Cottonwood Mall: Holladay, UT’s Once and Future Hub

The Glory Days

Ah, the Cottonwood Mall! For many who grew up in Holladay, Utah, the name evokes memories of weekend shopping sprees, first dates at the cinema, and the unmistakable scent of fresh pretzels wafting through the air.

Opened in 1962, Cottonwood Mall was the first large indoor shopping mall in Utah. It was a marvel of its time, boasting a variety of stores that catered to every need and whim.

The mall’s original anchors were JCPenney and ZCMI, a department store that later transformed into Meier & Frank in 2001 and eventually became Macy’s in 2006.

This wasn’t just a place to shop but a social hub where people gathered, mingled, and created memories. Families would spend Saturdays here, teenagers would hang out after school, and the mall transformed into a winter wonderland during the holidays.

But it wasn’t just about the big department stores. The mall also housed an Albertsons supermarket and a Woolworth, the last operational store in Utah until 1993. These stores added to the mall’s appeal, making it a one-stop destination for retail.

Signs of Decline

Around the early 2000s, however, the mall began to show signs of aging. The once-crowded corridors started to empty, and “For Lease” signs became a common sight. By 2004, the mall was approximately 25% vacant. The decline wasn’t just a local phenomenon but part of a broader trend affecting malls across America.

Interestingly, during the 2002 Winter Olympics, the mall’s parking lot served a different purpose—it became a park-and-ride lot. This temporary function change seemed to symbolize the mall’s waning importance in the community. It was no longer the bustling center of activity it once was; instead, it had become a mere footnote in a larger story.

The End of an Era

In 2008, the mall was officially closed. General Growth Properties, the company that owned the mall then, had grand redevelopment plans. They envisioned a new, modern shopping center that would breathe life back into the Holladay community. However, these plans were short-lived.

The Holladay City Council had deemed the mall “blighted,” so it was torn down as the first step in a grand redevelopment scheme. But just as things looked up, General Growth Properties filed for bankruptcy in 2009. This financial calamity halted all redevelopment plans, leaving the community with an empty lot and broken promises.

The impact on local businesses was significant. Nearby shops that had relied on the mall’s foot traffic struggled to stay afloat. The community was left wondering what would become of the space that had once been the heart of Holladay.

Failed Revival Attempts

In the following years, various attempts were made to revive the mall. In 2014, rumors surfaced that Smith’s Food and Drug would open a location on the property, with a tentative opening date set for late 2016. However, this did not come to fruition, adding another chapter to the mall’s saga of failed revivals.

In 2017, a significant blow was dealt to the Cottonwood Mall area when Macy’s, one of the last vestiges of the mall’s heyday, announced its closure as part of a broader restructuring plan for their U.S. operations.

Millrock Capital and Woodbury Corporation entered into a purchase agreement in 2019 with the Howard Hughes Corporation, the existing owners of the site. They planned to redevelop the Cottonwood Mall site based on the entitlements granted to General Growth Properties in 2007.

Cottonwood Mall Holladay
Cottonwood Mall Demolition” by deltaMike is licensed under CC BY 2.0

Holladay Hills – A New Hope?

Fast forward to today, and the site has been rebranded as Holladay Hills. The development will include a theater, retail spaces, parking garages, and various residential housing types. While the timeline for completion ranges from five to ten years, depending on market conditions, the community remains cautiously optimistic.

The new development aims to be more than just a shopping center; it aspires to be a lifestyle destination. But the question remains: Can Holladay Hills capture the magic that once made Cottonwood Mall the heart of the community? Only time will tell.

The Latest Developments

As of August 2023, Holladay Hills is in the development phase. The project promises a mix of retail, residential, and entertainment spaces, aiming to create a vibrant community hub. While the development has been met with a combination of anticipation and skepticism, it represents a significant investment in the future of Holladay.

Local news reports indicate that the community is keenly interested in the project’s progress. The development can revitalize the area, bringing in new businesses and perhaps even boosting property values. However, the extended timeline for completion has left some residents wondering if they will ever see the promised changes.

Given the site’s complex history and the numerous failed attempts at revival, the stakes are high for Holladay Hills. The development needs to succeed commercially and win the hearts of the local community, many of whom still remember the Cottonwood Mall with a sense of nostalgia.

The Grandeur at Holladay Hills: A Glimpse into the Future of Holladay Living

The Grandeur at Holladay Hills is an ambitious addition to the evolving landscape of Holladay, Utah. Positioned as a luxury living space, the complex also offers a range of outdoor amenities. Residents can enjoy an Olympic-size pool, hot tub, fire pits, cabanas, a yoga studio, a fitness center, a sauna, and a garden lounge terrace.

The Grandeur is part of the first mixed-use phase of the Holladay Hills development, including 200 residential units for rent and retail spaces. With personal parking garages for two vehicles and exclusive elevator access for the 5th-floor residences, The Grandeur aims to provide a blend of luxury and convenience.

This development is a significant part of the Holladay Hills project. This 58-acre master-planned community will eventually feature over 600 living units and up to 750,000 square feet of office, dining, shopping, and entertainment spaces.

The Grandeur condos are expected to be available for occupancy slated for the end of 2023. It represents a new chapter in the area’s development, aiming to recapture some of the community spirit and economic vitality that characterized the Cottonwood Mall era.

Despite its decline and eventual demolition, the Cottonwood Mall has not been forgotten. Online communities and social media groups dedicated to the mall’s history serve as virtual time capsules, preserving memories and photographs of the mall in its heyday.

These platforms allow former patrons to reminisce about the good old days, sharing stories and organizing reunions.

Local artists and filmmakers have also taken an interest in the mall’s story, documenting its history through various mediums. While the mall may be gone, its impact on the community is far from forgotten. In many ways, the mall lives on in the collective memory of Holladay’s residents, serving as a poignant reminder of times gone by.

Cottonwood Mall Holladay
Cottonwood Mall” by deltaMike is licensed under CC BY 2.0

Cottonwood Mall: Holladay’s Lost Treasure

The story of Cottonwood Mall is a complex tapestry woven from threads of community, commerce, and change. Its rise, fall, and ongoing attempts at revival offer valuable insights into the challenges and opportunities facing American malls today. As Holladay Hills takes shape, the community watches with bated breath, hopeful yet cautious, as they await the next chapter in this ever-evolving narrative.

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