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Dead Malls: New York Has Most in Nation

The Golden Age of the American shopping mall is over and the shopping landscape has changed. Or has it?

The inside of a long-dead mall, as photographed by Seph Lawless for his new book "Black Friday."
The inside of a long-dead mall, as photographed by Seph Lawless for his new book "Black Friday."
By Melinda Carstensen 

They're a blight on America’s suburban landscape: hulking dead shopping malls, many with boarded windows, sagging rooftops and parking lots full of weeds.

The American shopping mall saw its Golden Age from 1956 to 2005, when 1,500 malls were built across the country. But no new enclosed mega-mall has been built since 2006. And while about 1,200 malls are still standing, many have been abandoned and sit on the outskirts of American cities like strange coffins of commerce. In a new book called "Black Friday," the photographer Seph Lawless captures the demise of many of these dead malls in images charged with a kind of haunting beauty.

"It’s almost a sense of sadness because you don’t just miss the malls but everything that’s connected to it,” he said. “That was America. It was a more vibrant time for us.”

The website DeadMalls.com maintains a state-by-state list of America’s forlorn shopping meccas. With 42, according to the site, New York has more "dead malls" than any other state.

Experts say a mall is significantly less likely to survive after its anchor store closes. Many American malls were affected by the closing of Sears, which shuttered its flagship earlier this year, and JC Penney, which announced in January that it would close 33 stores nationwide.

Howard Davidowitz, of the national retail consultant and investment banking firm Davidowitz & Associates, predicted half of U.S. malls would close within the next decade.

Some malls though are thriving, like outlet malls. Developers have capitalized on a still-struggling economy and opened 11 new outlet centers in 2013, more than quadruple the number that opened in 2009.

High-end malls, like those with anchor stores such as Nordstrom or Saks Fifth Avenue, are also flourishing, said Ryan McCullough, a real estate economist at CoStar, a commercial real estate research firm. Per square foot, those luxury malls saw a 14.6 percent growth in sales from 2009 to 2013, according to CoStar.

Michael Dart, co-author of the book “The New Rules of Retail,” said traditional shopping malls are failing where these high-end malls are succeeding: providing consumers with something they can’t get on the Internet.

Guests can enjoy upscale food courts, fancy interiors and live entertainment. Novelty and exclusivity, he said, lure consumers away from their computers and into these malls.

“The consumer has become satiated enough with the same type of stuff, so it’s become increasingly important to become experiential,” Dart said.

In malls where stores have closed shop, vacant space has been converted into religious, medical or school facilities. For malls that have faced store closures, this is a positive, creative reuse of that space, McCullough said.

Below is a list of the “dead malls” recorded on DeadMalls.com in New York. (Editor's note: Some of the malls listed below may have been redeveloped.)

Tell us: Do you think the American mall has met its doom, and should abandoned facilities be demolished? Or do you think there’s hope for their survival? What’s happened to the shopping malls where you once shopped or dropped off the kids for the afternoon? Share your thoughts in the comments section below. 

New York

    Capital District of New York
  • Amsterdam Mall: Amsterdam, NY 
  • Aviation Mall: Queensbury / Glens Falls, NY 
  • Clifton Country Mall / Park Center: Clifton Park, NY 
  • Cohoes Commons: Cohoes, NY 
  • Johnstown Mall: Johnstown, NY
  • Latham Circle Mall: Latham, NY 
  • Malta Mall, Round Lake/Malta, NY 
  • Mohawk Mall, Schenectady, NY 
  • Northway Mall, Albany, NY 
  • Saratoga Mall, Wilton/Saratoga, NY  
    The Hudson Valley
  • Apollo Plaza: Monticello, NY 
  • Dutchess Mall: Fishkill, NY
  • Galleria at Crystal Run: Middletown, NY
  • Hudson Valley Mall: Kingston, NY
  • Kings Mall: Kingston, NY
  • Mall At New Rochelle: New Rochelle, NY
  • Nanuet Mall: Nanuet, NY
  • Orange Plaza: Middletown, NY 
  • South Hills Mall: Poughkeepsie, NY  
    Long Island
  • Atlas Park Mall / The Shops at Atlas Park: Glendale, NY
  • The Mall at the Source: Westbury, NY 
    Champlaine Valley of New York
  • Champlaine Centre (south), Plattsburgh, NY 
    Greater Syracuse Area of New York
  • Camillus Mall: Camillus, NY
  • Cortlandville Mall: Cortland, NY
  • Destiny USA: Syracuse, NY
  • Fayetteville Mall: Fayetteville, NY 
  • Marketplace Mall: Cicero, NY 
  • Penn-Can Mall: Syracuse, NY 
  • Shoppingtown Mall: Dewitt, NY
  • TriCounty Mall: Baldwinsville, NY 
    The Southern Tier Area of New York
  • Pyramid Mall: Ithaca, NY  
    Western New York
  • Appletree Mall: Buffalo (Cheektowaga), NY
  • Boulevard Mall: Buffalo (Amherst), NY
  • Eastern Hills Mall: Buffalo (Clarence), NY
  • Fingerlakes Mall: Auburn, NY
  • Irondequoit Mall / Medley Centre: Rochester, NY
  • Lockport Mall: Lockport, NY 
  • Main Place Mall: Buffalo, NY
  • Midtown Plaza: Rochester, NY
  • Rainbow Mall: Niagara Falls, NY 
  • Seneca Mall: Buffalo (West Seneca), NY
  • Summit Park Mall: Wheatfield (Niagara Falls), NY
  • Sandra Harrison May 12, 2014 at 05:55 PM
    Pic reminds me of Jurassic Park& who knows what wild life is lurking there. From my view in White Plains (WP) where we have 5 malls, malls are doing better than the street stores where many stores are out of business along Mamaroneck, Main St and Post Rd. Owners of The Pavillion want to tear the old Alexander's structure down and start all over. Lots of vacant office space in WP & city is still approving more construction of places with stores/ office space. Construction of a Business Hotel on Main St has been going on for 3 yrs and during that time another Bus. Hotel in WP changed over to rentals. By the time, this hotel opens, the public need for one might be over. The oldest mall in WP has the DMV & a few stores have been there since its opening in the 1970's. The Westchester is a great place to hang out when the weather outside is horrible and after this winter many of us stayed inside. I grew up in Yonkers & Cross County opened in the yr I was born. It should have been done over a long time ago but it is nice that they have hung on for 60 yrs. Ridge Hill apartments were not a hit and this project was not a community favorite. Approval for the construction was not all legal. Stores, malls, gas stations & other businesses have to stay relevant to meet the changing needs of our society. Great service is key and keeping a clean modern store is important for success over the decades. Businesses that do not listen to customer complaints are just stupid. Many of the stores that did not listen to mine, closed. With all the choices in WP to shop, why go where the service is horrible and the place is not attractive?
    Nancy Martin May 12, 2014 at 07:07 PM
    The Mall at New Rochelle is long gone, and is now an entertainment site. Great for young folks!
    Patchogue May 12, 2014 at 09:39 PM
    We are over stored. Need to create real jobs.
    Madeleine Fix-Hansen May 13, 2014 at 08:18 AM
    I am working on this subject (slowly & in spurts) in Columbus, Ohio. In 2002, I made a casual/rough stortytelling video, "Twilight at Northland". It's a monologue for the most part - about my aunt, who was employed as the Information Lady at a mall that was closing down around her. Please watch & let me know what you think?: http://vimeo.com/71038359. email: almagarnett@gmail.com.
    Sal Anthony May 14, 2014 at 05:17 PM
    Tj only shops online blah blah blah your a racist towards malls

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