Part 4: Northland Mall

The Sears at Northland Mall in the 1960s, with a full parking lot and shoppers everywhere. Source: https://www.ohiohistory.org/learn/education-and-outreach/in-your-classroom/teachers-toolbox/january-2019/lost-columbus-malls

Northland was the first of the directionally-named malls in Columbus. Built in 1964 as an open-air shopping center, it was followed by Eastland in 1967 and Westland in 1969. When it first opened, Northland had two anchors, Lazarus and Sears, as well as 40 other stores that were a mix of national chains and smaller local stores.

A packed Northland mall featuring the iconic clock tower in the 1960s. Source: https://www.ohiohistory.org/learn/education-and-outreach/in-your-classroom/teachers-toolbox/january-2019/lost-columbus-malls

Similar to its counterparts, Northland began seriously declining in the 1990s, due to competition from nearby malls, such as Polaris and Easton. Polaris opened in 2001 in northern Columbus, about nine miles north of Northland, near the growing suburbs of Westerville and Worthington. The Polaris Mall, despite being within the City of Columbus, is actually in Deleware County, not Franklin. It opened with an astounding seven anchor stores, three of which were Northland’s last remaining anchors; JC Penney, Sears, and Lazarus. This devastating blow certainly cemented Northland’s closure in October 2002, with its demolition occurring in February 2004. It is the only one of the three directional Columbus malls to be demolished as of the writing of this post.

The site of the former mall has been thoroughly developed since its demolition, and adjacent areas have been developed as well with a mix of uses, such as retail, office space, government offices, and housing. Source: Google Maps

However, the emptiness Northland left behind didn’t stay for long. While the Northland neighborhood’s population growth stalled from 2000 to 2010, it experienced a sudden boom in the following years; its population grew by nearly 6,000 between 2010 and 2018. After Northland Mall’s demolition, the land was redeveloped into Northland Village, with only the former Lazarus and JC Penney buildings remaining. These two buildings were repurposed and now hold the Ohio Department of Taxation and the Franklin County Department of Job and Family Services headquarters, as well as the Northland Performing Arts Center. Many other developments have sprung up nearby, such as Menard’s, the county animal shelter, and a Kroger, which opened in 2016. The Ohio Department of Natural Resources complex is also located right next to the former mall site. The Northland Mall site today is far from empty and vacant, with a wide variety of uses.

One of the major causes of Northland’s rebirth is the growth of the New American community there. Beginning in the 1990s, the foreign-born population started increasing, nearly tripling from 1990 to 2000. While the increase stalled a bit in the next decade, from 2010 to 2018, it sharply jumped from 10.2% to 25.6%; over a fourth of the Northland area’s population is now foreign-born. Subsequently, an influx of international businesses have located there, such as La Mega Michoacana Mexican grocery store and the Dabakh Restaurant, which serves Sengalese cuisine, just to name a few. Global Mall, a Somali shopping center, serves many of the 60,000 Somalis living in Columbus, representing the second-largest Somali community in the entire country.

The interior of a fashion shop in Global Mall in 2016. Source: https://www.cincinnati.com/story/news/2016/12/02/after-osu-attack-worried-somalis-talk-love-america/94657334/

The transformation of the Northland area is a fascinating story of revitalization through demographic change. Stay tuned for an additional post going more in-depth about how Northland, and Columbus as a whole, has experienced an influx of immigration in recent decades, and how it has impacted the city and the region.

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