America's first mall is about to be redeveloped into offices, homes, and an NHL training center. We went inside and found it eerily empty.
Irene Jiang / Business Insider
- Northgate Mall was the first shopping center in America to be called a mall.
- Northgate's developers plan to transform the mall into a mixed-use commercial and residential complex that will also have an NHL training center.
- Major retailers are fleeing the mall in droves, with Nordstrom as the latest addition to the bandwagon.
- We visited the mall to see what it was like, and we found that it was eerily abandoned.
- Visit Business Insider's homepage for more stories.
Opened in 1950, Northgate Mall in Seattle was the first shopping center in America to be called a mall.But now, after years of struggling to reinvent the mall, developers have decided to transform the property and the land surrounding it into a mixed-use commercial and residential complex and NHL training center. The project is expected to be complete in 2021. Advertisement
Nordstrom is the latest of a slew of major retailers including JCPenney and Macy's that have decided to close their Northgate locations. Merchandise and employees from the Northgate store will be redistributed to other Nordstrom stores in the area. The Nordstrom Rack, however, will remain open.local reports saying they were forced out by developers.
Not even phone-charging stations and a Pokemon Go play center were able to save America's first mall from the retail apocalypse.We toured the mall to see what it was like, and we were unnerved by how eerily abandoned it was:
There was a strange, sewage-like smell in the eerily empty courtyard leading to the mall's entrance.
Its halls were built to handle a much larger volume of foot traffic than it receives these days.Advertisement
Vacant storefronts were absolutely everywhere.
We saw a sign being stripped down from a shuttered, empty store.Advertisement
Old Navy was still around, although it was running closing clearance specials.
Its estranged twin, Gap, fared no better.Advertisement
Its windows and walls were littered with red sale signs.
The store appeared to simply be clearing out as much merchandise as possible.Advertisement
That meant not just clothes ...
... but everything in the store, including fixtures and mannequins.Advertisement
Signs on shuttered stores promised "More Style Coming Soon." However, the mall's redevelopment won't be completed until 2021, and then, it will no longer be a traditional mall.
The mall is not going without a fight. Recently added charging stations invite shoppers to stay longer.Advertisement
There was even a futuristic Pokemon Center.
However, these well-intentioned methods of modernization have apparently done little to draw shoppers to the mall's stores.Advertisement
Torrid was barely keeping its lights on.
And iconic soft pretzel vendor Wetzel's Pretzels didn't have any takers.Advertisement
But, neither did Auntie Anne's.
Loft looked like a mausoleum.Advertisement
And fast-fashion favorite Forever 21 remained devoid of fans despite a flurry of pink signs heralding massive markdowns.
Macy's has been the anchor store at Northgate since 1950, when it was still the Bon Marché.Advertisement
Now, Macy's plans to close its Northgate store this month, as soon as its lease expires.
The store was in the process of purging all its contents.Advertisement
The jewelry section was a a ghost town.
Signs everywhere advertised that the entire store was on sale, and staff members were nowhere to be seen.Advertisement
The shoe section's racks had been cleared, and the remaining shoes were organized by size on display tables.
What was left of Macy's Home was on steep, steep discount.Advertisement
But there wasn't much left.
Deeper into the store, the scenery was even more desolate.Advertisement
Entire sections had been cleared out, and nothing remained except for the signs advertising the closing sales.
Walking through this Macy's felt like watching the final scene of "Friends," when the apartment we'd become so attached to over the years is emptied out, signaling the end of an era.Advertisement
Across the way, Nordstrom was much more full of life. Nordstrom will transfer employees and merchandise to other area stores after this one closes.
Business was largely as usual as the store commenced its bi-yearly anniversary sale.Advertisement
There was yellow tape signaling great deals — for Nordstrom club members only, of course.
The store's colorful displays were in full bloom.Advertisement
And even though Topshop has officially left the US, it lives on forever (or at least for now) in the Nordstroms of our malls.
Even though Nordstrom plans to close the store in August, the cosmetics department will still go through with its bi-yearly beauty festival.Advertisement
However, Nordstrom was definitely an exception.
Spencer's, once a temple for the edgy teen, has also jumped on the bandwagon of Northgate store closures.Advertisement
A tip of the hat to whoever can guess what store this used to be.
Tween girl accessory hawker Claire's was still blindingly colorful and unnervingly peppy, much like the buy-three-get-three jewelry inside.Advertisement
It looked like the photo booth hadn't seen any love since the '80s.
A Sarku's employee waited for stray passersby, holding a plastic tray of teriyaki chicken samples getting colder by the minute.Advertisement
Although mostly empty, the food court was the most populated section of the mall.
There was a lot of competition for very few customers, but this was a Battle Royale with no winners.Advertisement
Northgate Mall has served the middle class of north Seattle for over half a century. Soon, its doors will be closing forever.
Over the years, the mall has had to reinvent itself time and again to keep up with changing consumer trends and demographics. Will its new life as a mixed-use complex restore its profitability, or is it too late for the first mall in America?Advertisement
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