Victor Gruen (1903-1980)
Photo from US News and World Report
(See Media Fair Use rationale at end of article)
Much has been written about Victor Gruen (Gruenbaum), the Austrian e'migre' who escaped Nazi-occupied Europe in 1938 and arrived in New York City with a degree in architecture, eight dollars in cash and no command of the English language.

From these humble beginnings sprang an illustrious 39-year career in the design of retail structures, which got underway with his creation of fashionable Fifth Avenue boutiques and work on renovating several Manhattan department stores.

At the close of WW II, America -after years of depression and conflict- was ready for some major economic expansion, with virtually all this growth occurring in new, outlying suburbs. The regional shopping center was to become the center of commerce in this reconfigured landscape.

Gruen had many innovative concepts that were utilized in constructing these new-style, suburban centers. He also had a great deal of input in the urban renewal projects that resulted from America's shift away from downtown-centered commerce.

The best known of his concepts -The Gruen Transfer- involved trying to increase consumer spending by manipulating shoppers to do impulse buying. According to Gruen, this could be accomplished via unconscious influences of lighting, ambient sound and music, visual detail of storefronts, mirrored or polished surfaces and climate control of interior spaces.

Gruen also believed that America's central cities, which had been decimated by suburbanization in the 1950s and '60s, could be revitalized by constructing expressway loops around downtown areas, routing automobile traffic into parking garages and creating pedestrian-only zones -free of vehicular traffic- on previously-existing streets.

His first downtown redevelopment plan was commissioned by Fort Worth, Texas in 1955, but never carried out. Kalamazoo, Michigan, Fresno, California and Honolulu, Hawaii implemented parts of Gruen's plans....building only pedestrian malls.

Twenty-seven Gruen-designed shopping hubs have been inducted into the MALL HALL OF FAME. Articles for Northland Center, Valley Fair Center, Southdale Center, Riverside Plaza, Bay Fair Center, Eastland Center, Glendale Center, Winrock Center, Cherry Hill Mall, Midtown Plaza, Randhurst Center, Topanga Plaza, Greengate Mall, Westland Center, Plymouth Meeting Mall, South Coast Plaza, Midland Mall, Lakehurst Mall, Central City Mall and Twelve Oaks Mall are included in this section.

Write-ups for Northway Mall, Brookdale Center, Rosedale Center, South Hills Village, South Shore Plaza and Maryvale Shopping City may be found by clicking here...

An article for Southland Center (Taylor, Michigan) may be accessed by clicking here...

Click on map image for a larger view.
It was not until 1962 that a fully-realized, "Gruenized", downtown was dedicated....under the auspices of Rochester, New York's MIDTOWN PLAZA.

Several American cities jumped on the Gruen-influenced, downtown shopping mall / urban renewal bandwagon. However, by the 1980s, the newness had worn off. The fact had to be faced; no redevelopment scenario, even though grandly-conceived and expensive, could reverse the exodus of retail trade from the blighted central city. Most downtown malls were eventually torn down, with the pedestrian-only streets being re-opened to automobile traffic.

Gruen's idea of a suburban shopping mall as a European-style town center of culture and entertainment was plausible for a while. The enclosed, mega mall of the 1960s was often promoted as a venue for concerts, pageants and other public events. However, mall management entities eventually came to the conclusion that hosting such large-scale events was a cost-prohibitive endeavor, involving a great deal of problems and liability issues. Such spectacles became less and less frequent.

So, Victor's vision of the American retail center as a new-style, public gathering space was eventually undermined by the corporate directive for mere profit. He became disillusioned and returned to Vienna in 1967. Shortly before his death in 1980, Gruen dismissed the shopping mall, which he had been instrumental in creating, as a "bastard development".

Forthcoming is a selection of Victor Gruen's most noteworthy shopping mall projects. Some never made it past the drawing board stage. Others came to fruition and remain viable retail centers to this day. Still others were successful for a number of years but have since been partly, or entirely, redeveloped.
Detroit's Eastland Center Project

Gruen's first design for a shopping mall was commissioned by Detroit's J.L Hudson Company. A suburban center would be built in the eastern environs of the Motor City. Above, we have a rendering of the Hudson's that was to anchor the prospective EASTLAND CENTER. The circular structure was to include a rooftop parking deck.

A circa-1950 site plan for what would have been Greater Detroit's first regional shopping center. Korean conflict building material shortages put the brakes on construction. A more conventional -Gruen-designed- mall opened on the site 7 years later.

One of Victor Gruen's earliest shopping center plans was commissioned by Detroit's J.L. Hudson Company in 1950. The chain was pondering expanding to suburban locations. A 97.8 acre tract, 14 miles northeast of the urban core and located in Gratoit ["Grash-it"] Township / Wayne County, was under consideration for development.

A space-age design complex envisioned by Victor Gruen was to be anchored by a circular Hudson's department store, which would have had a rooftop parking deck. The shopping venue was to be open-air, comprising nine store blocks; these arranged in a circle around a center parking area. The buildings would be connected via walkways and plazas in between, with an underground service tunnel providing out-of-sight freight access to the stores.

The plan was quite revolutionary for its time. However, building material shortages due to the Korean conflict put the project on indefinite hiatus in 1951. 6 years later, a more conventional design, open-air shopping mall opened on the site. 
Houston's Montclair Center Project

Gruen's second prospective retail center was to be built on a two parcel (23.7 acre total) site, located 6 miles west of downtown Houston. The plan envisaged for the MONTCLAIR SHOPPING CENTER was even more innovative than that of Detroit's circa-1950 EASTLAND.

The proposed Houston complex was to be anchored by two major department stores. This was unheard of in 1952, when what few suburban shopping malls that existed were centered on only one. Moreover, the complex was to feature a fully-enclosed and climate controlled "mall" area...yet another radical -and untried- concept.

The center would have straddled the two adjoining land lots, with Weslayan Street (which bisected the site) being routed beneath the mall structure. This design feature, along with a rooftop parking deck, made the construction cost for the center prohibitive.

Gruen and his backers were unable to commit two competing department stores to the project. The plan was abandoned, with a smaller-scale strip center eventually being built on the property.

Gruen's MONTCLAIR CENTER plan, several years ahead of its time, was perhaps too radical a concept for the conservative, early 1950s. At the time, the idea of a single-anchor, open-air mall was only starting to catch on. Here, we had a plan for a bi-anchor, fully-enclosed shopping complex. Radical indeed!
Detroit's Northland Center

In 1954, the third Victor Gruen-designed shopping mall, the first to actually be built, came inline. Its J.L. Hudson would be the largest branch department store ever built in the United States. Encompassing 4 levels and 511,500 square feet, it was rebranded by Marshall Field's in 2001 and Macy's in 2006.

The four directionally-designated malls of the Motor City started with Southfield's NORTHLAND CENTER, in 1954. EASTLAND CENTER, in Harper Woods, was completed in 1957. WESTLAND CENTER, in Westland, was third in line...coming inline in 1965. The final foray, Taylor's SOUTHLAND CENTER, opened in 1970.
Click on map for a larger view

Proclaimed a "shopping paradise" and a "city within a city" upon its completion in March 1954, NORTHLAND CENTER was America's largest shopping center for its first 2 years in business. It was also one of the most influential -and copied- of America's post-war shopping hubs.

Two shots of the Great Lakes Court, at the southeast corner of the complex. The multistory structure in both pictures is its humongous Hudson's.
Photo from Malls of America Blogspot

The North Mall and S.S. Kresge 5 & 10.
Photo from Malls of America Blogspot

The East Mall, running along the back side of the center.
Photo from Malls of America Blogspot

A site plan dated 20 years after the first. Two additional store blocks (in dark gray) were built in 1970. By 1973, two additional anchor stores were underway. Montgomery Ward was completed and open for business...J.C. Penney's was under construction. It would open -in 1974- along with a newly-enclosed mall.

A view of the mammoth mall soon after it made the change from outdoor to indoor. A new J.C. Penney may be seen in the lower right.
Photo from Malls of America Blogspot

A more recent photo, showing the Hudson's anchor before it was refitted with a Marshall Field's nameplate, in 2001. The store was rebranded as a Macy's in late 2006 and shuttered in early 2015.
Photo from

NORTHLAND CENTER turned 60 in March 2014. After all of its years in business, it still held the distinction of being the largest shopping center in The Wolverine State.
Photo from

One of the few remaining vestiges of Victor Gruen. The Bear and Boy sculpture, crafted by Marshall Fredericks, was created for the 1954 shopping center. In this photo, it is being used as a centerpiece of a court area in the enclosed mall.
Photo from

The mall entrance of Target, the most recent anchor store addition. The 116,000 square foot store opened in the spring of 1996...and was shuttered in February 2015.
Photo from

The ever-changing anchor line-up at Greater Detroit's NORTHLAND CENTER. Built in a day when the typical regional shopping center had just one major department store, the complex was eventually expanded to feature four.

A circa-2014 site plan. The 1995-1996 expansion, which included Target, is shown in light gray. The 2015 shuttering of this store, and of Macy's, left the mega mall anchor-less. Nearly 50 percent vacant, NORTHLAND CENTER was shuttered in April 2015, ending over half a century of operation. 
Northwestern Highway and 8 Mile Road
Oakland County (Southfield), Michigan

The third mall-type center designed by master architect Victor Gruen was the first to be actually built. NORTHLAND CENTER was situated on a 163 acre tract, 10 miles northwest of center city Detroit, in unincorporated Oakland County / Southfield Township. Ground was broken for the project May 7, 1952.

The original complex was a sprawling -1,045,000 square foot- open-air structure. It encompassed 2 levels; one devoted entirely to retail, the other being a service basement and fallout shelter. A 4-level (486,200 square foot) J.L. Hudson, the first suburban location in the Detroit-based chain, was situated in the center of the cluster-type mall. This store was surrounded by five retail blocks and seven open court areas. All enclosed structures were air-conditioned.

Court areas at NORTHLAND CENTER featured fountains, magnolia and cherry trees and flowers. Prerecorded music could be heard over a system of loudspeakers. Thirteen sculptures had been designed by six artisans. These works included "Water Mobile" and "Fish Group" (by Richard Hall Jennings), "Turtle" (by Arthur Craft),"Baby Elephant" and "Giraffe Family" (by Malcom Moran), "Birds of Flight" (by Gwen Lux) and "Bear and Boy" (by Marshall Fredericks). 

The 30 million dollar shopping venue opened March 22, 1954, with sixty-five stores and services. Within months, a total of eighty-one were in business. At the time of the mall's completion, its 7,500 car capacity parking area was the largest in the world.

In keeping with the 1950s concept of a regional center as a one-stop shopping destination, the original NORTHLAND CENTER included ten dress shops, seven shoe stores, three millinery shops, three jewelry shops, four home furnishing & appliance stores, five men's & boy's shops and four restaurants, as well as a bank, post office, medical clinic, record store, drug store, beauty parlor, lost children office and three hundred seat Community Room. The mall even had its own fire department.

Charter tenants included Hughes & Hatcher men's wear, Winkelman's and Himelhoch's ladies' apparel, Barna-bee Children's Shops, Baker's Shoes, Chandler's Shoes, Sander's Confectionery, a Kroger supermarket and S.S. Kresge 5 & 10.

The area surrounding the shopping center was incorporated, as the city of Southfield, in September 1957. Improved access came in 1962, when the James Couzens (later John C. Lodge) Expressway was extended from Detroit's Wyoming Avenue to 8 Mile Road.

Newer shopping malls began to dot the region, including TEL-TWELVE MALL (1968-2001) {4.7 miles northwest, in Southfield}, LIVONIA MALL (1964-2009) {6.8 miles southwest, in Livonia} and WESTLAND CENTER (1965) {11.9 miles southwest, in Westland}. NORTHLAND CENTER had to do a major upgrade in order to compete.

A renovation and expansion was done in stages, between 1970 and 1974. Firstly, two store blocks were added to the southeast end of the complex. These were followed by two new anchors; a 1-level (122,200 square foot) Montgomery Ward and 2-level (284,000 square foot) J.C. Penney. The final phase of the renovation enclosed the mall. With all construction completed, NORTHLAND CENTER encompassed 1.5 million leasable square feet.

By the mid-1980s, the newness had begun to wear off. Several national chain tenants had vacated, including S.S. Kresge, Jo-Ann Fabrics and The Limited. However, Illinois-based Main Street joined the tenant list in 1986. This store would be rebranded by Wisconsin-based Kohl's in 1988.

The 1990s were also years of change at NORTHLAND CENTER. A Food Court was installed in 1991 and Mass-based T.J. Maxx added a junior anchor space. A southeastern expansion was completed in April 1996, adding a 1-level (116,000 square foot) Target. Montgomery Ward closed its store in early 1998

Along with the new century came more modifications. J.C. Penney was shuttered in June 2000, leaving a large vacancy. Kohl's pulled out of the mall in 2004. The old Montgomery Ward was leased to National Wholesale Liquidators, who opened in October 2004 but closed in November 2008. Hudson's was rebranded as Marshall Field's in early 2001 and morphed into Macy's in September 2006.

Between the mid-1990s and early 21st century, ownership of NORTHLAND CENTER changed three times. The latest transaction, concluded in December 2008, transferred the deed of the 1,680,000 shopping center to the New York City-based Ashkenazy Acquisition Corporation.

The shuttering of the NORTHLAND CENTER Target, on February 1, 2015, left the massive mall with just one anchor to sustain it. To add insult to injury, Cincinnati's Macy's Inc. announced that the mall's Macy's would also be shuttered. This transpired on March 23, 2015, leaving the historic shopping hub completely anchor-less.

By this time, NORTHLAND CENTER had defaulted on a 31 million dollar loan and was in receivership. 3 million was owed in back taxes and utility bills. An estimated 6 million dollars were needed to complete various repairs to the structure. In February 2015, an Oakland County judge approved plans to vacate and shutter the historic shopping hub. This process was completed April 10, 2015.


 "Shopping Centers: Locating Controlled Regional Centers" Eugene J. Kelley -1956
The Record-Eagle (Traverse City, Michigan)\
The Ottawa Citizen
The Detroit Free Press
The Milwaukee Journal
"Golden Northland" / Detroit Free Press / March 22, 2004 / Greta Guest, staff writer
Northland Center Leasing Plan / GP Northland Center, LLC / CC (Ashkenazy Acquisition Corporation)
San Jose's Valley Fair Center

A sign such as this stood at the main parking lot entrance into "San Jo's" first mall-type shopping hub. The complex opened for business in 1956.

A circa-56 site plan of the original VALLEY FAIR CENTER. In its early years, the mall had only a single anchor...Macy's San Francisco.

A bird's eye view of VALLEY FAIR, with the adjacent STEVENS CREEK PLAZA in the upper left corner.
Photo from Malls of America Blogspot

In the mid-1980s, the bulk of VALLEY FAIR CENTER was demolished. Its Macy's was incorporated into a newly-built, connecting corridor mall (shown in light gray). It linked the store with structures that were originally part of STEVENS CREEK PLAZA (indicated in black). The amalgamated shopping hub was called simply VALLEY FAIR.

A circa-2001 site plan shows all of the changes done to the mall since the 1980s. The 1986 structure (shown in black) has been expanded with a second mallway (indicated in medium gray) linking a new Nordstrom with the original Macy's (now a Women's Store). Three parking garages have also been added; Garage "A" was built in the mid-1990s. Garages "B" and "C" were completed between 1999 and 2001.

Australia's Westfield Group acquired The VALLEY FAIR property in the late '90s. Today, the center has multiple Macy's locations. The Men's & Home Furniture Gallery seen here was originally a Bay Area-based Emporium, in the old STEVENS CREEK PLAZA.
Photo from UCDVicky"

The retail hub was saddled with the unwieldy moniker WESTFIELD SHOPPINGTOWN VALLEY FAIR in 1999. Alas, the "shoppingtown" reference was dropped from the names of all Westfield properties in mid-2005.
Photo from "UCDVicky"
Stevens Creek Boulevard and Eastshore Freeway
San Jose, California

Victor Gruen's second bona fide shopping mall project was built on a 41 acre tract, located 5.5 miles southwest of San Jose's Central Business District. The mall site was adjacent to a newly-opened segment of the Eastshore Freeway.

VALLEY FAIR CENTER consisted of a single retail level with a service basement. The open-air venue, developed by Macy's San Francisco, was anchored by a 2-level (157,300 square foot) Macy's San Francisco. Initial stores in the 405,000 square foot complex were dedicated in August 1956. There would eventually be thirty-nine tenants, including Joseph Magnin apparel, an F.W. Woolworth 5 & 10 and Safeway supermarket.

In its early years, VALLEY FAIR CENTER was famous for the kiddie-ride amusement area that had been installed on the roof of its Macy's. Included were a 40-foot ferris wheel, merry-go-round and mini-train. These attractions were removed in late 1957.

The center was sold to the La Jolla, California-based Hahn Company in 1963. It was around this time that a 78,600 square foot third level was added to the existing Macy's, taking the space previously used for the "rooftop fair". A major renovation of VALLEY FAIR CENTER took place in the 1970s. The complex was fully-enclosed and a multilevel parking garage added to the east end. Henceforth, the shopping hub was known as VALLEY FAIR MALL.

Competing shopping malls sprang up in the region, including EASTRIDGE MALL (1971) {6.9 miles east, in southeast San Jose}, OAKRIDGE MALL (1973) {6.4 miles southeast, in San Jose}, VALLCO FASHION PARK (1976) {3.3 miles west, in Cupertino} and SUNNYVALE TOWN CENTER (1979-2007) {5.5 miles northwest, in Sunnyvale}.

In 1985, the Hahn Company -now technically known as TrizecHahn- acquired the neighboring STEVENS CREEK PLAZA and began a large-scale renovation of it and VALLEY FAIR MALL. The bulk of VALLEY FAIR was razed, leaving only the Macy's and its parking garage. The department store, expanded by 160,000 square feet, would now comprise 396,000 square feet of floor space.

A 100 million dollar, 2-level mall concourse was built, linking an expanded Macy's with the Emporium and I. Magnin at the old STEVENS CREEK PLAZA. At the center of the new center was a 2-level (168,000 square foot) Nordstrom. Renamed simply VALLEY FAIR, the amalgamated mall encompassed 1.2 million leasable square feet. One hundred and twelve stores (out of an eventual one hundred and seventy-five) were dedicated October 15, 1986.

Anchor stores at VALLEY FAIR changed nameplates during the 1990s. I. Magnin closed in 1992. Its area became inline store space. The Emporium was expanded with an additional (85,000 square foot) third level, for a grand total of 316,000 square feet. The store was rebranded as a Macy's Men's & Home Furniture Gallery in 1996.

In 1998, TrizecHahn sold the complex to a joint venture of Australia-based Westfield Holdings (now known as The Westfield Group) and the Maryland-based Rouse Company. Westfield soon established full ownership of the venue.

A major expansion began in late 1998. The project, encompassing three phases of construction, included two parking garages and a new 3-level (225,000 square foot) Nordstrom. A fifty-store, wrap-around concourse, built to the northeast of the existing mall and connecting the original Macy's and second Nordstrom, was dedicated in 2001. The circa-1986 Nordstrom was sectioned into smaller retail spaces within the new concourse.

2006 brought news of a third major expansion of the 1,475,600 square foot, two hundred sixty-two-store, WESTFIELD VALLEY FAIR. The project was to add 650,000 leasable square feet in a second wrap-around concourse of seventy-two stores. Moreover, two anchors, Neiman Marcus and Bloomingdale's, were to join the retail roster.

However, the economic collapse of the early 21st century slammed the brakes on the prospective remodeling project. A smaller facelift-type remodeling was completed in 2013.


"Westfield Valley Fair" article on Wikipedia / Mike Carrol Productions
Post By Paul
Santa Clara County tax assessor website                                                                         
San Francisco Business Chronicle (article by Renee Frojo)
Minneapolis' Southdale Center

A vintage SOUTHDALE trademark.
Graphic from The Dayton Corporation

Autumn 1954 and America's first regional-class, fully-enclosed shopping mall is in the early stages of construction. (Minnesota Historical Society -Southdale Mall)

By the autumn of 1956, finishing touches are being added to the new structure's indoor Garden Court. (Minnesota Historical Society -Southdale Mall)

On October 8, 1956, SOUTHDALE CENTER opens for business. The complex encompasses over 800,000 leasable square feet and will eventually house seventy-two stores and services. (Minnesota Historical Society -Southdale Mall)

A physical layout showing the orientation -and naming- of the mall's split level parking area. This drawing is a composite of the 2 retail levels, with Lower Level entrances indicated with black boxes. Those of the Upper Level are shown in gray.


DAYTON COMPANY (with Valley View Room restaurant and public auditorium) / L.S. DONALDSON (with Minnesota Room restaurant and public auditorium) / RED OWL SUPERMARKET / F.W. WOOLWORTH 5 & 10 (with lunch counter) / Anderson Shop China & Glassware / The Cotton Shop / Bachman's Florist / Roy H. Bjorkam, Inc. ladies' apparel / Boutell's Furniture / Bringold Meats / Suzy Hats / Brown Photo / Buttrey Stores, Inc. Women's Apparel / Chandler's Shoes / Baker's Shoes / DeLaria Delicatessen / Edina Liquor Store / Egekvist Bakery / Fanny Farmer Candies / Farm & Orchard Fruits & Vegetables / Farnham Stationers & School Supplies / First Southdale National Bank / Gager's Handicraft / Flagg Brothers Shoes / John W. Heller ladies' apparel / Household Finance / Jack & Jill Children's Shop / J.B. Hudson Jewelers / Jackson-Graves ladies' apparel / Juster Brothers men's apparel / Juvenile Shoes / Kelco Storeware / G.R. Kinney Shoes / Kiddie Koral children's amusement area (with zoo) / Fashion Beauty Salon / Marshall Wells Hardware / Minneapolis Gas Company / Mode O' Day Frock Shops / Marvin Orek & Associates ladies' apparel / Peck & Peck / The Purple Door Greeting Cards / Pets Unlimited / Peter Pan Restaurant / The Record Shop / Richman Brothers men's apparel / P. Schlampp & Sons Furiers / Shirley's Maternity Fashions / Sidewalk Cafe / Slenderella International / Southdale Men's Store / Southdale Appliance Repair Center / The Toy Fair / Thorpe Brothers Real Estate / United States Post Office / Walgreen Drug / Walter's, Incorporated ladies' apparel / White Way Cleaners / Wirt Wilson & Company

Southdale Garden Center / Pure Oil service station / Western Oil & Fuel Company    

A Complete Plan of the Lower Level of SOUTHDALE CENTER, as it was situated at the October 1956 grand opening. All thirty-three operational tenants are named.

A Complete Plan of the mall's circa-1956 Upper Level, with includes all its twenty-nine inline stores. Six freight transport "cores" are shown in medium gray. Each of these had a freight elevator, passenger elevator and set of stairs.

A cut-away view of the SOUTHDALE CENTER Garden Court. The tall structure on the left is the 45-foot-high bird aviary, which, as per Victor Gruen's instructions, was stocked with sixty songbirds. Bird cages such as this became a standard fixture of America's early shopping malls.

A color postcard pic of the SOUTHDALE Garden Court. The 100-foot-wide plaza provided shoppers a respite among its fountains, flora and fauna. There were also a Sidewalk Cafe and modern art sculptures. The new concepts presented here were emulated in every interior mall built in America over the next 30 years.
Photo from (James Lileks)

Southdale's primary anchor, Minneapolis-based Dayton's.
Photo from Malls of America Blogspot

An interior view of the new Dayton's Southdale store. Here we see the "TV and Radios" Department. (Minnesota Historical Society -Southdale Mall)

An F.W. Woolworth 5 & 10 was one of the original mall's junior anchors. (Minnesota Historical Society -Southdale Mall)

Shoppers peruse merchandise for sale on the upper level of the newly-opened Woolworth's. (Minnesota Historical Society -Southdale Mall)

The first expansion of the basic SOUTHDALE footprint was completed in 1972, with J.C. Penney added as a third anchor. This addition is shown in dark gray. The mall's second enlargement was built between 1989 and 1992. It brought a new Dayton's and two parking garages. The old Dayton's (in medium gray) was expanded with a fourth level and sectioned into inline store spaces, including a 10-bay Food Court.

A current view of the Garden Court at SOUTHDALE CENTER.
Photo from Wikipedia / "Gephart"

Trendz On Top, a teenage apparel district using 4th floor space of the old Dayton's, opened in 2002.
Photo from Wikipedia / "Gephart"

A circa-2011 physical layout of the 1,339,000 square foot retail hub. The Mervyn's (nee' Donaldson's) space sat vacant for over 7 years before a Herberger's opened, in late 2011, to fill the vacancy.

In late 2012, a renovation was completed. It reconfigured the J.C. Penney wing, shifting a mall concourse westward and adding a new Food Court. The original Food Court, on the top floor of the old Dayton's store space, was gutted and rebuilt into a Dave & Buster's, which opened in the summer of 2015. Meanwhile, Marshalls (on the basement level of the complex) closed in September 2013.

After four major remodelings, the nation's -and world's- first fully-enclosed, regional-class shopping mall encompasses 1,339,000 leasable square feet and houses around one hundred and twenty-four stores and services. In the photo above, we see the Northwest Entrance. This accesses the relocated (Second Level) Food Court, that was built as part of the 2011-2012 renovation.
Photo from (Simon Property Group)  
West 66th Street and France Avenue South
Edina, Minnesota

With his NORTHLAND CENTER project in suburban Detroit under construction, mall architect Victor Gruen was on a roll. In 1952, he was commissioned by Minneapolis' Dayton Company to design a retail complex for the Twin Cities.

The prospective center was to be built on an 82 acre tract, eight miles southwest of downtown Minneapolis, in the Village of Edina ["uh-diy-nuh"]. The land parcel had been part of the Robinson-Day Farm.

SOUTHDALE CENTER was to be a completely revolutionary merchandising complex. Whereas stores in shopping centers up to this time faced outward, toward the parking lot, most in SOUTHDALE would face inward. There would be little exterior signage defining individual stores.

Freight would be brought into the center via an underground "truck road" tunnel. From an adjacent basement, stock would be taken to stores through a system of six "core" elevators. All of this would be completely out of sight of the shopping center's patrons.

SOUTHDALE was modeled on the concept of a European city center. It would serve as a suburban place for shopping and socializing...specially adapted to fit America's emerging car culture.

Ground was broken at the SOUTHDALE site October 29, 1954. On October 8, 1956, America's first regional-class, fully-enclosed shopping mall opened for business. The 20 million dollar -810,000 square foot- structure was centered around a 3-story -100 foot wide- Garden Court, which had tropical landscaping, sculpture, a fountain pool, Sidewalk Cafe and 45-foot-high bird aviary.

There were two retail floors. The split level parking area surrounding the complex was named for animals, such as "Alligator", "Rooster", "Peacock" and the like; this done to make it easier for shoppers to remember how to get back to cars parked somewhere in the five thousand two hundred spaces provided.

Anchoring SOUTHDALE CENTER were a 3-level (238,000 square foot), Minneapolis-based Dayton Company and 3-level (179,000 square foot), Minneapolis-based L.S. Donaldson. The latter was designed by Seattle's John Graham, Junior.

The initial tenant list of sixty-two included Walgreen Drug, Baker's Shoes, Marshall Wells Hardware, Edina Liquors, Buttrey's Ladies' Wear, Richman Brothers Men's Wear, an F.W. Woolworth 5 & 10 and Red Owl supermarket. Outparcels of the original mall were the Dayton's Garden Shop and Pure Oil Company and Western Oil & Fuel Company filling stations.

Gruen's plan for the mall to be the nucleus of a 498 acre development of homes, medical and office facilities, schools and a public park did not come to pass. Nonetheless, SOUTHDALE became the model for the mega-malled America of the 1960s and '70s. This was not what Victor Gruen had had in mind.

Minnesota's first twin cinema, the Southdale I & II, opened in 1966. The 1,950 seat theater was built as an outparcel of the mall. It was renovated into the Southdale I-II-III in 1975 and became the Southdale I-II-III-IV in 1980. The venue was shuttered August 16, 1990 and demolished soon after.

The first major remodeling at SOUTHDALE CENTER added a Northeast Wing and 4-level (247,000 square foot) J.C. Penney. The project was completed in 1972. Sometime thereafter, a 1-level (44,900 square foot) Marshalls opened in the basement of the complex.

Retail rivals of SOUTHDALE were KNOLLWOOD MALL (1972) {4.6 miles northwest, in St. Louis Park} and EDEN PRAIRIE CENTER (1976) {4.8 miles southwest, in Eden Prairie}. GALLERIA EDINA, situated adjacent to the south side of the SOUTHDALE site, started out in 1959 as a freestanding furniture store. This was expanded into an enclosed shopping center in 1974.

Fearing major competition from MALL OF AMERICA, which was being built only 4.3 miles southeast, the owners of SOUTHDALE embarked upon a large-scale expansion in 1989. This began with the construction of a new 4-level (359,600 square foot) Dayton's, on the northwest side of the existing mall, which was connected with two new parking garages. The original Dayton's closed August 7, 1990, with the new location beginning business August 9.

The old Dayton's structure was expanded with a fourth level and subdivided into sixty inline stores. These included Petits, The Body Shop and an 11-bay Food Court. The Garden Court was also doubled in size. Tenants in the old Dayton's began opening in July 1991, with store dedications continuing into the following year.

The most recent expansion of SOUTHDALE CENTER, added to its southeast end, got underway in January 2001. A new multiplex, the MegaStar Southdale 16, showed its first features December 1, 2001. District On France, an adjacent lifestyle-type collection of sit-down restaurants, debuted with P.F. Chang's China Bistro, in November 2001.

This was followed by Cheesecake Factory (May 2002), California Pizza Kitchen (July 2002) and Maggiano's Little Italy (November 2002). A section of teen-oriented shoppes, Trendz On Top, was built in an expanded fourth level of the old Dayton's.

These additions increased the leasable square footage at SOUTHDALE to 1,339,000, with space for one hundred and fifty-eight stores and services.

The Dayton's store morphed into a Marshall Field's in August 2001 and was "Macy-ated" September 9, 2006. Donaldson's was rebranded a Chicago-based Carson Pirie Scott August 10, 1988 and Hayward, California-based Mervyn's July 29, 1995. This store was shuttered in July 2004. The MegaStar multiplex was rebranded as the AMC Southdale 16 in early 2004.

The Indianapolis-based Simon Property Group assumed ownership of SOUTHDALE CENTER in April 2007. The company -in a joint venture with San Francisco-based Farallon Capital Management- acquired the Arlington, Virginia-based Mills Corporation. SOUTHDALE had been a Mills property since January 2005.

An interior remodeling was done between December 2011 and December 2012 that reconfigured existing mall space. The 32 million dollar project altered the Northeast Wing, creating a more direct link between the Penney's store and Garden Court. Moreover, a 10-bay -Second Level- Food Court was created in front of J.C. Penney. Lastly, new restrooms, lighting, landscaping, and a children's play area were installed and all mall entrances were revamped.

Accompanying these improvements was a new anchor for SOUTHDALE CENTER. Minnesota-based Herberger's was signed for 135,000 square feet of the 179,000 square foot Donaldson's / Carson's / Mervyn's building. This new anchor opened for business November 9, 2011.


"Southdale" article on Wikipedia
Malls of America Blogspot / Keith Milford, webmaster / Post by "A2ZMpls"
Southdale Tenant List / Press Release / Ruder & Finn, Inc. / October 7, 1956 
Universal Productions Southdale Prospectus / Press Release / Ruder & Finn Inc. / October 7, 1956
About Town: The Official Magazine of The City of Edina / Winter 2007 / "Southdale Started A Revolution 50 Years Ago" / Joe Sullivan


The images from The Minnesota Historical Society illustrate a key moment in the mall's history that is described in the article. The images are of lower resolution than the originals (copies made would be of inferior quality). The images are not replaceable with free-use or public-domain images. The use of the images does not limit the copyright owners' rights to distribute the images in any way. The images are being used for non-profit, informational purposes only and their use is not believed to detract from the original images in any way.
Southern California's Riverside Plaza

The original RIVERSIDE PLAZA featured some high-end "Mid-mod" signage!
Photo from Malls of America Blogspot

A late 1950s view of the open-air mallway of RIVERSIDE PLAZA.
Photo from Malls of America Blogspot

The original, Victor Gruen-designed PLAZA. Notice the wide mallway down the middle, a Gruen trademark. John Graham, Jr., a mall designing contemporary of Mr. Gruen, favored much narrower concourses in his projects.