For the first 20 years profits rolled in, but by 1998 tenants had begun leaving Rolling Acres. One of the mall's largest financiers, Nomura Assets Securities Corporation, had its credit rating downgraded and fingers began to point at the shopping mall's dwindling sales as part of the firm's problem.
Rolling Acres was left vacant for years and looters stripped the once prosperous mall of its former glory. The building was eventually demolished between 2016 and 2019 after the City Council decided it posed a danger to residents: In 2011 a serial killer murdered and buried his victim behind the mall.
Amazon announced in July 2019 it acquired the land where the Rolling Acres Mall had been and by November 2020 the retail giant had opened a new distribution center. With at least 1,500 new jobs at Amazon other businesses have opened nearby, in an area that had become a ghost town as the mall met its demise.
The original mall had two levels with more than 200 stores spread across 1.6 million square feet of space. It reportedly cost around $40 million to build, the equivalent of almost $198 million in 2022. At its grand opening Randall Park Mall had five department stores.
The death of then-owner Edward DeBartolo in late 1994 is said to have marked the beginning of the end for the mall. Various management companies attempted, but ultimately failed, to revive the once-popular shopping destination.
In 2000 the mall's occupancy rate had climbed to 92% after slipping in the late 1990s. This sparked hope that the site could recover – but by 2001 the future of Randall Park Mall looked much bleaker as JCPenney became the latest department store to close up shop due to falling sales.
In 2002 then-owner Simon Property Group allowed a mortgage company to take over the property rights in lieu of foreclosure. In the same year tragedy struck the mall when a Dillard’s security guard killed a shoplifter and was sentenced to three years in prison. Dillard's closed its store in 2003 citing poor sales. However, many reports speculate that a $2.8 million lawsuit filed by the victim's mother was actually responsible for the closure.
By 2004 around 50% of the mall was empty. Locals reportedly kept their distance due to safety concerns over the structure, which was quickly becoming dilapidated. Randall Park Mall was sold to Whichard Real Estate for $6 million that year. Multiple buyers had considered the property. This included a South African developer who planned on purchasing Randall Park and other abandoned malls in the hope of restoring them to their former glory, but all the deals fizzled out.
After the recession drove the mall further into the ground, Randall Park shut its doors for good in 2009. Five years later demolition work began, with just a single store still open for business, a free-standing Burlington Coat Factory that then closed in 2015.
When the Hawthorne Plaza Mall opened in 1977 it was a popular shopping destination for the residents of this Los Angeles suburb. Just 20 years later, however, its tenants had all left.
Since the mall closed its doors in 1999 various development plans have been put forward ranging from outlet malls to office complexes. Pictured is the shell of a former Thom McAn shoe store located in the mall.
Currently the mall's parking lot is used to store Tesla vehicles. The building has also provided an apocalyptic backdrop in music videos for singers including Beyoncé and Taylor Swift, as well as for films such as Minority Report, The Fast and the Furious: Tokyo Drift, and Gone Girl.
In November 2021 the City of Hawthorne sued the mall's owner, saying the abandoned shopping center is a blight on the community and dangerous. Just two months later a fire broke out, possibly from a pile of garbage in one of the mall's underground parking facilities. But as of 2022, no plans have been put into motion and the redevelopment has been permanently put on hold.
Lincoln Mall in Matteson, Illinois was also built during America's shopping mall boom of the 1970s. Located in the Chicago suburbs, the mall housed four anchor stores: JCPenney, Montgomery Ward, Wieboldt's. and Carson Pirie Scott. It also boasted 100 smaller stores across its 989,000 square feet footprint.
In the late 90s the mall began to struggle and by 2000 three of its four original anchor stores had left, with other tenants making an exit as well. Although Sears moved into the former Wieboldt's store, it wasn't enough to keep Lincoln Mall afloat.
The owner of the mall, New York real estate developer Michael Kohan, told The Chicago Tribune that the business was losing around $2 million every year. Additionally, the safety violations had racked up fines of $9 million and to cover this debt the mall's remaining businesses – which included Bath & Body Works, Carson Pirie Scott, and Foot Locker – were told to pay taxes to cover the cost of necessary repairs.
In early 2020 a development group proposed building a $300 million casino on the site of the former Lincoln Mall. The plan had enthusiastic local support and become one of two finalists for a casino license in December 2021. However, the Illinois Gaming Board did not chose Matteson in the end. The site remains vacant.
Located in Chesterfield County, Virginia, the Cloverleaf Mall opened in 1972. Like many of the malls on this list, its main anchor store was JCPenney. Around 45 other stores were open for business on the mall's opening weekend, almost half of which were women's clothing stores. Developer Leonard Farber was keen to impress his target market, reportedly "installing carpeting to cushion women's legs so they could shop longer," according to The Chesterfield Observer.
Cloverleaf was the first large-scale regional shopping mall in the area and it thrived during the 70s and 80s. A new movie theater and food court were added, while Thalhimers took over an extra floor. But the mall's heyday was short-lived, and by the early 1990s the mall was gaining a reputation for drawing a dangerous crowd...
At first local residents were reportedly worried about gangs of youths with "huge baggy pants and chains hanging off their belts." But things took a far more sinister turn on 7 November 1996 when employees at the mall's All for One store were found stabbed to death in a back office. The victims, Cheryl Edwards and Charlita Singleton, were young mothers who had apparently been targeted after a robbery. The murderers responsible have never been caught.
Cloverleaf Mall declined further in the 2000s as its anchor stores decided not to renew their leases. By 2005 various institutions were applying to buy the site. These even included a local church, which according to some sources wanted to turn Cloverleaf into a sanctuary. Chesterfield County eventually swooped in to purchase the mall and closed it for good in 2008. It stood empty for three years until its demolition in 2011. In its place stands Stonebridge Shopping Center, an 8.1-acre retail center that has recently been sold to new developers for $12 million.
After various last-ditch attempts to reinvigorate the mall failed, the Metro North Shopping Center was closed for good in 2014. At the time developers planned to launch a $200 million renovation plan that would turn the site into an open-air retail hub. However, this plan was eventually abandoned. The mall was finally demolished in 2017 and a golf and entertainment complex has now been built in its place.
You can see more of photographer Seph Lawless's abandoned places photography and buy his books at sephlawless.com.
Now take a look at America's abandoned towns falling into ruin