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The Legend of Dixie Square Mall
April 18, 2005 9:55 PM   Subscribe

Dixie Square Mall, in the mostly-blighted "inner ring" Chicago suburb of Harvey, Illinois, opened in 1966. It suffered gradual decline, until it closed in 1978. A year later, film crews gave the mall a brief makeover and Jake and Elwood Blues drove through the place. Then, nothing. For 20-plus years, the mall sat and decayed. Renovation plans (even a planned baseball stadium for the White Sox) were popular over the years, but never panned out. In 1993, a rape and murder took place in the JC Penney's space. From space, the mall looks beat up. From the ground, it looks even worse. Human fascination with deserted space has borne a number of websites and spelunking trips (along with some excellent then-and-now comparisons), and a documentary is apparently in the works. Finally, at long last, there's renewed hope for the site. Previously seen here and here.
posted by AgentRocket (21 comments total) 4 users marked this as a favorite

 
I love dead malls, and I love this post even though I've never heard of Harvey, Ill or Dixie Square before.

Reminds me of the Pennsylvania mall used in "Dawn of the Dead."
posted by GaelFC at 10:11 PM on April 18, 2005


Incrediblie post. I've been to this place and it is worse than it looks in these pictures (if thats possible). What a symbol for suburban blight. Thanks for keeping me awake a little longer tonight.
posted by KevinSkomsvold at 10:37 PM on April 18, 2005


It's a fascinating place. Apparently it was the largest mall in the country when it was built (I don't have documentary evidence for this, but I've heard it said more than once).

Anyway, the place serves as an interesting illustration of the shifting demographics and institutional segregation that define the Chicago metro area. While Dixie Square tanked, malls north of the city thrived. See Northbrook Court, for example.
posted by aladfar at 11:05 PM on April 18, 2005


This made me think of Unicity Mall and I GIS'd in vain for it moments ago...

me sad now.
posted by dreamsign at 11:05 PM on April 18, 2005


Great post AgentRocket. Thanks.
This reminded me of the radioactive exclusion zone around Chernobyl discussed here and here.
posted by pieisexactlythree at 11:12 PM on April 18, 2005


Excellent post construction. Reminds me of those spooky stories I read growing up about mass death and survivors, and of course this TV movie.
posted by Heywood Mogroot at 11:48 PM on April 18, 2005


I would so love to own such a place, and have my residence hidden somewhere within. I'm goofy.
posted by Goofyy at 11:57 PM on April 18, 2005


Should I feel bad if a failed mall gets replaced with a Wal-Mart? I'm not particularly a fan of either as civic anchors of our communities...
posted by metaldark at 12:45 AM on April 19, 2005


metaldark: at least the decrepit mall space isn't sucking money OUT of the community...

is it me or does this nation need an aggressive training programs wrt carpentry, health care, education.

Seems like we're wasting our time chasing after the latest DVD LCD consumerist doodad when all we really need is a good roof overhead and something to sit on, ya know?

We've become a nation of consumers, not producers. GDP should be more than retail and make-work.
posted by Heywood Mogroot at 12:49 AM on April 19, 2005


-"Discopants and haircuts."
- "Yeah, a lot of sapce in this mall."


I swear I just quoted that movie yesterday. Nice post AgentRocket.
posted by dabitch at 1:07 AM on April 19, 2005


I have the feeling that some of the Flickr Urban Decay folks are getting out the Kleenex after seeing this link...
posted by LondonYank at 1:49 AM on April 19, 2005


Interesting. Here in Columbus, Ohio, according to a city map I'm right up the street from Northland Mall on Morse Road, but when I drive by the alleged location, all I can see is the empty shell of what might've been a department store (one of the anchors?) in the middle of a huge empty lot.
posted by alumshubby at 3:45 AM on April 19, 2005


Great post on the shifting demographics of wealth and store locations. Imagine going into a mall to go to a Walgreens! I am going to link this story on my real estate blog.
posted by askmatrix at 5:41 AM on April 19, 2005


Whenever you see real estate sitting fallow for 20 years, you know that the politicians are doing their level best to frustrate free enterprise.

If the town fathers would revoke all zoning on the property and protect the property against increases in property tax assessment over the auction price plus CPI, there'd be a hundred bidders at the auction, and there'd be hundreds of jobs or hundreds of units of housing (or both) on the site inside a year.
posted by MattD at 6:31 AM on April 19, 2005


Thanks for that link Alumshubby. Northland was our hangin' mall back in the early Reagan years (when we could get our moms to drive us, that is). I've come across a few other local urban expedition sites, but I'd never thought to look for this place.

BTW, the bulk of it was ripped down last year, with the exception of a big cerulean Lazarus anchor which I thought had been converted into some sort of community center. My wife claims it's Big Lots coporate HQ, so who knows. I hope they do something about that sea of concrete, though. That area could make a nice park.
posted by crumbly at 8:01 AM on April 19, 2005


If the town fathers would revoke all zoning on the property and protect the property against increases in property tax assessment over the auction price plus CPI, there'd be a hundred bidders at the auction, and there'd be hundreds of jobs or hundreds of units of housing (or both) on the site inside a year.

Are you sure you're in the right thread?
posted by trondant at 8:04 AM on April 19, 2005


Excellent post.
posted by me3dia at 8:50 AM on April 19, 2005


Alumshubby, Northland looks deceptively small from Morse. It's oriented north-south, so not much is visible -- although it is pretty small by today's standards. The Schottensteins own it, and were planning on turning it into offices for one or more of their importing companies, but I think that got scrapped last year. Not sure what's going on now.
posted by me3dia at 8:54 AM on April 19, 2005


The Jesse Junior Seniors Center. Has a nice ring to it.
posted by likorish at 11:29 AM on April 19, 2005


There was one of these deserted malls near where I live, in Waterbury, CT. They built a newer mall right off the highway and the old one just died. It was creepy, just like this one.

Now they've replaced it with a Walmart, a supermarket, and a few other big stores. I suppose it's an improvement.
posted by smackfu at 12:51 PM on April 19, 2005


I was completely intrigued when I first read about this mall on the Deadmalls site a few years ago -- it's like a real, honest-to-goodness time capsule -- a mall, just as it looked in the 1970's. I'm stunned to now learn the place is making a comeback -- and yes, I do consider Wal-Mart a comeback.
posted by evilcolonel at 8:00 PM on April 19, 2005


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