This aerial view shows Westland Mall under construction in June 1968.
Many Americans can likely think of a bustling mall they frequented in their youth that today is just a glimmer of what once was. On Columbus’ West Side, long-time residents think of Westland Mall; opened in Feburary 1969, Westland was once a thriving retail center home to popular anchor stores such as Lazarus, JC Penney, and Woolworth’s. Many remember spending weekends at the mall drinking Orange Julius and spending quality time with friends and family. Westland was also home to the teen variety show America Goes Bananaz on the local experimental, interactive cable service QUBE. Enclosed in 1982, Westland Mall experienced great success; it was a popular neighborhood hub with very little vacancy until it began to decline in the 1990s.
Harlem Globetrotter Hallie Bryant paid a visit to Westland in 1979 and showed off his moves for shoppers.
Westland began struggling in the 1990s due in part to the opening of competitor malls, such as Tuttle Crossing near Dublin, which precipitated a slow decline. One of the biggest blows was the loss of one of its anchors, JC Penney, which opted to relocate to the new Tuttle Crossing in 1997. The loss of one anchor and the huge vacant space it leaves behind is often the beginning of the end for a mall if unable to secure a replacement, and once all anchors are gone it often leads to the loss of its other stores that relied on anchor traffic for the bulk of their business. After decades of slow decline, Westland Mall permanently closed in November 2012, with Sears remaining open for another five years until June 2017; the mall has been entirely empty since then.
This still from a 2019 video tour of the mall shows the severe state of disrepair the abandoned Westland Mall is currently in.
Gone, but Not Forgotten
Despite being closed for nearly eight years, Westland Mall has a Facebook page with over 4,000 likes and follows. Interested people sometimes visit the former mall and post pictures to let others know how it’s faring, or share pictures and articles highlighting its former glory. There are hundreds of comments, many of them residents reminiscing on the major role Westland played in their youth. Many of the comments are very similar, with people reflecting on how they frequented the mall throughout their entire youth, had their first job there, and have nothing but fond memories. One commenter drove through the empty mall and “cried like a baby” thinking of what it used to be. Some have said that they don’t even shop in Columbus anymore due to lack of convenience; West Side residents enjoyed having a neighborhood mall they could easily drive or even walk to, with residents of the Lincoln Park West apartment complex living within walking distance. The surrounding residential areas are quite densely populated, with about 2,000 residents at Lincoln Park West alone.
A few posts from the Westland Mall Facebook page.
The future of Westland Mall is uncertain, but one thing is clear: residents are grieving the loss of a major retail center in their neighborhood. With the popularity of the Hollywood Casino right across the street, the possible opening of another Mark Wahlberg car dealership nearby, and the area’s accessible location right off of West Broad and I-270, Westland Mall is an ideal location for a West Side retail hub. A recent Dispatch article notes Central Ohio’s low retail vacancy rates and quotes local real estate broker Aaron Gilbert, who stated, “Retail isn’t dead. Boring retail is dead.” While the typical mall format ultimately failed at the Westland site, the space could either be reused as something similar to Otherworld or a Scene 75 entertainment center, or demolished and redeveloped into a mixed-use site (as the current owners have suggested doing) similar to Easton. Whatever the future holds for Westland Mall, I hope it’s reused or redeveloped in a way that benefits the West Side and makes long-time residents as proud as they were of the mall in its heyday.