A New Chapter Begins: The Inception of the Nittany Mall
In the heart of Pennsylvania’s Happy Valley, the Nittany Mall opened its doors to the public in 1968, marking the beginning of a new era for retail in State College.
The vision of Crown American, the mall sprouted as a modest venture with just two anchor stores – Grants and Penn Traffic – accompanied by a collection of around 30 smaller stores.
The mall’s maiden expansion in 1970 proved to be a significant milestone, bolstering the mall’s offerings with the addition of a Sears store and over a dozen other retail outlets.
The strategic location of the mall, comfortably nestled within a four-mile radius of Pennsylvania State University, made it a hotspot for both residents and the robust student community. As a result, the mall soon became a bustling hive of activity, attracting shoppers with its vast array of stores and strategic location.
A Period of Growth and Transformation: The Mall’s Expansion Era
The journey of the Nittany Mall has been one of constant evolution, with several notable expansions and changes marking its history. The year 1976 saw the closing of the Grants chain, making room for Gee Bee to occupy the vacated space.
Another dramatic shift occurred in 1982 when Penn Traffic, one of the mall’s founding anchors, underwent a rebranding transformation to Hess’s after being purchased by Crown American.
The late ’80s and early ’90s marked a period of extensive expansion and refurbishment, resulting in a more diverse and vibrant shopping destination.
The significant additions during this period included a fourth anchor store, JCPenney, and the relocation and expansion of the existing Sears store.
Furthermore, the early ’90s saw the conversion of Gee Bee to Value City in 1992 and the replacement of Hess’s with Bon-Ton Stores in 1994. These changes reflected the mall’s commitment to keeping pace with changing customer preferences and the evolving retail landscape.
The New Millennium: A Time of Change and Adaptation
The onset of the 21st century signaled a series of shifts for the Nittany Mall. One of the most notable changes came in 2015, with the closure of the JCPenney store, which was subsequently replaced by a Dunham’s Sports store the following year.
2018 marked a challenging period for the mall, with the closure of the Sears store and the entire Bon-Ton stores chain.
Yet, despite these closures, leaving the mall with just two anchor stores for the first time since 1970, the Nittany Mall demonstrated its resilience and adaptability.
Embracing the changes, the mall continued to evolve, welcoming two new stores in 2021 – Rural King and Gabe’s department stores. These additions breathed new life into the mall, further cementing its place as a vital hub in the local community.
The Casino Controversy: A Turning Point in the Mall’s History
One of the most significant and contentious developments in the Nittany Mall’s recent history is the proposed “mini-casino,” planned to occupy the space formerly taken by Macy’s. Despite considerable public opposition, the Pennsylvania Gaming Control Board approved the casino.
The proposed mini-casino, which could accommodate between 300 and 750 slot machines and up to 40 table games, has sparked a fierce debate within the community. People express concerns about its potential economic impact and influence on the student population, specifically in fostering a gambling addiction.
Furthermore, the casino project has also been mired in legal complexities, with two parallel court cases against the Pennsylvania Gaming Control Board underway. The controversy surrounding the casino underscores the ongoing evolution of the Nittany Mall and its central role in the State College community’s public discourse.
A Community Cornerstone: The Enduring Legacy of the Nittany Mall
The Nittany Mall is more than just a shopping center; it symbolizes community resilience and adaptability. Despite the trials and tribulations, it has faced over the years, the mall has consistently emerged stronger, evolving to meet the community’s changing needs.
Today, even amid controversy and change, the Nittany Mall remains a cherished part of the State College, Pennsylvania landscape, a testament to its storied past and a beacon of its promising future.