Thursday, September 20, 2012

The Not-So-Abandoned Washington Mall, Washington, PA.





Disclaimer: This post is in no way intended to show the Washington Mall, its current owners, management or tenants in a negative light.


 The plight of the American shopping mall is well documented on the internet. Sites like labelscar.com and deadmalls.com not only document the fall of the mall from its former glory  but also study the socio-economic factors which cause and result from the closing of our beloved malls. Most all of southwestern PA's malls have seen tough times. Some, like South Hills Village are hanging tough while others, like Fayette County's Laurel Mall have been re purposed as a weekend flea market. It would have been hard to imagine back in the 1980's that a mall would  be basically abandoned, but it is more common everyday.
 To get an idea of the ultimate dead mall Google 'Dixie Square Mall'. The recently demolished mall was the home of the famous car chase scene in the Blues Brothers movie. Most people don't know the mall was actually closed a full year before the movie was filmed. The mall was made up to appear active for the filming then was literally left behind. Made famous by fans of the movie, its slow multi-decade demise was well documented with entire websites dedicated to the rotting mall.

 Today, we ventured to the Washington Mall at the junction of interstates 79 and 70 in Washington, PА. The mall was built in 1968 and has, until the past several years, been a busy center of commerce in the area.  The movement of the JC Penny's to the ill-fated Foundry shopping plaza on nearby route 19 seemed the beginning (or end, depending on how you look at it) of the malls hard times. Although the Penny's eventually moved back into their former 3 level mall store, it seems it was too late. Most of the tenants had closed up shop or moved on by then.
 The decline of this mall was, too, well documented on the web.  If you read the replies to the post on labelscar.com about the Washington Mall, you will follow the decline.  One story even tells the tale of a would-be explorer being chased off mall property and down the road by an over zealous security guard (insert your Ben Klingston or Paul Blart joke here!).
 We had read both newspaper and internet accounts of the Washington Mall's poor condition and figured we need to document the mall and save the memories. Fortunately, we found the mall was not as bad as reported. It seems to us that some sort of clean up is in progress. The falling ceiling tiles had been removed and the mall seemed mostly clean, although still empty. There were no renegade security guards and other than a small plastic fence, the mall was easily accessible.

If you choose to visit the mall, cross the fence at your own discretion. If renovation is being attempted at the mall, we doubt they want folks strolling through work areas. Hopefully, this post brings some positive attention to the mall. If not, at least we saved some memories!

Some video of our trip....


















So just an update as of April, 2014.  We headed on back, as D needed something from JoAnne Fabrics (which we hear will be gone soon, and moving to a new location), and noticed a few changes.  Our entry point was sealed over w/ a wall......But if you try real hard, you can still get a glimpse inside the mall, just open the door.....






55 comments:

  1. Well written. Good pictures. It's been a couple months since I was there. It's the only Joann Fabrics and only place of choice for sewing fabrics for MILES around me! You have to enter the mall itself in order to enter Joann's. It's rather eerie and smells of sewage. BTW, I hope there are enough security guards to protect the copper from thieves. Love having the Penney's store back there! I hope more stores come in. I'd hate to see all that wasted like the old Walmart area in Uniontown on Rte 21. What a terrible waste. Thanks for covering this.

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  2. I was taking pictures here a couple years ago and a security guard came out of nowhere and yelled at me.

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  3. I live out in Avella Pa. and this was the place we would come once or twice a month. Well here and the Franklin Mall. Back in 1966-67 my dad was part owner and worked for Acme Welding, one of the construction companies who built the Mall,and the old McDonald's that sat across from the entrance to the mall.

    In all of the articles that are written about the death of these types of Malls no one has mentioned the reason the malls really closed, or at least the thing that drove the last nail in the coffin, Walmart.Which is the reason the K-Mart that use to be where the Home Depot parking lot is now. However, I am not going on a I hate Walmart rant, because it is part of the cycle.

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  4. Wow this brings back so many memories. Thanks so much for posting it. We spent a lot of time in this mall. Like your mom, mine shopped at Langs. My two boys and I used to go with her to help her pick out a pantsuit or dress. (Langs used to be on the main street in Washington right next to Caldwells). Then we would go to the toy store or 5 and 10 so they could look around. My oldest son's first little boy suit came from the childrens clothing store in the mall - it used to be in Canonsburg and was called the Childrens Shop. Mom worked at the Canonsburg store when she was a young girl and so the son, Julius Morris, who had the store at the mall knew her. The best was when Giant Eagle was in the corner in the front and I could get groceries while my husband entertained the kids. Thanks for the memories!!!!!!

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  5. I loved the Washington Mall, as most of the near by residence did. We enjoyed the variety of stores & the entertainment here. We would all like to see it return. I'm sorry, but I don't care for the Tanger Outlets. If I need something now, I usually just buy it on-line. The only thing is missing the people.

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  6. i remember when this mall opened. the penneys was supposed to be the largest in the chain. murphys 5 and 10 was a busy place. i moved from the area and was in the mall years later after they added on to it. to me that was the beginning of the decline.

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  7. So many places like this . I installed the alarm system at the Furniture discount store in there couple years ago and I am surprised they are still open.

    So many of these malls and big shopping centers have gone to rot luckily some have been redevelop or leveled and the eye sore and safety issues are gone but so many more need leveled. Just a matter of time till someone comes thru and does same so here hopefully

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    1. John S BradburnMay 9, 2015 at 4:39 AM

      This mall happens to be in good shape, despite being nearly empty. In the last year, several new stores have opened here. It is not an eyesore btw. It appears to be on it's way back and this is good for the local economy. Let's cross our fingers. There are NO plans to level this mall.

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    2. I hope so. It would be ashamed to see an almost abandoned mall with still a fighting chance and so much potential to just go to waste like Dixie Square or even Rolling Acres and be torn down to make way for another typical strip mall.

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    3. I was there, yesterday. Ate at a Chinese restaurant, shopped at Harbor Freight for tools. Sadly, the only remaining original occupant is now gone, JoAnne Fabrics. I also went to Staples and got some stuff, I am amazed the Toys "R' Us store stays. Although it was quite busy at Christmas. I am confused about something, the mall is well maintained, the heating and A/C work well.

      The parking lot is in great condition, why are the owners doing so much to keep the mall in good shape and not doing more to attract even more business to it? In my opinion, WalMart shouldn't have been given a permit to build their store or Trinity Point as long as Washington Mall had space and was available.

      At least I credit one thing, other malls in the country were forced to remove all combustibles; that meant they simply tore out interiors, leaving malls such as Randall Park Mall useles and ripe for vandalism.

      I add also that the security guards there seem to have mental disorders. As I was leaving, I put a cigarette in my mouth, unlit. "Put out that cigarette". Whatever. Maybe more customers would go tho this mall and more stores would open if they hired normal security guards?

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  8. Great piece brought back so many memories. Pizza Boy pizza rocked!! used to go there all the time while our parents shopped and after we would see a movie. Also that pretzel place had the best pretzels and of course Shorty's was awesome amazing how those guys would lay those buns up their arm like 10 of them and put the ketchup and mustard on them in a flash. Its a shame this place is going to waste so much history and memories here.

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  9. This was always my favorite mall in it's heyday I remember as a little kid my parents would take us there on Sundays, especially around the holidays, to walk thru the mall and window shop. (When the stores were all closed on Sunday). All the animated Christmas decorations, they were really something special at that time.

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  10. i still remember setting up the xmas store for the old washington harley at the mall when i worked for angie..old times missed alot

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  11. This story brought back so many memories. Pizza Boy, the arcade, National Record Mart, Shorty's hotdogs, Langs (for Mom) and working at Afterthoughts when I was a teenager.

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  12. Now that Penny's will be leaving again........will there be anything else going in or abandoned again Mall???!!!

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  13. We're not sure. Most of us grew up with the Washington Mall and would love to see it return to its former glory. Time will tell. We'll keep you posted on anything we hear!

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  14. Crazy question - does anyone remember the name of the store on the corner, near the Pretzel Oven, and it was a kind of hobby and card shop? Been trying to remember for years. If anyone remembers, email me at: stonervideo@cfl.rr.com !

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    1. John S BradburnMay 9, 2015 at 4:42 AM

      I loved the Silver Mine, it opened where GC Murphy had been. The Silver Mine is now on RT 19, across from Washington Ford.

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  15. I remember the store but not the name. It was a Hallmark type store but I don't think it was Hallmark.I remember buying model rockets there! I'll ask my sister.For some reason,she remembers stuff like that!

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    1. The hobby store was the Silver Mine. It is now located on the corner of Route 19 and Cameron Road by Subway.

      I think the reason people have been viewing this more lately has to do with the fact that JCPenney and DFW are closing and Joann Fabrics is relocating to Washington Crown Center. All that is left in the mall is the Grand China Buffet, Staples and Toys R Us. I am thinking with the redirection of Staples from bricks and morter to online, Staples will be the next to go. Toys R Us would be smart to think about jumping ship as well to a new location. The Chinese restaurant is locally owned, so I don't know what they would do.

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    2. John S BradburnMay 9, 2015 at 4:46 AM

      Harbor Freight, a national chain, has recently opened a store there. I think the reason that more people are viewing this site is that the newspaper said more new stores may open at Washington Mall.

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  16. I stopped by yesterday. Toys R Us, Staples, Grand China Buffet, and Imperial Cleaners are all that's left. Jo-Ann Fabrics will be there until either July 23 or 24, then they move to the Washington Crown Center. Apparently DFW Furniture will become a Harbor Freight Tools. There are guys working inside Penney's and DFW. Two entrances, across from Jo-Ann and next to Penney's, have drywall blocking access to the interior of the mall, though one of the doors by Penney's is open for the Mall Office. The door by Jo-Ann's may be unlocked, but I didn't try it since people were walking around. The entrance by the former DFW allows you to see considerable water damage inside from the doors to the hallway split. One of the suspended lights broke and is hanging by one side near the entrance.

    I always thought it was interesting that the mall sloped uphill right by Lang's and the restaurant.

    I'm wondering what their plans are for the mall. I want to be hopeful that they are fixing it up to reopen, but I've seen it too many times where buildings are demolished to make way for new buildings.

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  17. After passing through Washington the other day, the Harbor Freight Tools store is now open in the former DFW/Rex Appliances space and was quite busy. A Spirit Halloween has opened up in part of the JC Penney first floor. Joann has left and the hallway to access is locked from the outside. The only place to enter the mall interior is next to the former JC Penney, which is where the Mall Office is located. Also, an Oil and Gas Safety Supply store has opened in the former Elby's/Cici's on the mall perimeter. Toys R Us, Staples, and Grand China remain open.

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    1. We stopped at Harbor Freight the other day. As best as I can remember, that was the first time being in that store space. I never visited DFW, and I don't recall going in when it was Rex. I circled the mall one night, and all bigger/main entrances are drywalled over and every door is locked. They still leave some of the lights on inside, and they still have that green tint that I remembered from when the mall was open.

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  18. One think that is bothering me is "how will the old mall stay afloat with penny's gone? Or even Joan fabrics." Though I have never been to Washington PA and probably never will be. Is there any hope for that mall? By the looks of it; it might be heading down the way that Rolling Acres was, and it's completely abandon now. Can you post more updates on the mall and maybe even post a video update on it soon?

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  19. The one thing Washington Mall has going for it is location.It sits at the intersection of Interstates 70 and 79 which are the major east-west and north -south routes to/from Pittsburgh.Hopefully that will come into play.When we shot the video,we had hopes it would rebound.With the closing of Penny's,it looks doubtful. We will post any updates here or on our Facebook page.

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    1. John S BradburnMay 9, 2015 at 4:57 AM

      You are correct about the location. I live 5 minutes from this mall, and have seen repair crew trucks there lately. I haven't seen anyone post about the real reasons for this mall's sad situation. No, it wasn't because of the decline of malls generally. It was due to idiotic management, which is well documented in old Washington Observer-Reporter articles. JCPenney even stated that was the main reason they left.

      The landlords were hard to get along with and even kicked out many stores, when Washington Hospital made an offer to lease this mall. After the stores were kicked out, and after the mall owners refused to allow Giant Eagle to expand; Washington Hospital also had problems with the owners and cancelled the deal. This left almost nothing there.

      By the way, Kmart left the adjoining Washington Plaza (now Home Depot) for the same reason and built a new store at Donaldsons Crossroads.

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    2. Penny's closed that store because it was a corporate decision. They closed multiple locations in the US. Not just in Washington, PA. Management may have had a small factor but it was going to close regardless. I would love to see this place up and running again but I doubt that we will see it happen. With Franklin Mall, Tanger Outlets, and the INTERNET, I don't think that it has a fighting chance. It's too bad because there are alot of memories there, but memories don't open stores or bring enough customers. I think this is all just wishful thinking.

      I also don't think it was mainly Walmart that killed that mall either. Now a days all u have to do to buy a product is go online and it gets shipped to you. It's nice, you don't have to waste time and gas in your vehicle, but it does take the joy of socializing with people. Wonder why this new generation of teens have social problems? It's because they don't have to get off their but to accomplish anaything.

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    3. The newer Kmart in Donaldson Crossroads was already there while the Kmart 4009 was still operating. The Kmart in that Plaza was along with Penny's the original anchor stores. Kmart closed that store due to the fact that their long term lease ran out and Falconi wanted an enormous amount of money in the new lease. That Kmart was the oldest existing Kmart east of the Mississippi River.

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    4. I think people are forgetting that before Walmart moved to Trinity Point, it was right across the street from the Washington Mall where Penn Commercial is now. Granted, it wasn't a Super Walmart, but the grocery section doesn't compete with a shopping mall any way.

      I'm no supporter of Walmart, but I think it's silly and unfair to blame it for the Washington Mall's failure.

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    5. I moved to this area in Nov. 1993 and remember the Washington Mall of that time. Little Professor Book Store, Shorty's, Pizza Boy, National Record Mart, KayBee Toys (my kids were 3 and 4 then and I liked KayBee better than toys r us), Clairs, Penny's(although I was never fond of the chain), I remember the XXI Amendment and thinking it was a "swanky" place. Spencer Gifts, Hallmark, the Christian book store. I remember the Big Boy out back by the intersate and the State Store was back there too. I remember a Giant Eagle over by the toys r us. Someone help me out here but wasn't there a Pier One Imports there too? My kids remember the McDonalds across Rt. 19, it had the big playyard there. I don't remember the Kmart and I only shopped at the old Wal Mart once in 1997 when I did my one and only time Black Friday shopping ( yes back when it was still only on Friday and I found out why I had never done it before and have never done it since). It is sad to see so much of the past glories deteriorating.

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  20. This comment has been removed by the author.

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    1. Why was comment removed????

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  21. Little do these 2 Jagoffs know that the feminine guy that owend Pizza Boy had a smoking hot wife.

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    1. He did,Huh...? Good for him. Hope hes still hitting it like a freight train.

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    2. Not sure why the comment was removed. It was removed by the author, not us. We only delete spam.

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  22. Christina LemleyMay 9, 2016 at 3:16 PM

    I loved this Mall and miss it. I literally grew up with it. I was born the day after it opened and every year as I got older I looked forward to their sidewalk sales which fell on there anniversary in October! Pizza Boy,Shorty's,National Record Mart,Lang's,Abracadabra,Foxmoor,Haynes Triangle,Mikus styling salon,Thrift Drug,Little Professor,the Pet store(can't remember the name) and that little kiosk across from Pizza Boy that sold the Rock and Roll t-shirts and parafanalia were part of the original mall... I remember the Purple and Yellow original tile floor.. The marionette shows and of course the fountain in the middle... I felt like it was my mall since I was there so much. Lol.. Sad that it's gone..

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    1. Christina LemleyMay 9, 2016 at 3:22 PM

      I forgot to add that GC Murphy's was in the center of the mall. My mother worked at the one up in town for many years and we used to stop there and at the diner counter quite often during our shopping trips so she could visit with old co-workers. Wonderful memories for sure!

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  24. Just stopped by again today to get ink at Staples.

    Mostly the same, but the awning over the entrance beside Staples is gone and the doors have been replaced with plywood. There was a truck parked by an open door, guessing it's the facility office.

    The cinema is in the process of being demolished, I'm sad to report. The whole lobby has been tore out, revealing the projection booths above the theater room entrances (and the projectors still pointing towards the screens). The awnings are tearing a little more, all the panels from the movie sign are gone, and there is a gaping hole in the side of the building (urb-ex opportunity at your own risk).

    The mall is still locked up tight.

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  25. The cinema is almost gone. The entire interior will be gone soon.

    The mall is rumored to be demolished as well. Not sure what that means for JC Penney's space. Spirit Halloween is currently in there. I would imagine that the current stores would be left standing. The interior has been mostly gutted.

    You all might want to get some photographs soon if you want them. I doubt the mall will see the end of the year.

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  26. Wow. The mall certainly doesn't look like the pictures anymore. I stopped last night and looked through the entrance by Harbor Freight with help of my car's headlights.

    They have been busy stripping the interior. Only scars of the storefronts remain, the box lights are still there for now, as is the sign for Ci-Ci's Pizza. They've managed to get some more lights working inside (I think they poached them from the T hallway as it is now half-dark). I've been hearing rumors that demolition will begin in January, but again, I don't know what that means for the current stores.

    Only three exterior walls of the Cinema remains. It will be completely down in the next week or two.

    I wonder if the recent tax re-assessment moved things along.

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  27. The parking lots in front of Penney's and around the side by the old Giant Eagle and Cinemas are fenced off. All but one set of doors have been boarded over, including all windows of the old Imperial Cleaners space. Around back, Toys R Us is accumulating storage containers, and half of the short hallway is full of cardboard boxes (the only mall doors not boarded over).

    I think the end is near.

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    1. The fences are up strictly for snow removal, so the plowers dont plow what they dont have too.

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    2. Thanks for all the commenting you do. Keep us updated!

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  28. Some friends and I tried every door, and resorted to climbing on the roof when we were unsuccessful. From what we could see the whole interior is stripped bare and the building is a leaking skeleton. Underneath where Giant Eagle used to be is lit up... for what purpose I'm not sure. We could see through cracks in the plywood that's been put up and it looks empty and open, but lit.
    The roof was interesting to explore and there a few power rooms around the structure you can go in (filled with old breaker boxes). Sad to see it deteriorate but it's in very poor condition.

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    1. Interesting that the old Giant Eagle is lit up, I might have to stop by and take a look.

      I was looking at Google Earth, and it looks like the tar paper is pulled back behind Staples (over the concourse between the glass sections). Did you happen to take any pictures of the roof?

      The interior is stripped. They've been working on that over the last year or two. One hallway leading to the outside is packed full of scrap metal.

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  29. I work at Staples, we had to go through our back door to see where the water was coming from underneath our back wall, i snapped a few photos but not sure how to post them.

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    1. send them to me, i will throw them up in this blog for you, if you'd like.
      etw2_2001@yahoo

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    2. Anonymous, can't wait to see the pix, and thanks for the explanation on the fencing. Have you heard any updates from the mall owners/management regarding demolition or re-development?

      I talked to the guy that tore down the cinemas, and he said they asked for a quote to tear down the mall, but that's all the more info we got (don't know about the existing businesses).

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  30. I went there all my childhood up till my young adulthood. The record shop was my hangout and the pizza shop were pizza tasted like heaven. Got my first haircut there, my first organ there, and the most awesome stereo equipment from Penny's. Such a shame all the big chains drove out all the good times

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  31. It was a great place at one time.. I worked at jcpenneys back in1975 and the mall rocked with stores for nearly every person's style and taste...have very vivid memories of my mom going into langs and us boys going into the record shop and Haynes triangle clothing store...the marble corridor that led up and down from Joann fabrics used to be a great place for the chili cook off and great place for older people to walk for exercise....we used to take our elderly mother there to walk with her walker etc as others did for exercise without the outdoor weather elements.. Sadly mom passed away2014 and nothing else there now but staples and toys r us and the China buffet and harbor freight....my late father used to sit on the bench as many others did and always used to see they miner retirees there...great meeting and walking place. Last week I was at the eat n park restaurant across the street and a young man employee of eat n park told me that he heard the mall was recently sold...not sure it that's true or not or what will happen to it but it was a great place at one time and I'm sure there are enough memories of the mall to fill every inch of the mall...please keep us posted on any changes

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  32. I just came across a few videos taken by someone working inside the mall last summer: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nCwvE6kewZ8

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    1. That's a great find (even if the camerawork sucks). Lots of places that I have never seen of the mall before. If I had to date it, I would say the videos were taken in July or early August of 2016. Late August is when the awning and doors by Staple's disappeared, and they hadn't yet started demolishing the cinemas.

      There are four videos.

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