Columbia Colonnade Mall in Bloomsburg, PA: A Journey from Bustle to Stillness

The Glorious Beginning of Columbia Colonnade

Ah, the late 80s—when hair was big, colors were bright, and the Columbia Mall (Columbia Colonnade now) opened its doors to the eager public of Bloomsburg, Pennsylvania.

Nestled conveniently near Interstate 80 and PA 42, this shopping haven quickly became the go-to place for locals and students from the Bloomsburg University of Pennsylvania.

Its grand entrance ushered in a new era of retail therapy in 1988 when malls were more than just shopping destinations; they were the beating heart of a community.

“A mall is not just a place for shopping; it’s a microcosm of a city where memories are created, shared, and cherished.”

The initial anchor stores—J.C. Penney, Sears, Bon-Ton, and Hills Department Stores—were like the four pillars holding the vast retail empire of Columbia Colonnade.

They didn’t merely offer products; they provided experiences that left indelible marks on the hearts of the patrons.

The mall wasn’t only about the endless aisles of merchandise but about the aroma of fresh pretzels wafting through the air, the giggles of children echoing through the corridors, and the eternal things to do in Bloomsburg, Pennsylvania.

Moving on, the mall served shopping lovers and catered to the surrounding communities, such as Danville, Berwick, and Milton, turning the mall into a nexus of retail and community interaction.

The story of Columbia Colonnade’s inception is not merely a tale of a shopping center; it’s about how a structure of bricks and glass intertwined with the lives of the people it served.

The Changing Faces of Anchor Tenants

As the winds of time swept through, the face of Columbia Colonnade began to change. The transition started with Hills Department Stores making way for Ames in 1999.

It was not just a name change; it was a shift in the retail landscape within the mall, a hint of the transformations that were yet to come.

As the calendar pages flipped, Ames closed its doors in 2002, making way for a new era that awaited.

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The year 2011 saw the advent of Dunham’s Sports, injecting a fresh dose of retail energy into the mall.

The mall’s landscape continued to evolve, with EFO Furniture and Planet Fitness marking their territory in 2017 in the former Sears spot that closed in 2015.

These new entrants brought a fresh vibe and promise of engaging shopping experiences.

The change of guard among the anchor tenants reflected the ever-evolving retail landscape that aimed to cater to the changing preferences of the patrons.

“Every change in the anchor stores was like a fresh coat of paint, adding a new hue to the large canvas that Columbia Colonnade was.”

The retail landscape at the mall faced a downturn when JCPenney shut its doors on July 31, 2017, followed by Bon-Ton’s closure in 2018 amidst the company’s nationwide liquidation.

In 2018, yet another chapter unfolded as MVP Clubhouse found its home in the mall, and the mall’s name transitioned to Columbia Colonnade.

This wasn’t merely a change in terminology; it was a rebranding that aimed to resonate with the evolving identity of the mall and the expectations of its patrons.

The year also saw the opening of Greenwood Farm Market, bringing in a whiff of fresh farm produce to the retail mix.

Each transition among the anchor tenants wasn’t merely a commercial shift but a ripple in the community’s retail experience.

The ever-changing retail facade of Columbia Colonnade was a testament to the fact that the mall strived to keep up with the retail rhythms and provide a haven for shoppers looking for a blend of the old and new.

Columbia Colonnade Mall Bloomsburg
Blandmalls, CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Challenges Leading to the Closure

The dawn of the new decade brought along dark clouds of adversities for Columbia Colonnade. The year 2020, marked by the global pandemic, saw the mall losing several stores.

The once buzzing corridors started to echo with the silence of closure. But the pandemic was not the sole culprit; the mall was grappling with other demons, too.

Drinking water issues, heating and cooling problems, roof leaks, and a lack of adequate staff and security started eating into the mall’s once-vibrant ambiance.

The problems didn’t end there. Communication with the owners became a steep climb, with responses often becoming rare.

“Every closed store was like a silent ode to the times gone by, a reminder of the fragile nature of commercial havens.”

The final blow came on March 31, 2022, when the last inline tenant, Outback Roos, decided to pull down its shutters, and along with it, the mall’s interior closed its doors too.

The decision was not sudden; it reflected the declining state of the mall, which once bustled with life and laughter.

Each challenge that Columbia Colonnade faced was not just a standalone hurdle; it was a chapter in the narrative of a mall that once stood as a symbol of community and commerce intertwined.

Oh, how the mighty mall had faced the adversities, each challenge chipping away at its grandeur, leading it down the path of closure, leaving behind a legacy of memories and a blueprint of challenges many retail giants face in the modern era.

Auction Attempt and Ownership Changes

As the wheels of time churned, the narrative of Columbia Colonnade took yet another unexpected turn.

The whispers of an auction in 2022 stirred the community, with hopes and speculations fluttering around like butterflies before a storm.

The mall was initially set to be auctioned in July 2022, with a starting bid that made many eyes pop—$3.4 million. However, fate had other plans, and the auction got pushed to August.

The once revered retail giant was now under the hammer, waiting for bids to decide its fate.

Kohan Retail Investment Group made an early bid even before the auction. However, the offer didn’t cut the mustard, and the mall remained unsold.

Columbia Colonnade Mall Bloomsburg
Blandmalls, CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons

The owner had poured a whopping $1.4 million in renovations, perhaps to restore the mall’s lost glory.

Yet, the August auction, too, failed to find a buyer willing to meet the hefty reserve price of $20 million.

“The echoes of the past resonated through the empty hallways as the auctioneer’s gavel awaited to strike a new beginning.”

The mall had changed hands before. It was once sold for $36 million to Heitman Advisory Corp, an epitome of its value and significance in retail during those times.

The dipping auction prices were not just numbers; they reflected the faded glory and the uncertain path ahead for the Columbia Colonnade.

The auction attempts were more than financial endeavors; they were desperate to revive the community’s heart.

Community Impact and Nostalgia

The closure of Columbia Colonnade wasn’t merely a business shutdown; it was a pause button on the myriad memories created over decades.

The mall had witnessed children’s laughter on merry-go-rounds, the nervous first dates by the fountain, and the joyous celebrations of a team victory at the local sports shop.

Its corridors resonated with stories, each corner holding a fragment of the community’s collective memory.

“The walls of Columbia Colonnade were not just bricks and mortar; they were the pages of a living, breathing narrative.”

Its closure left a void that was hard to fill. It was not just about losing a shopping center; it was about losing a piece of history, a part of the community’s identity.

The conversations about the mall blended nostalgia and melancholy among the locals.

The tales of yesteryears’ shopping sprees, the Black Friday rushes, the back-to-school shopping chaos all became tales to be told, memories to be cherished.

The mall’s closure also affected local businesses and employees, leaving a ripple effect on the local economy.

The echoes of the bustling past now seemed like a distant melody, yet the impact of Columbia Colonnade’s closure reverberated through the heart of the community.

Columbia Colonnade Mall Bloomsburg
Blandmalls, CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons

The Uncertain Path Ahead: Redevelopment Possibilities

As the dust settles, the community and potential investors are left to ponder the path ahead.

The future of Columbia Colonnade hangs in a delicate balance, with ideas for redevelopment swirling around.

The idea of transforming the mall into a mixed-use development seems promising, blending residential, office, and retail spaces into a harmonious ensemble.

Various proposals also surfaced about morphing it into a community center—a hub for recreational facilities, meeting spaces, and educational programs.

Converting the mall into a medical or educational facility also holds merit, addressing the local community’s needs.

“The future is like a blank canvas, waiting for a touch of creativity to morph Columbia Colonnade into a realm of endless possibilities.”

Revitalizing the mall as an entertainment hub is another enticing prospect. Imagine a place where laughter rings through a movie theater, cheers echo through a bowling alley, and conversations flow freely in cozy cafes.

The community now holds the key to redefining what Columbia Colonnade can become—a thriving retail space, a community hub, or a blend of both.

The tale of Columbia Colonnade is a poignant reminder of the transient nature of commercial establishments and the indelible mark they leave on the community’s heart.

Regardless of the path chosen, the essence of Columbia Colonnade, the memories it created, and the hopes it houses for a future full of promise remain etched in the heart of Bloomsburg, Pennsylvania.

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