Inside Mayfair Mall: Wauwatosa, WI’s Retail Landmark

The Genesis and Growth of Mayfair Mall

The Opening and Early Years (1958-1973)

Mayfair Mall, a beacon of retail and commerce in Wauwatosa, Wisconsin, opened its doors in October 1958.

It started as a vibrant collection of over 70 stores, capturing the essence of a bustling marketplace under the open sky.

The mall’s unique design featured a 960-foot open-air concourse, a refreshing contrast to the typical enclosed shopping centers.

Marshall Field’s and Gimbels, two retail giants of the time, served as the northern and southern anchors, drawing in crowds with their vast array of merchandise.

The mall’s layout included three distinct east-west corridors, each adorned in a different color scheme, adding to the vibrant atmosphere.

Central to the mall’s design was a charming central park area with trees, flowers, benches, and picnic tables, making it a delightful spot for shoppers to relax and socialize.

Enclosure and Expansion (1973-1986)

In 1973, a significant transformation occurred. The once open-air concourse was enclosed, giving birth to the new Mayfair Mall, a structure more in line with modern shopping centers.

This change replaced the Central Park area with an arcade, aptly named The Bazaar, enhancing the shopping experience with various kiosks and small shops.

The development didn’t stop there; the mid-70s saw the rise of an office tower on the southwest side of the mall, further diversifying its use and appeal.

But the most notable change came in 1986 when Mayfair underwent a massive $15 million remodeling.

The Bazaar and a short-lived ice rink made way for a two-level atrium, complete with a new food court, significantly increasing the mall’s retail space and adding a modern twist to its architecture.

Further Developments (1998-2005)

As the new millennium approached, Mayfair Mall continued to evolve. In 1998, under the new ownership of General Growth Properties, the mall embarked on another renovation project.

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This project was not just about expanding but enhancing the shopper’s experience. In 1999, Mayfair Mall expanded its offerings beyond traditional retail with the addition of a cinema complex and a Barnes & Noble bookstore, enriching the visitor experience with entertainment and reading options.

The following year saw the expansion of the atrium’s second floor, adding over 100,000 square feet of retail space.

This increased the mall’s capacity and introduced new dining and shopping options, solidifying Mayfair Mall as a premier destination for things to do in Milwaukee, Wisconsin.

Mayfair Mall in Wauwatosa
Heeps of Wiki, CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Mayfair Mall in the 21st Century

Addition of New Anchors and Brands (2005-2015)

Entering the 21st century, Mayfair Mall continued to innovate and expand its retail offerings. In 2005, Crate & Barrel opened its doors, offering stylish home furnishings and decor.

This was followed by the transformation of Marshall Field’s into Macy’s in 2006, a significant rebranding in the retail world. Nordstrom, a high-end fashion retailer, made its Wisconsin debut at Mayfair Mall in 2015, a testament to its status as a top shopping destination.

The Container Store also opened in the same year, catering to the organizational needs of the shoppers. These additions marked a new era of luxury and variety at Mayfair, enhancing the overall shopping experience.

Changes and Closures (2015-2018)

The landscape of Mayfair Mall continued to evolve with the closure of the Boston Store in 2018, following the bankruptcy of its parent company, Bon-Ton.

This closure represented a significant shift in the retail environment, reflecting broader trends in the industry.

Despite this setback, Mayfair Mall adapted and thrived, showcasing its resilience in changing retail dynamics.

The mall’s ability to adapt and evolve with the times has been a key factor in its continued success and relevance in the retail sector.

Mayfair Mall has consistently responded to market demands and trends throughout its history. From expanding its range of stores to adapting its infrastructure, the mall has shown a keen understanding of consumer preferences and retail trends.

This adaptability has been crucial in maintaining its appeal to a diverse customer base. As shopping habits and preferences evolve, Mayfair Mall’s willingness to embrace change and innovation ensures it remains a vibrant and relevant player in the competitive retail landscape.

Mayfair Mall
Mayfair Mall” by E L O is licensed under CC BY-NC-SA 2.0

The Evolution of Mayfair Mall’s Infrastructure

Initial Construction and Design Elements

When Mayfair Mall emerged in the late 1950s, it was a marvel of contemporary retail architecture. Its open-air concourse, stretching 960 feet, was a refreshing approach to mall design.

The layout was thoughtfully crafted, featuring three east-west corridors, each distinct in its color theme. This innovative design facilitated easy navigation and created a visually appealing shopping environment.

The central park area, a serene green space with trees and flowers, added a touch of nature, making the mall more than just a shopping destination.

This harmonious blend of retail and natural elements set Mayfair Mall apart from traditional shopping centers.

Remodeling and Modernization Efforts

Over the years, Mayfair Mall has undergone significant remodeling to keep pace with changing consumer preferences and retail trends.

The transformation from an open-air concourse to a fully enclosed mall in the early 1970s marked a pivotal moment in its history.

This enclosure offered shoppers a comfortable, all-weather shopping experience. The 1986 remodeling, with a $15 million investment, further modernized the mall.

Adding a two-level atrium and an expanded food court enhanced the aesthetic appeal and increased the mall’s retail capacity.

These continuous modernization efforts have helped maintain Mayfair Mall’s status as a premier shopping destination in Wisconsin.

Infrastructure Improvements and Challenges

Mayfair Mall has faced its share of challenges, notably the increasing competition from other shopping centers in the Milwaukee area.

The mall has continually improved its infrastructure to remain attractive to shoppers. Implementing a teen curfew in the 2010s was a strategic move to ensure a safe and pleasant shopping environment.

These improvements and policy changes reflect Mayfair Mall’s commitment to adapting to market demands and societal changes, ensuring its continued relevance and appeal in a rapidly evolving retail landscape.

Major Tenants and Attractions at Mayfair Mall

Current Anchor Stores

Mayfair Mall has been a retail powerhouse, anchored by major stores that have evolved over the years. Macy’s, a household name in department stores, provides a wide range of fashion, home goods, and beauty products.

Crate & Barrel, another key anchor, offers contemporary furniture and home decor appealing to a stylish demographic.

The Container Store, specializing in storage and organization solutions, caters to those looking to declutter and organize their living spaces.

Barnes & Noble, a paradise for book lovers, provides a vast selection of books and a cozy environment for reading.

Nordstrom, known for its high-quality fashion and customer service, added a touch of luxury to the mall in 2015, while AMC Theatres offers a cinematic escape for movie enthusiasts.

Each anchor store brings its unique flavor, making Mayfair a diverse shopping experience.

Diverse Retail and Service Options

Beyond the anchor stores, Mayfair Mall boasts diverse retail and service options. From high-end fashion brands to tech giants like Apple, the mall caters to various tastes and needs.

Specialty stores offering unique products and services add to the rich tapestry of the mall. The variety is not just in the products but also in the experiences, with stores offering interactive elements and personalized services.

This diversity ensures that all visitors find something that resonates with their individual preferences, making each visit to Mayfair an exploration of new and exciting retail possibilities.

Entertainment and Leisure Facilities

Entertainment and leisure are key components of the Mayfair Mall experience. AMC Theatres, a state-of-the-art cinema complex, provides the perfect venue for the latest blockbuster hits and family-friendly movies.

The dining options at Mayfair are equally varied, ranging from quick bites to sit-down restaurants, catering to every palate and occasion.

The mall is not just a place to shop; it’s a destination for entertainment, dining, and relaxation, making it a go-to spot for locals and tourists alike.

Whether it’s a day out with the family, a shopping spree, or a casual meal, Mayfair Mall offers an all-encompassing experience.

Challenges and Incidents at Mayfair Mall

Incidents of Violence (2020)

2020 was a challenging year for Mayfair Mall, marked by two significant violent incidents. In February, the mall was the site of a tragic event involving the killing of a 17-year-old teenager in an encounter with police.

This incident sparked a wave of concern and discussions about safety in public spaces. Later in the year, in November, the mall experienced a mass shooting, which, fortunately, resulted in no life-threatening injuries.

These incidents shocked the local community and raised questions about security measures and the mall’s response to such critical situations.

Response to Incidents and Safety Measures

Following these incidents, Mayfair Mall took proactive steps to enhance its security protocols and reassure the public.

The mall management reviewed and strengthened their safety measures in collaboration with local authorities.

This included increased security presence, enhanced surveillance, and community outreach initiatives to address safety concerns.

These efforts were aimed at restoring the trust and confidence of shoppers and tenants, reinforcing the mall’s commitment to providing a safe and secure shopping environment.

Impact on Mall Operations and Public Sentiment

The incidents of 2020 had a noticeable impact on the operations and perception of Mayfair Mall. There was a heightened awareness of safety and security among shoppers and tenants.

The mall’s management faced the challenge of balancing the need for enhanced security measures with maintaining a welcoming atmosphere for visitors.

Despite these challenges, Mayfair Mall continued to operate, adapting to new realities and remaining a central part of the community.

Mayfair Mall in Wauwatosa, WI
Mayfair Mall in Wauwatosa” by mrbula is licensed under CC BY-NC 2.0

Future Developments Around Mayfair Mall

The Mayfair Collection and Adjacent Developments (2015-Present)

The Mayfair Collection, a new shopping center just northwest of Mayfair Mall, opened in the fall of 2015, marking a significant expansion of the retail landscape in the area.

This development includes popular stores like Nordstrom Rack and Whole Foods Market, adding diverse shopping and dining options.

The Mayfair Collection is not just a shopping center; it also features a Homewood Suites by Hilton hotel, making it a multifaceted destination.

With plans for additional stores and restaurants, this area continues to grow, enhancing the overall appeal of the Mayfair Mall vicinity.

Plans for Apartment Complexes and Commercial Spaces

A major development is underway at the former Boston Store site at Mayfair Mall. Wauwatosa officials have unveiled a $58 million plan to build over 900 apartment units in multiple phases.

This project, supported by tax increment financing, includes significant commercial space, adding a new dimension to the Mayfair Mall area.

The development responds to the growing demand for mixed-use spaces, blending residential and commercial uses.

This project represents a significant investment in the area’s future, promising to bring new energy and vitality to the Mayfair Mall neighborhood.

City’s Vision for the Area and Economic Impact

The city of Wauwatosa envisions this redevelopment as a key step in ensuring Mayfair Mall’s status as a premier mall.

Adding residential and commercial spaces is expected to contribute significantly to the local economy.

Officials predict an increase of $111 million in property taxes post-construction, a testament to the project’s potential economic impact.

This development underscores the city’s commitment to revitalizing the area and maintaining Mayfair Mall’s prominence in the region’s retail and commercial landscape.

Conclusion: Mayfair Mall’s Ongoing Evolution

Mayfair Mall’s journey from its inception in 1958 to its present state is a story of continuous adaptation and evolution.

This premier shopping destination in Wauwatosa, Wisconsin, has witnessed significant changes, from its original open-air design to becoming the state’s largest enclosed shopping center.

Despite facing challenges like retail industry shifts and security incidents, Mayfair has remained resilient, adapting to new trends and societal changes.

Its role as a community hub in the Greater Milwaukee area is undisputed, and the upcoming developments promise to enhance its appeal further.

As the retail landscape continues to evolve, Mayfair Mall stands ready to embrace the future, maintaining its status as a central, vibrant part of the community.

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