While long forgotten, McAlister Square is still very much in existance and very much open with normal mall hours. However, as one of the two repurposed malls, it today functions almost completely as a multi-college satellite campus. Five colleges hold classes in the mall with the primary schools using the mall today being Clemson, University of South Carolina and Greenville Tech. A couple stores also continue to function near the main entrance including a cigar shop and a local restaurant that seems to be doing surprisingly great business. Overall, though, the mall is completely empty when class is not in session. It is not a traditional mall anymore by any stretch. However, it's use as essentially a college campus has given it a bit of an interesting history as presidential hopefuls including later President Obama paid a visit to the mall during the campaign in 2008. Nevertheless, in normal times if you needed a quite place to study on the weekend after class was over, this would definitely be the place to do it.
An older photo of this entrance showed that a more contemporary facade covered this original plain window and sign. This entrance looks very, very similar to the original mall entrance to Columbia Mall in Atlanta.
Just inside the mall entrance looking toward the old Belk Simpson. The main mall intersects ahead. To the left is the one surviving restaurant and to the right is a cigar shop behind Nationwide.
McAlister Square had brighter, happier times. Located on SC 291 between the downtown extension of I-385 and I-85, the mall was the very first mall in South Carolina not too far ahead of Dutch Square Mall in Columbia. In design, the interior design was unmistakably similar to Atlanta's Columbia Mall, which opened in 1964. It opened in 1968 with Charlotte-based Ivey's and Spartanburg-based Meyers-Arnold. The mall offered a single level enclosed corridor with modern shopping, but the mall itself was quite simple and plain. While small enough to be perfect for repurposing, it was actually amazing how long it continued to be successful. In the late 70's, McAlister Square gained an additional anchor and back wing for Belk Simpson. The anchor addition was likely a reaction to Greenville Mall, which opened in the 1970's not far away. The mall also saw two anchor changes. The first occured in 1987 when Meyers-Arnold became Upton's and the second in 1990 when Dillard's snapped up the entire Ivey's chain. This new wing brought the mall to a clean symmetrical T-shape and solidified its presence in the city. Right after this, the mall had trouble on the horizon.
Center court includes this stage and trellis-looking thing over it.
Looking down the Belk wing and the Belk Simpson mall entrance, which has never been covered up.
By not covering up, we of course get a peak inside at a store in surprisingly good condition for being abandoned for over 10 years. It looks like work is being done, but nothing is actually happening. This is apparently just storage.
For 20 years, despite the fact that not much retail was built around the mall, the mall continued to thrive. Trouble brewed when Dillard's bought the Ivey's chain. Initially, this change proved harmless because they had no other locations in the city. Somewhere in that period, the mall was renovated to a tasteful late 1980's design that added some style to it. It was likely renovated previously in the early 80's after a fire struck the mall, according to a post on deadmalls.com. Even with the fire and its off-beat location and better nearby competition, this anchor diversity proved to be a blessing and a curse. What also helped was how poorly Greenville Mall was performing then, meaning shopper loyalty remained at then much smaller Haywood and McAlister Square. Since it was closer to Haywood Mall than Greenville Mall, this likely also made a difference.
Walking back toward the main entrance on the Belk wing.
Turning a corner from the Belk wing to the Ivey's wing at center court.
Looking down the Ivey's wing. 20 years ago, this place would actually have people in it on a Saturday night.
Ahead is the former mall entrance to Ivey's. A side entrance to the front parking lot is on the left. Both anchors had mall entrances next to the anchors.
In 1995, the end was imminent for McAlister Square. Apparently Haywood Mall had aspirations of greatness, and the Dillard's was lured away to a bigger, newer, brighter store at Haywood Mall complete with a new wing, which greatly increased the size of the city's only two-level mall. In addition, dying Greenville Mall was suddenly given a huge shot in the arm with a renovation including a Parisian: a new upscale anchor for the city. Suddenly, McAlister Square was truly looking tired and out of the way. McAlister Square was unable to replace that lost anchor, but the worst was yet to come. Belk Simpson closed in 1999, leaving the mall with one anchor and a quickly emptying mall. Belk had the best reason to leave since they already maintained a store at Haywood Mall less than two miles away. Upton's folded later the same year when the chain went out of business. When that happened, what was a maimed mall was suddenly a dead mall almost overnight.
The back entrance of Ivey's maintains its original configuration. The front has been modified with college labels and logos.
Belk Simpson maintains a very prominent labelscar. It is a simple, but stately looking store and I am quite happy this last vestige of Belk Simpson remains although it is a bit creepy looking.
Upton's/Meyers-Arnold was an extremely plain, bunkerlike stores in desperate need of updating even when it did close.
By 2000, all hope was lost of McAlister Square ever functioning as a retail center again. It was historically significant, but it was by then a very small, boring, empty mall with absolutely no reason to go there. What was worse was that the big box and other chain retail of the city also preferred the company Greenville and Haywood Malls meaning the mall relied solely on its anchors to keep it afloat. McAlister likely would have been abandoned or demolished, but apparently the local colleges looking to expand enrollment took over the mall, converting the White's and Ivey's into satellite campuses. However, Belk Simpson did not find new life in this conversion. The store has remained vacant since it closed, though the store does not appear to be in disrepair and is still open to view from the mall itself. The mall itself also does not pretend not to be a mall anymore. It is still McAlister Square Mall and still has a very early 90's sign posted along the highway proclaiming it. In all, South Carolina's first mall proved that it was able to last even if nobody wanted to shop there anymore.
McAlister Square also maintains a very late 80's/early 90's sign continuing to flash announcements. One of those should be "Thank you for educating yourself at McAlister Square Mall!"