Eastland, one of the three directionally-named Columbus malls, opened in 1968 as the city’s first enclosed shopping mall at the northwest corner of Hamilton and Refugee Road. It was a bustling and thriving commercial center, where residents from near and far—including new East Side developments such as Glenbrook and Blacklick Estates—would come to spend their time and money.
Aerial view of Eastland Mall in 1968, a month after it opened.
A 1968 Columbus Dispatch special feature about Eastland.
Bustling Eastland Mall, 1983.
Crime is another factor that has led to Eastland’s decline. This photo is from a 2011 news report, when $20,000 worth of electronics were stolen from the mall overnight.
Its story is similar to Westland, with the loss of anchor stores and competition from the thriving Polaris Fashion Place and Easton Town Center causing its slow downfall. While Eastland remains in operating, it has lacked an anchor since 2017 and is nearly empty. The Sears at Eastland and Westland malls closed concurrently in 2017.
One of the causes of the mall’s deterioration is economic decline in the area. Adjusting numbers for inflation, the median household income in 1990 was $53,788, and the area was mostly middle class. It began slowly declining to $47,907 in 2000, and then swiftly dropped in the next decade to $31,396 in 2010. With less disposable income from nearby residents and the aforementioned malls in more affluent areas drawing shoppers from other parts of the city, it seems that Eastland is on track to end up like its fellow directional malls.
While Eastland is still open for business (or was, pre-COVID 19), it is considered by many to be a dead mall. The vast majority of stores have closed, and the once bustling walkways are mostly empty, even during weekends. There are numerous YouTube videos of dead mall tours through Eastland, with one amassing over 27,000 views since it was uploaded in December 2019. All of the mall’s department stores have closed and there were over 20 vacant stores when that video was taken. The mall owners are currently hoping to draw local businesses in by hosting free monthly community events to help revive it.
While Eastland’s future may look bleak, all hope is not lost. In recent years, the area’s immigrant population has grown substantially, which has led to the opening of new businesses such as Saraga International Grocery. The city of Columbus has also pledged to invest $20 million over the next two years for infrastructure improvements around Eastland, with the hopes of attracting new businesses and transforming the mall. With new investment and updated infrastructure, a racially and culturally diverse population, and a convenient location, the area certainly has the potential for revitalization. I’m curious to see if the mall will stick around, or if it was be demolished and completely redeveloped like the former directional mall Northland–up next in the series.