Dead, Abandoned & Demolished Malls in Maryland - YouTube Edition

Owings Mills Mall 1986 to 2015

My latest obsession on YouTube is watching dead mall videos showing malls that have very few customers and are about to close, malls that have been abandoned and await their fate plus malls that have been finally demolished. After watching a couple of these videos I decided to search for malls I had frequented. If you shopped at these malls in Maryland too, I'd love to hear your thoughts on the reasons they declined and closed. Which ones were your favorite?

Above is one of my favorites and one that had a short life compared to other malls, only 29 years. It's quite surprising since it was one of the fanciest malls in the area. When I shopped there it was thriving as most large malls were. Note that this little birdy flew south in 1991 so I only shopped at these malls in the '70s and '80s and didn't see their decline. Check out the video above featuring Owings Mills Mall, it's quite fancy! It opened in 1986 and I was one of their first customers. I didn't visit very often since it was a long drive and not an area I frequented. I ran into people I knew since it attracted customers from long distances. I loved how this one had so much sunlight, the pretty brass fixtures, and the shiny imported marble floors. This one had 155 stores along with 4 anchor stores when it opened. While it had some upscale stores, it had some others that were more affordable. I'm not a fan of food courts, but this one was worth a visit for a slice of pizza and a Diet Coke. Things went downhill in 1992 when a woman was murdered at the nearby metro station. Another nearby mall, Columbia Mall, became competition once it was renovated. I have a special fondness for that mall since I attended the grand opening and it was near my 1st childhood home. It was my first mall and I spent a lot of time there since it was a very short drive. 

The pattern for closing malls is that first, they lose shoppers, then franchise stores close followed by the anchor stores leaving many vacancies. After that nonfranchise retail businesses move in along with crime and vagrants. Often the shopping mall is bought out by an investor. Then they turn off the water fountains, close sections of the mall and turn off some of the escalators and elevators in an attempt to save money on electricity. Following that all the stores close and surprising the doors are usually left unlocked or people break in so more crime and vandalism occur. Then years go by while they wait for an investor who wants to repurpose the property. Usually, they tear it down and add the main store such as Target or Walmart and add a strip mall and restaurants. Lately, the more popular option is to add apartments, condos, office buildings, strip malls, restaurants, hotels and movie theatres. It's the live, work, shop concept which I like to visit but not live there. While walking to work sounds great, I can't imagine living next to where I work. I like some separation! It's a sort of suburban city living idea which many younger people seem to enjoy and are buying into in recent years. Another option for some has been Amazon distribution centers which is ironic since online shopping is one of the reasons people stopped frequenting some malls.

The next mall up is White Flint Mall located in Bethesda, Maryland. It opened in 1977 and closed 38 years later in 2015 and it was three stories. It had 125 stores and 3 anchor stores. This is another one I visited shortly after it opened. I wasn't crazy about this one though I went with my mother many times because I didn't want to sit at home alone. I never visited it on my own when I grew up. I didn't care for all the upscale stores and the narrow walkways. To me, it had a bit of a claustrophobic feeling. I'm not surprised this one closed, frankly, I'm surprised how long it took with Tysons Corner not far away offering so much more. When they decided to close the mall Lord & Taylor sued since they had a lease until 2042. How crazy is that, who would sign a lease 65 years long, wow! The courts dismissed it since the city wanted them to demolish it and put up something new rather than handing Lord & Taylor thirty-one million dollars which would have left the land abandoned. Check out White Flint and see what you think:

Here's what it looked like during demolition:

White Flint Mall 1977-2015

Amazon was considering using the property, but it fell through and this will be another one of those live, work and shop concepts but it's supposed to take a whopping 25 years to build, so odd.

Next on the list is a small one story shopping mall I frequented during the 2nd part of my childhood when we moved nearby. It only had 20 tenants and 3 anchor stores. We would go to Long John Silvers and the movie theatre or Friendly's Restaurant before grocery shopping at Giant nearby. Look at how Long John Silvers still has the original decor! This is another one that I can't believe they didn't remodel and I'm shocked it lasted 41 years! The downfall of this mall were several crimes including murder in the cinema in 2008, so customers went to Frances Scott Key Mall nearby which is only six years younger. They turned Montgomery Wards located across from Long John Silvers and the Hoyts Cinema into a Home Depot and drywalled the old entrance. Sometimes investors leave the anchor stores and tear down the rest of the mall. Check out Frederick Towne Mall:

Frederick Towne Mall 1972-2013

This one is located on the main road that has most of the shopping and restaurants in the area, so this property in my mind is worth a lot. Walmart was going to repurpose the land with one of their stores, a strip mall, and restaurants but the deal fell through even though they had a groundbreaking ceremony in 2016. What do you think the future of this mall will be? Six years is a long time for it to sit vacantly.

Another mall I frequented was Lakeforest Mall since I worked nearby and it was often my choice for lunch and shopping for office attire. This one is barely holding on and I predict complete closure soon. It was the mall where Hubby and I had our 2nd date. Our 1st date was at Tysons Corner which is still thriving. What special events in your life occurred in shopping malls? The markings of a soon to close mall are demonstrated in this video. Note the many vacancies among the 160 spaces. There are 4 anchor stores and it's two stories:

Lakeforest Mall 1978-?

JcPenny will close in July of this year, so this mall is one step closer to closing. This one has changed hands many times. The latest purchase price was only $19.1 million compared to the previous price tag of $100 Million. A little remodeling should have done the trick since it's located near many wealthy subdivisions. Instead, they closed the play area and removed the fountain. In the beginning, it had an ice skating rink which was replaced by a theatre which I frequented. I was shocked to hear the theatre was replaced with a food court. A movie theatre and a shopping mall seem like the perfect match so I'm always surprised to hear of malls that don't have one. 

So there you have it, two malls I frequented in the '70s and '80s that have been demolished, one that is closed and awaiting saving and one that is close to closing. How are malls doing in your area? Now relocated in the Raleigh, North Carolina area, I'm shocked to report they built two new two-story malls in 2002 with 5 anchor stores. Southpoint in Durham is doing well though one anchor store is closed. Triangle Town Center in Raleigh has had several occurrences of violence. Another old mall in Raleigh, Crabtree Valley Mall is always busy. The traffic is crazy and parking is hard to find. North Hills in Raleigh turned their mall into a mixed-use development with hotels, shopping, restaurants, apartments, condos, cinema and office space. It is doing well and we frequent some of the restaurants there. There is another small mall, Cary Towne Center Mall that was supposed to be made into an IKEA. Sadly the city, in my opinion, drove them out by their ridiculous requests and taxes. One request was to change the colors of their building not using the well recognized blue and yellow colors. Way to go Cary lost jobs. The mall is still open, but it has very few tenants and customers. Do you frequent indoor shopping malls? If not, what are your reasons? For me, it's teenagers harassing customers and cases of violence. The personal experience of being followed by a man and being harassed by those hanging out at the mall were the biggest reasons. Not to mention the few exits which as I have aged make me feel claustrophobic and the unsafe long walk to your car. There isn't enough security in the malls I have visited. I went from visiting malls as frequently as 1-5 times a week to once a year max. Sitting at home on the sofa with my dogs ordering online is the new norm for me. In this age of online ordering, what do you think is the reason some malls are still successful in 2019 while others have crashed and died?

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  1. Wendy - Have you ever seen the Vice series "Abandoned", which is basically "ruin porn" of not just shopping malls, but power plants, schools, hospitals, etc.?

    As a DMV resident for the past 25 yrs, I'm familiar w/most of the malls you mentioned.
    * If I need to go to a mall, my choice is either Montgomery Mall or the Mall in Columbia, as they pretty much have the same stores. I will NOT go to Wheaton Plaza since I have no desire to be carjacked, etc.
    * Owings Mills has been demolished for redevelopment/rebranding.
    * White Flint - L&T signed a 99-year lease as the mall was being constructed. One of the lease clauses stated mall ownership (controlled by the same family who owns the Wash Nationals, btw) could not take any actions that would have a negative impact on L&T. WF was shown to Amazon peeps during the HQ2 sweepstakes, but I think they should have presented the soon-to-be-vacated Discovery HQ in downtown Silver Spring, which is adjacent to Metro and MARC. The real bummer is that reportedly Wegmans would anchor the new development but they couldn't wait forever so they will be the anchor at the former Fannie Mae HQ in Tenleytown NW DC instead.
    * Lake Forest went into foreclosure a few yrs back so I'm presuming the $19.1M purchase price was the outstanding mortgage balance.

    You're right about the conversion to the multi-purpose "town center" concept w/residential, office, and retail space. Montgomery County is especially into "smart growth" developments near Red Line Metro stations.

    The first job I had in high school was at the Listening Booth/Wall to Wall Sound & Video at the York Mall, which is now a Wal*Mart Supercenter, Sam's Club, and Burlington Coat Factory. York Mall started going downhill when West Manchester Mall opened on the other side of town (which is all big box stores now too). Many stores migrated to the new York Galleria, but now Boscov's is the only remaining anchor tenant (JCP closed first, followed by Sears, and then BonTon went bankrupt last year). Rumor has it a casino will occupy the former JCP.

    1. Haven't heard of it. Cool I looked it up and it's on Hulu, now we have something else to watch this weekend! ty, Lynn! I watch several YouTubers who visit various abandoned places around the world. My favs are malls and amusement parks. We shopped at Mongomery Mall also. You don't shop at Tysons Corner? They are building several Wegmans here. Very slow to build, one was supposed to be open now, but it's now pushed back until fall. Publix moved in the last couple of years and pushed out Kroger. Wonder which grocery store will take a hit due to Wegmans. How's the crime rate in Columbia & Gaithersburg these days?

    2. I live in Rockville, so Tysons isn't all that convenient. When I worked at Freddie Mac, Tysons Galleria was just up the street. But during the holiday season, traffic was such a cluster some days leaving work it would take 20 min just to get on the Beltway. Fairfax County would run a shuttle bus bw all the major office bldgs to the malls to try to ameliorate the snarls.

      The last time I ventured to the Tysons area (for a continuing education seminar), I almost didn't recognize it! Between the Metro Silver line that will (eventually) go to Dulles and the High Occupancy Toll lanes (aka "Lexus lanes"), there are so many new flyover ramps and I was afraid of accidentally getting on the wrong one.

      Wegmans is amazing - IDK how many football fields you could fit inside but it seems to go on forever. The closest Wegmans to me right now is in Germantown but I seldom get up that way. There's another Wegmans in Columbia, which I visit whenever I'm in the neighborhood/passing thru. The Wegmans being built at Fannie Mae's former HQ isn't opening until 2021. I usually shop at Harris Teeter (prefer their meat and produce to Giant); since they were acquired by Kroger a few yrs ago, prices there have gone down. I (almost) NEVER go to Safeway (except for the one in Olney, and only b/c it has a beer/wine license) b/c I find their prices are higher and the checkout lines are longer. We also have Trader Joe's and Aldi nearby but not Lidl (yet).

      AFAIK, crime rate in Columbia is pretty low. Montgomery is low too considering we have 1M+ residents now. But there are pockets of crime due to MS13 presence. For example, the neighborhood around my late grandmother's church is almost totally Central American peeps now. When they advertised "Misa en Espanol", someone vandalized the banner sign and grafitti'd "Sieg Heil Trump Nation Whites Only" on the side of the church.

    3. Yeah, I know the traffic is insane there, one of the reasons we left. I'm guessing Wegmans is pricey unless you buy their generic products or it's on sale? Any imported products? Ours will have a hamburger restaurant. Finally gave us an opening date of Sept. 29th, anxious to visit it though not looking forward to the crowds. Wont be a frequent shopper due to the crowds. Will be several years until three more are built closer where there is less traffic. The Raleigh location use to be one office building so not much land, it will have a parking deck and a strip mall. I loved Giant, one of the few things I miss in that area. It wasn't as nice though when we last visited, the bakery didn't have the products they use to sell. We rarely shop Trader Joe's it's too crowded at all hours of the day. Don't like Aldi, expired products, no ty. We like Lidl for fresh cheap produce and some of the imports. The shooting at Columbia Mall didn't reduce traffic?

    4. DC is always ranked in top 5 for worst traffic in US. Metro's reliability problems in recent yrs haven't helped. Gov Hogan is heavily advocating for constructing HOT lanes on the Beltway, I270, and even the BW Pkwy (assuming the Park Service agrees to turn it over to M-DOT). The Purple Line light rail is finally under construction and will eventually connect Orange (New Carrolton), Green (College Park), and Red (Silver Spring and Bethesda) lines. What we really need is for the Purple Line to cross the river and link up w/VA's Orange line. And another Potomac river crossing bw American Legion bridge and Leesburg.

      When the Germantown Wegmans opened, there was a line wrapped around the whole store! I was expecting Wegmans prices to be on the higher side, but they're not. I haven't really gone down every single aisle to determine how many imported products they carry. For sure in the gourmet cheese shop, they have the ginormous wheels of Parm Regg, etc. that they will lop a hunk off for you.

      IMO, Giant has gone a bit downhill since the Royal Ahold acqusition (who also owns Stop & Shop in New England and also acquired Food Lion). I remember reading Giant shut down its Heidi bakery facility, so that's probably why. Shortly after the takeover I overheard a long-time employee say "Mr. Cohen [Giant's founder] would be rolling in his grave if he saw this."

      Agree that Trader Joe's always seems to be crowded (and the parking lot is a cluster).

      Of all the Aldi private label products I've bought, I've liked most of them. I also enjoy the "ltd edition" aisle b/c you never know what you're going to find. I won't buy choc chip cookie dough ice cream again, b/c it was 95%+ vanilla with almost no choc chips or cookie dough. If I wanted plain vanilla ice cream, that's what I would have bought! Produce isn't necessarily most aesthetically pleasing, but in many cases you're no eating the rind anyway.

      We don't have any Lidls up here yet - I think the closest one to Rockville is in Sterling VA.

      The Columbia Mall shooting was clearly a one-off since the shooter had a specific target in mind so I don't think that's deterred ppl from shopping there. There was a shooting at Montgomery Mall and the Aspen Hill Giant/Kohl's a few summers ago (another domestic violence situation) and that hasn't stopped ppl from shopping there. Not to mention the Beltway sniper spree in 2002 which started and ended a few miles away from my house.

  2. In MN, the successful malls are re-inventing themselves where they are turning the mall into a destination experience (not only shopping and eating but offering entertainment and adventure). They have movie theaters which have reclining stadium seating, alcoholic beverages, fireplace pizzas, and other culinary options. One even has a high-end Lifetime Fitness with a rooftop pool (which ended up taking the floor space of a vacated JC Penney's).

    The Mall of America in MN (largest US Mall) does this destination-experience strategy the best. It has a state-of-the-art movie theater, an arcade, a comedy club, Contina restaurant that turns into a bar/nightclub at night, a bowling alley, a 7 acre amusement park, an underwater aquarium, Lego Land (which has a free Lego play area and several Lego structures including a 2-story Transformer on top of the Lego Store), Crayola World, a flight simulator experience, and 2 high-end hotels (Radisson Blue and JW Marriott). It often hosts dance and cheerleading competitions, scrapbook conventions, concerts, and exhibits. Nearby airports and hotels have free shuttles to the Mall and the train runs from St. Paul and Minneapolis to and from the Mall until 1AM. Rumor has it that a waterpark is planned in an extension project. Months ago, it employed a parking ramp system which uses red and green lights as well as electronic signs to show how many vacant parking spots are available in its 7 floor ramp parking.

    Another mall here has only select stores not found at most malls (like Robert Redford's Sundance store), high-end stores (Louie Vuitton, Tiffany's), spa services, and dining options that you can only find at that mall.

    So, the malls that do survive are trying to entice the customers to not only visit the stores but to choose them as a destination instead for multiple different enjoyable experiences.

    Yes, crime affects customers wanting to shop. Mall of America has 5 suburb police departments at its disposal (with 1 department having a permanent home underneath the mall) and a steady patrol of both officers and mall security as well undercover police officers. (I'm somewhat partial to the MOA since I worked their part-time for almost 11 years and was one of those mall-walkers for exercise when I wasn't

    1. Most of our cinemas are near strip malls and have recently been converted to recliners, reserved seating, added beer & wine and some have lunch/dinner served before or during the movie. Even the mall that has a cinema is outside the mall in it's own building. Wow, a rooftop pool is cool. Yeah, I'm familar with Mall of Am. That's great they have lots of security. A waterpark would be crazy, so few months it's warm enough. Yeah, I've seen parking like that b4, I think it was an airport, can't remember. It was very helpful. Have you seen the parking garages in Asia? They drive the car up, get out and the elevator takes the car up and places it in a slot, so cool, so compact. They even have them for bicycles now.

  3. It was just announced yesterday that Lord & Taylor at LakeForest Mall will be closing in September. Which leaves just 2 anchor stores - Macy's & Sears, neither of whom are in the best financial shape.

    Sears closed its locations at both Montgomery and Columbia malls, but somehow not White Oak.

  4. I’m glad Montgomery mall seems to be holding out well. I also find Wheaton mall to be generally very safe. I am there often to shop at Costco and it seems clean. There is a series on YouTube called abandoned by Bright sun films, it’s very good.

    1. Hi Sara! Farrell's was my favorite restaurant there. So much fun! Yeah, I love his videos. He also has a movie about 6 Flags near New Orleans. Plus, he has a new channel about cruise ships.


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