stores had closed, and the mall’s hallways were mainly empty.
The remaining stores struggled to stay in business, and the mall’s management could not attract new tenants.
In 2019, Dick’s Sporting Goods announced that it would be closing its Century III location, leaving JCPenney as the only remaining anchor store. With no anchor stores left, the mall could not stay open and closed its doors for good in 2019, except for JCPenney, which has remained open.
The Century III Mall location of JCPenney was among the over 150 stores announced to be closed by the company in August 2020. The store ceased operations on October 26 of the same year.
Century III Mall Legacy
Century III Mall was once a symbol of prosperity and progress, but its decline and eventual closure represent a more significant trend in the retail industry.
As more and more people turn to online shopping, brick-and-mortar stores are struggling to stay afloat. Many malls across the United States face similar challenges, and some are even being repurposed as office space, medical facilities, or housing.
Despite its sad end, Century III Mall will be remembered by many Pittsburghers as a beloved landmark. The mall was a hub of activity for many years and played an essential role in the community. Its closure marks the end of an era, but its legacy will live on.
The future of the Century III Mall site is uncertain. Moonbeam Capital Investments has expressed interest in redeveloping the site, but it is unclear what their plans are.
Some have suggested that the site could be used for mixed-use development, housing, retail, and office space. Others have proposed turning the area into a park or nature preserve.
Whatever the future holds, it is clear that the Century III Mall site will never be the same. The mall was a fixture in the community for over four decades, and its closure has left a void.
However, with careful planning and thoughtful development, the site could once again become a vibrant hub of activity, serving the surrounding community’s needs for generations to come.