Innsbruck Mall today has no department store anchors, but it does appears to have the footprint of a lost department store on the front side. Poster Ken in the previous Asheville Mall post stated there were two department store anchors: JCPenney and Ivey's, but I can only guess the Ivey's was where Big Lots and Office Depot are today. The JCPenney was most likely the lost store on the front, operating there until 1989. However, I really have no way of confirming this department store actually existed, when it was built or when it was demolished other than this information. Considering that a Firestone is on the outlot, which typically suggested a Penney's auto center, I tended to believe that this very well might have been a Penney's, and Ken confirmed that. The only other possible anchors I thought of would have been Montgomery Ward, since Bon Marche had a location as Westgate Shopping Center before relocating to Asheville Mall.
A random storefront in the mall. Note the old-style display cases and doors as if this were open-air and in downtown. Perhaps this mall WAS originally open-air, but I have no way of knowing. Only the 1950's and 60's malls had these kind of storefronts in malls, and I really prefer those by far.
Looking from the end facing Tunnel Road to the back of the mall. Note that the mall seems to shrink toward the back. It's plain, simple and classic. These early malls were the best part about the 60's.
Both of these photos were taken in center court. On the last photo, I think that in a redevelopment, that brick store would make a very nice Starbucks. What do you think?
Judging by the design, Innsbruck Mall looks to have opened in or around 1963. It has all of the very early mall elements in place: a plain, simple design; actual doors to all the tenants in lieu of the later open entrances and a strip mall element attached. It also has many little strange quirks that were generally only found in the first generation malls as builders were still trying to figure out what they were and how they functioned. Aside from the mystery department store, other anchors include a now-closed Ingles, a dead movie theater in the back (not pictured), an Office Depot, Anna's Linens, Dollar General and a Big Lots in the location of defunct Brendle's. The Brendle's (photo) had apparently sat abandoned since 1996 before Big Lots moved in, and the Brendle's was subdivided when Office Depot moved in. This is what I am assuming was the original Ivey's location, which moved to Asheville Mall early on when Bon Marche was bought out. The Ingles closed at the mall in 2007, and I strongly suspect this may very well have been the very first Ingles. I took a few photos of the store inside and out when it was in business. This store in business is shown on an earlier post, and I will soon publish the other photos I took of the store in operation. I did not photograph the mall at that point, because the mall is closed at 6:30 during the week and closed completely on Sundays. As a result, I was unable to get in.
Off of center court is this wing off to Ingles, which is now dark since it closed in 2007. The new store is beside the mall. Just before the Ingles entrance is a store with an outside entrance that was converted into a side entrance to the mall.
A close-up of the vacant entrance and store, which still says "To Ingles" as if its still there. This was the tiniest Ingles store I have ever been to, and I was glad to see it and get photos when it was still operational. I actually wonder if it wasn't the very first Ingles.
Here, I wanted to focus on this planter in front of the old Ingles entrance. While planters are always nice in the malls, this and all the others in the mall are totally out of control. Someone either needs to prune these or start from scratch.
Nope, this is NOT an emergency exit. It's not even supposed to be a walkway! This impromptu store with an outside entrance is being used as another mall entrance. I hope someday a store can be put back in here, but it will take more than rock bottom leasing terms.
The mall itself does not even look like a mall on the outside anymore. Graced with a stucco facade and inappropriate windows, the mall looks more like an office building than a mall. This is why I did not take any outside photos much, because the recent exterior renovation disguised its original appearance, and it is quite ugly. Inside, however, the only renovations that ever took place involved paint to make the mall lose some of its somewhat Bavarian-themed appearance. This is unfortunate, as it took some of the charm away and also exposed quite clearly that the mall has some mold issues and looks rather deteriorated.
Inside the REAL upper level mall entrance, which was drastically renovated recently (not pictured), is this hallway leading into the main part of the mall. The mall is to the right, the window overlooking the lost anchor is to the left and straight ahead is the doors to the stairs and escalators down to the lower level parking lot. These escalators in specific are a real treat!
Normally I wouldn't cover escalators in this detail, but these are special: in fact, rare. That is because these are very old-style narrow gauge escalators barely wide enough for an average weight person to stand on. They were in fact so skinny I was reluctant to get on them at first thinking they were rickety. These were manufactured by Westinghouse and were all running smoothly at the time of my visit.
Looking up from the base of the stairs and escalator.
The bottom portal. This stairwell and escalator pair has a twin arrangement like this between the Big Lots and center court. Those are also featured here.
The most special aspect of the mall is that, like Asheville Mall, it is built into a hillside. However, the mall was still single level with large stores and some offices put underneath in lieu of a two level mall. The mall is accessable from the lower level parking lot via two entryways that include a flight of stairs with very classic narrow-gauge escalators on each side. When I visited, the escalators were working fine and were interesting to ride as they seemed to be designed for thin people only. Both escalator areas featured plain windows on the outside with some 60's tones that seemed to be leaking a bit. One of these entrances came up around Big Lots/Brendle's and the other further out. Another entrances comes from the parking lot on the upper level opposite side where I came in. This side is handicap accessable and is in front of the old Ingles, which moved on an adjacent lot next to the mall.
Yep, they have a directory. The directory listing (not shown) pretty much shows the mall is over 50% vacant, which is by official definitions dead. I think this could change, though, and I think it could happen without demolishing the mall itself. However, I think the current owners pretty much view the mall itself as office space while the stores with outside entrances and direct parking lot access are viewed still as retail. From the outside, it pretty much looks like ugly offices which is why I did not photograph it.
The mall itself has some of the most antique elements I have encountered, and gets minimal upkeep. The planters in the mall are out of control with the plants growing wildly out of their planters. The skylights above provide plentiful light to the plants, and they are graced with a thin glazed glass below the dropped ceiling that is reminiscent of the era. I removed some of these stripping down a 1950's/60's era house in a dropped ceiling, so I know they are old. Some of the lighting in the main mall consists of very sleazy looking track lights with many bulbs burned out. In front of the bathrooms was cris-crossed turqoise brick-shaped tiles that have not been seen since the era it was built. The flooring was plain white tile, but I wonder if this was recently replaced. The mall apparently had green astroturf before, which was also long gone by the time I saw it. I would have loved to have seen the mall with that. Fans of first generation malls will definitely enjoy seeing this, and this place made me feel nostalgic for places like this from my early childhood.
Here are some shots of the abandoned Ingles inside and out. I think this would make a good location for a Trader Joe's, and maybe even a Best Buy if the store was expanded into the mall. However, I prefer the former option. This actually was not the last "disco Ingles" in operation. Hint, hint...
Today, aside from a few odd tenants the major traffic draw to the mall is the DMV office. Lines stretch out into the mall, and the office itself is grossly inadequate. It is obvious it has been there awhile as its walls are graced with wood paneling. Another vintage mall in SC is being kept solely open by the DMV, so this is a familiar scenario in mostly forgotten malls that thankfully have not yet been disposed of. An empty store next to Ingles with an outside entrance was converted into a temporary entrance to allow easier access to the DMV. The back of the mall has a dry cleaners, which is accessable just outside the rear mall entrance. I did not explore back there so as not to bother the group of smokers outside.
Looking outside at the lost anchor believed to be Penney's. This entire grassy plot obviously once housed a department store, and I really wonder why it was torn down. That tree out there definitely looks to have been there since at least the early 1990's, and this window is the size and shape of an old mall entrance. Both this and nearby Asheville Mall are situated in beautiful terrain as this view here suggests.
In all, Innsbruck Mall is a really fluky place to still be around in the state its in. In any other city, a wrecking ball would have torn it to shreds sometime in the 90's. I really can't predict how much longer it will be there, and I definitely would not consider it a total loss even though the current perception of the mall is nothing more than an ancient dump with a few offices and no real stores anymore. Neverthless, the fact is that even though it has not had any retail in the enclosed portion for years and it lost its anchor supermarket, the mall serves a niche and is located on a vintage part of Tunnel Road that, while dated, is not necessarily a slum either.
Now for a look at the second escalator and stairwell. To me, this is the perfect 60's mall shot. Very mood, lots of glass and some gaudy orange thrown in.
Just when you think it couldn't get any better, just to the right of the stairwell is the perfect 60's combo: mysterious stairs, wall with turquoise brick-shaped tiles, dark brick on old store to the right with long shutters and some wood paneling thrown in on the side of the staircase. This is downright groovy!
Now, take a look down these escalators including the orange panels in the window. Also look outside at the Office Depot and Big Lots. Here, I want to demolish both those stores outside, adding a two level structure outside and replacing the stairs (not escalators) here with a walkway straight across to the second level proposed movie theater and relocated Office Depot. Hands off the escalators!!!
A look at the base of the escalators with the engraved "Westinghouse" logo. I have never heard of Westinghouse escalators before I saw these. I also love those big chunky handrails in lieu of those scary thin all-glass rails that are so hot today.
My expectation is that the DMV may very likely take over part or all of the old Ingles and the mall itself will continue to function loosely for offices and small businesses not dependent on the classic retail model, but I think they could do better than that. However, if the owners do not do some maintenance to the interior of the mall to keep those people there, it may end up being sealed off in the future. The roof is obviously leaking in spots, and the dropped ceiling looks like it's not secure in other places. While I have no desire to see the mall renovated internally in any dramatic fashion, I think that replacing or at least trimming up the planters, fixing the leaks, replacing the moldy spots and adding a little color to the place would make it more appealing. Of course, putting a department store back onto the mall would be nice, too, and I think I have a very good idea of what that should be.
Have a seat!
The back wing is smaller, but not necessarily more dead. The line in the background is to the DMV, which is why I don't have as much detail of that area. Also, I would have liked to have photographed the DMV office with its wood paneling, but I scrapped that idea for obvious reasons. This section of the mall is smaller and seedier. The owners don't seem to like to replace burnt out lightbulbs...a common problem throughout. Even though this part of the mall is isolated, it is actually doing the best. An alterations shop is on the left and a beauty school is on the right.
I have to admit, the clusters of track lights look kind of junky, but I like them for some reason. There is some sort of eccentric charm to the gaudiness of the 60's. The back door is in the background, and considering it opens up only to the driveway to the back parking lot makes its presense seem kind odd. It is nice, though, because it brings light into that part of the mall, and the hillside makes the mall look like it is in the middle of a lush forest.
Zooming in on the back door. I didn't go out so as not to disturb the smokers enjoying their break. What is amazing is that just outside the door to the right is a dry cleaners named Hour Glass Cleaners. They are completely hidden from view behind Ingles, and they do not have a mall entrance. Now I wish I had went out there, but I will be back.
This empty store next to the back door fascinates me. It actually had a pretty small footprint, but it is genuine retro. What exactly was this ever?
In all, even though I love it the way it is inside, I really think that since Tunnel Road is still such a hot corridor that this mall could be given a major shot in the arm and be restored to retail bliss without changing the main mall structure itself. I have really thought this out, and am publishing on here my redevelopment plan for both levels. My idea is very realistic, too: no fantasy anchors and something very different. The plan is basically to lure onto the mall pretty much several major stores that are not currently in Asheville that might do very well here. Build a Bass Pro Shops Outdoor World in the empty JCPenney pad. Add a Borders Books where God's World is currently, expanding the building further into the parking lot for more space with the store on two levels. Trader Joes would be an excellent fit for the old Ingles. Something like DSW could take over the bottom floor with all of the existing tenants bumped up into the mall itself.
Zooming in on the skylights. These skylights for some reason are not directly visible, hidden by these glazed glass panels somewhat yellowed with age. These have to be original. While plain, I really like this style actually in comparison to modern skylights. It gives a really nice glow to the mall.
While I want to save the main mall, I would vastly modify the strip mall section that made up the former Brendle's. What I would do there is demolish the Office Depot and Big Lots, rebuilding on site as a two story wing to the mall with Costco on the bottom floor. On the upper floor, the portion closest to the mall would have a replacement Office Depot and a 16 screen movie theater on the left. The Costco could be built oblong into the back parking lot to allow an adequate sized store. A parking deck would be built over the front lower lot, having entrances to the Dick's and to the front of the Office Depot and movie theater. The new wing would be enclosed on both levels and would tie directly into the escalator/stairs in the mall. The narrow gauge escalators would remain, but the steps would be replaced with a level walkway to the new second level enclosed hallway part with steps put in near the theater with additional escalators. The large window would also be removed since this area would be opened up. The other escalator/stair entry would not be modified.
This Firestone is a dead giveway that JCPenney used to be there. The fact is that when Penney's abandoned the auto centers, they sold them all to Firestone. This sits right at the foot of the lost store and it looks like its from the era. If so, the Penney's here would have closed in the 1980's when it moved down to Asheville Mall.
Here is the lower level mall entrance. Anna's Linen's is on the left and the grassy lost anchor spot is on the right. Inside are the escalators featured in the first set of photos.
Anna's Linen's, Dollar General and Ball Photo make up the lower level of the mall. They have no access to the upper level from the inside, but the area underneath goes deep. This is the area I think would make a good DSW location. In the background is Big Lots with an arched facade that was formerly the Brendle's entrance. Brendle's was closed last time I saw it: obviously for a very long time.
A look at Big Lots (former Brendle's) and Office Depot, which took over part of the Brendle's.
As to the mall it self, keep the mall as is, but clean up the place a bit adding more contemporary flooring, updated lighting (retro 60's only) and replant the planters. All ceiling tiles will also have to be replaced as well as fixing sagging spots. Also, repaint the ceiling and non-store walls to a more muted contemporary color scheme. Do NOT replace the escalators. Do nothing to the general structure inside the mall, though, as the 60's design with the new anchors would make it more of a niche and interesting touch. Also, do not allow anchor tenants to modify the original storefronts even if they need to expand into several stores for adequate space. On the outside, however, I would definitely go for an all-out bavarian design to match up with the name. Make it look like Biltmore Village!
From these Google Maps photos, I pieced together this redevelopment plan. Note the light blue area, which would be a new enclosed hallway fronting the lower level where I am recommending a Costco. DSW would take over the existing three tenants on the lower level. This would also be the lower level of Outdoor World, which would front the improved mall.
The upper level plan is a bit more dramatic featuring a new parking deck, relocated Office Depot, new movie theater, new bookstore, new Trader Joes in the old Ingles and some renovations to the mall aside from a new multi-story Outdoor World. The parking deck would provide direct access to Outdoor World and Office Depot via the upper level enclosed walkway.
The fact is that Innsbruck Mall may be old and dated, but it is a survivor in a nice area in a prime retail corridor. Note the modified aerial photos included here that show my idea for the mall. I continue to come up with modifications to this, but this is the general plan. Innsbruck Mall may be dead in its current form, but with some imagination it could be turned into a vibrant retail center again as well as an incredibly cool place unlike any other contemporary big box development.