Brookdale Center was a dead mall with about every dead anchor store that once frequented Minnesota, from Donaldson’s to Woolworths. Located in Brooklyn Center, MN, Brookdale Center was one of the original indoor malls, and one of many malls that succumbed to redevelopment. Pretty much everyone in the Twin Cities knows of Brookdale Mall, either for its’ infamy or for the wonderful memories the mall once created. Its legacy is a lasting one, and it was sad to see it decline and die. In this article, I want to dive into the rise of Brookdale Center, the fall of it, and the future.
Click here for a small video of street view transitioning from Wal Mart to Brookdale. (Has to be on YouTube because WordPress doesn’t support GIFs)
The malls’ design isn’t as strange as Four Seasons Mall in Plymouth, but I did want to talk about it, because the aesthetic of a mall is a large part of the experience. It follows a pretty basic mall design: the anchors all are located on the outside (Except for Woolworths after 1967), and each have their own entrance. The stores are located in the center, and much like Southdale, Brookdale had a grand main hallway that stretched from one anchor to smaller hallways that led to either an entrance or an anchor. Much like what I did with Four Seasons Mall, this is satellite footage of the expansion, and the downfall of Brookdale Mall:
The interior of the mall was similar to Southdale: a large grand central hallway with stores on either side, but a key difference was that Brookdale was only once story, which Southdale was three in some parts of the mall. This was done because the land Brookdale was built on was once a swamp, and couldn’t support the weight. However, the Sears and JCPenney stores were both two levels.
The central hallway featured small aquariums scattered around it, a very interesting and unique feature to the mall. Obviously, it also featured seating and plenty of walking space.
The year is 1955. Victor Gruen just opened his newest project in Edina, Minnesota: a indoor shopping center known as Southdale Center. It was the first of its’ kind, and it began a trend that continued to grow until the 1990’s: The Mall. Backed by the Dayton-Hudson Corporation (Now Target), the mall was successful. After a couple years, Gruen and Dayton-Hudson Corporation set their sites on a location in the booming town of Brooklyn Center for their newest mall: Brookdale Center. It was to be the second of four malls the company would build, all under the Dale name: Southdale, Brookdale, Rosedale, and Ridgedale, all located in the Twin Cities. Brookdale Mall opened on March 1st, 1962 at the intersection of three major roads at the time: Brooklyn Boulevard, Hwy 100, and Bass Lake Road. Brookdale was built before I-94 was constructed, so these roads were among the busiest in the metro at the time. When the mall first opened, it was half the size of what it was to become and featured three anchors: Sears, Woolworths, and JCPenney. It looked like this:
The mall did not start off well: The baby boomer generation was still too young to frequent malls and the mall was too small to gather a large crowd. So, it was expanded. In 1967, the East Wing (Known as East Mall according to signs) opened. It doubled the size of the mall and added two new anchors: Daytons and Donaldsons, as well as doubling the size of JCPenney and converting it from a dry goods store to a department store. After the renovation, it looked like this:
After the mall expanded, it grew in popularity, and it could finally sustain itself. Its’ presence helped to grow Brooklyn Center, attracting homes and businesses to the area. By the late 1980’s, the area included a Target, Kohl’s, a strip mall named Brookdale Square, a Besst Buy, and many other stores. This was all helped by the construction of I-94 and I-694. The area was flourishing, but it wouldn’t last much longer.
The fall of the mall began in the 1980’s. Woolworth’s had recently closed, the mall was facing competition from Northtown and Ridgedale Mall, but the biggest factor was the loss of a key market and the transition of Brooklyn Center from a middle-class city to a lower income area. As more and more middle-class residents left, homes were sold for cheap to poorer families who couldn’t afford to go to the mall and frequently buy new clothes or go to the spa. In 1987, Donaldson’s was bought by Carson’s, and it operated under that name for another eight years, until 1995. In 1995, the Minnesota portion of Carson’s was bought by the Dayton-Hudson Corporation, who then converted the stores to Mervyn’s, another discount department store. Brookdale Mall changed anchors a lot, and that may have been one of the reasons it died. The 1990’s were the hard for the mall. It suffered a 30%+ vacancy rate for almost the entire decade, and it lost a lot of traffic as the city of Brooklyn Center lost its’ upper middle class residents and the city became more and more decrepit. But ten came the 2000’s, the years which really killed Brookdale Mall.
In 2001 Dayton’s was converted into a Marshall Fields after the Dayton-Hudson Corporation decided to disintegrate the Dayton’s brand and the Hudson’s brand. After this, the mall seemed to come out of its’ slump, going from a 70% occupancy to around 95%. But that didn’t last. On February 28th, 2004, JCPenney closed, opting to move to a new standalone store in Maple Grove, MN. That same year, Mervyn’s closed, leaving the mall with only Sears and Marshall Fields. The vacant JCPenney store was leased by Steve and Barry’s, another clothing store., which opened in September 2005. During this time, to try to avoid the death of the mall, the northwest portion of the mall was redeveloped into a new food court and new retail, including a brand new Barnes and Noble. This didn’t help, though. The mall continued on its’ death spiral, taking the entire area with it. The nearby Best Buy closed, and Brookdale Square/the retail surrounding it began to crumble and die. Brookdale Square was anchored by Circuit City, and when that company ceased operations, so did Brookdale Sqaure. No one wanted to lease space near a mall that was rapidly dying. The Kohl’s, which was located just outside the mall, remained open through all of this. The Cinema, which was once an amazing theater, was now a budget cinema in need of repairs. It’s safe to say the death of the mall killed the area.
Going back to the mall itself, it continued dying for the next few years. In 2007, the Dayton’s was converted to a Macy’s after the Dayton-Hudson Corporation decided to fully focus on Target and sold all of their stores to Macy’s. Later in 2007, Wal Mart offered to lease the vacant Mervyn’s location. This could have been what saved the mall, but what happened? Sears decided to sue Wal Mart over the fact that a new location may cause strains on parking. The plans fell through, and Brookdale Center kept dying.
In 2008, Steve and Carry’s closed, leaving the mall with only Sears and Macy’s. The Barnes and Nobles closed soon after, citing that they didn’t feel comfortable in a mall with a 50% vacancy rate. Brookdale Mall was truly becoming a dead mall at this point. The Macy’s closed after Barnes and Noble, citing similar reasons. At this point, the only anchor left was Sears, and Sears wasn’t exactly doing well at that point, and they still aren’t today.
In 2009, the mall looked like this:
The mall remained open for another two years, but it finally closed on April 26th, 2010. The mall was truly a sad sight in its’ last few years. Here are some pictures…
Towards the time of its’ death, it featured very few tenants, and those that remained were not stores that could draw a crowd:
- K Fashion
- K Fashion Casual
- Champs Sports
- Wet Seal
- Q Studio (a photographer)
- Jackson Hewitt (tax return kiosk outside Sears)
- Skyway Jewelers
- Payless ShoeSource
- Twinstown (athletic/urban wear)
- Foot Locker
- Harold Pener Man of Fashion (urban wear)
- T2 (urban wear)
Credit to Prange Way from labelscar.com for thist list.
As I said early in the article, the mall was home to a lot of companies which are no longer functioning. It’s a dead mall filled with dead anchors. Here’s a list of these dead anchors:
Steve and Barry’s
The mall closed, and all of the stores were evicted, except for Sears, which owned the land the store sat upon, but that’s not the end of the story. Unlike Four Seasons Mall, which still sits abandoned, Brookdale Mall was redeveloped into Shingle Creek Crossing.
Brookdale wasn’t abandoned for long before the area was redeveloped. First, in 2010, a filming studios called Poor No More Inc. offered to buy the mall, but they were rejected. Later on in 2010, Gatlin Development Company proposed a new retail complex named Shingle Creek Crossing. The new development would demolish most of the mall, aside from the newest addition and the Sears. The entire area would be anchored by Wal Mart, and feature smaller stores on the outskirts of the Wal Mart parking lot. The Kohl’s store was also to remain open as a part of this development. Sears heavily opposed the redevelopment, saying that their customers would not be able to park anywhere, but the project was approved anyways. In summer of 2011, Brookdale Center was demolished. The mall lived for almost 50 years, and created great memories for anyone who traveled there. The new development opened on September 12th, 2012, with a Wal Mart and an LA Fitness, after extensive revisions to the original plan. The food court and the rest of the newest addition to the mall was demolished soon after, to make way for Michaels and a few other retailers. Slowly, Shingle Creek Crossing has filled its’ space, but it’s not completed yet and still faces hardships to come. Portions of the development remain undeveloped, and the area still faces massive vacancy rates. Because of this unsureness, Kohl’s closed on March 7th, 2014, and was relocated to an old Rainbow Foods in Plymouth, MN. This closure left Sears being the only piece of Brookdale Mall remaining. After this, the city of Brooklyn Center went on a demolition spree around the area, purchasing Brookdale Square for $3.9 million and demolishing it. They also demolished the cinema and a small industrial building.
That brings us to today. While the mall itself is gone, many buildings in the area still remain abandoned or undeveloped. What is the future of the mall, and the area it was located in?
Brooklyn Center is beginning to recover from the 1990’s and 2000’s which destroyed the retail aspect of the city, and led to the fleeing of the upper middle class from the area. Slowly, retailers are coming to Brooklyn Center, and Shingle Creek Crossing is an area that is ripe for development. The future for the area seems bright, with stores slowly being attracted to the new development anchored by a busy Wal Mart. As of March 2017 HOM Furniture plans to buy and expand the vacant Kohl’s, and lease out parts of the first floor to retailers while the other parts will be a HOM Furniture (obviously). According to THIS pamphlet, more buildings will be added to the east side of the site, and hopefully more tenants will fill the space. Most of the stores are leased out, and Shingle Creek Crossing (named after a creek that was restored after being covered by Brookdale Center) is a very popular place. As for Brookdale Square, no plans have been announced yet, but the city hopes to turn it into a mixed use development according to their planning website (but the site is still currently zoned for Commercial use). That brings me to the mall itself. The future of the mall seems dismal. All that remains in memory of it is the Sears, and I don’t think that will be around much longer. It’s never really busy, and Sears as a company is sinking faster than the modern mall. When/If Sears does close, I hope that instead of demolishing it they repurpose the space, just so those who liked the mall still have a spot where it still existed. Maybe I’m just too attached to malls, but I hate it when they’re demolished completely and no remnants are left. They all have a history, and that history gets buried when it gets redeveloped. Unless the developer cares enough to either put a sign in memory of the mall, or repurpose the space into something better.
In the end, Brookdale Mall served thousands of people, and created memories for all of them. Truly sad that one of the original malls designed by the original mall architect, isn’t immune to death. I hope you enjoyed reading Brookdale Center: The Rise, the Fall, and the Future.