While not particularly impressive, Granite Run Mall did retain a fountain in its center court up until the end. Most likely a much larger fountain once graced the center court prior to its last renovation. The first photo shows the center court escalators with JCPenney in the background. The escalators are likely not original.
Looking from center court to Boscov's, originally Gimbel's
A picture of the directory shows a three-pronged mall with Sears and Boscov's facing US 1 while JCPenney sat in the rear.
So much of why the Philadelphia market has so many malls is the power that the local department stores once had. Classy and very popular department stores Strawbridge & Clothier (Strawbridge's) and John Wanamaker (Wanamaker's) opened many locations around eastern PA to showcase their wildly popular stores. Other New York and New Jersey-area stores opened many stores in the market as well including Bamberger's (an R.H. Macy division absorbed in 1986) and Gimbel's. Local favorite Boscov's also helped shore up many of these malls in modern times. Like the department stores of old, Boscov's is more of a draw than the mall itself. Nonetheless, the decline of these once prominent regional stores such as Strawbridge's and Wanamaker's led to Macy's and Boscov's inheriting a ton of locations that are now very old in equally old malls. The future of these stores keeping many of these outmoded malls alive is short. In fact, Boscov's anchors quite a few dead malls and lives on at malls that have long been demolished across Pennsylvania.
One of three spiral staircases in the anchor courts, this one in front of JCPenney. Note that permanent planters were still used in the mall up to the end.
A view of the upper level from center court looking to Boscov's
View looking away from Boscov's to center court
Lower level entrance to US 1 next to Boscov's. This wing was very vacant and had the stench of sewage on my visit. It is unclear what the issue was, but it may be related to the closed restaurant on the left.
Planters and stairs on the lower level outside of Sears
Two views of the JCPenney mall entrance. It was a pretty standard look for malls built in the 1973-1976 time period with the dark brown ribbed material and dark glass.
Three separate angles of the Boscov's mall entrance including a Macy's-like side store that takes up some of the mall's space. Considering that original tenant Gimbel's was once a primary competitor of Macy's and Bamberger's (same company) in the region, it would make sense that they would try a similar tactic. The exterior design as you will see also resembles Macy's-owned stores of the period.
Granite Run also was built with a nearby competitor that proved to be a complementary mall. Springfield Mall also opened in 1974, but it did not have any anchor overlap at any point in either mall's history. However, the presence of both malls so close did not help Granite Run in the fact that differentiated anchors did not result in long-term duplication of inline stores. Granite Run began to be riddled with vacancies and infill tenants all through the 2000's and 2010's with redevelopment becoming the only accepted option. Competition from not only King of Prussia, but also nearby upscale centers including The Shops at Brinton Lake and Concordville Town Center made it more difficult for the mall to market the inline space to potential tenants. Times changed and Granite Run was not able to keep up.
A peculiar feature of 70's malls were the single escalators found in the side wings with none found in center court. Usually these escalators only went up. This one is found in the Sears wing.
Three views of the Sears mall entrance, which is not only an original anchor, but remains open at the now-demolished mall today. Sears, much like its former competitor Montgomery Ward 20 years ago, continues to operate many stores like this one despite a continued lack of business at the majority of their stores.
Next to Sears on the left is an upper level entrance wing (outside entrance shown also) that included a nail salon and Chinese restaurant at the end: two tenants that obviously do not keep the doors open on a medium-size two-level enclosed mall.
From 1998-2015, the mall saw significant change in management. 1998 saw the purchase of the mall as a joint venture between Macerich and Simon Property Group with Simon managing the mall. In 2011, Simon defaulted on the mall's loan beginning the failure of the mall. In 2013, BET investments then purchased the mall with the intent to redevelop the mall. By 2015, Granite Run Mall finally closed the interior mall with demolition beginning in 2016 to rebuild the mall into an open-air center maintaining Sears and Boscov's meaning that despite the loss of the mall that a significant portion of the mall would remain. With Sears troubles, it is unclear what will ultimately happen to Sears when it ultimately closes, but the owners must have faith that they can reposition the store when that happens.
This older style of Master Cuts was also noted in other dead malls built in the 70's.
Two views of the front of the mall. It was a very unattractive and brutalist mall on the outside.
Boscov's, originally Gimbel's and later Stern's, really was not modified much on the outside from its original look. Notice how it resembles many Bamberger's and Macy's stores of the era.
A curious component of this particular Boscov's is the garden center. Department stores have occassionally experimented with them.
Granite Run Mall today is not just symptomatic of the state of malls in the country where too many malls were competing for an ever dwindling share of the market. It is also the canary in the coal mine signaling the eventual failure of a large number of malls in the Philadelphia market. The market has a few very dominant malls that are only increasing in that dominance. This means that these older, smaller malls are set to join Granite Run in their descent into oblivion as they prove unable to effectively compete in a perfect storm of internet sales, department store downsizing, expansion of dominant malls and changing shopping habits. This will, of course, be unfortunate as some of these malls were very uniquely designed and beautiful in their day beyond what was common elsewhere in the country. Even Granite Run's redevelopment is risky relying on a scrappy regional department store and failing national department store as the center of its redevelopment. Nonetheless, in an era of failing malls in a city that is far too reliant on them it remains remarkable that Granite Run matured to survive 40 years and has avoided the fate of many malls of its time: sitting vacant for years while the political leaders scramble to figure out what to do with it.
The upper level rear entrance next to Sears retained its original 1974 look!
The front of Sears, although bland, features this fascinating granite mosaic apparently paying tribute to the mall's name.
Photos of the Sears auto center.
Photos of the exterior of the now-demolished JCPenney looking at the west and north side of the store.
While clearly expanded, Acme was an original anchor tenant on the outlot. Kohl's also opened as Clover, but was heavily modified to the point its former anchor tenant is not recognizable.
BONUS: Demolition photos taken July 23, 2016
Demolition underway, but not yet completed on the Sears wing
Side of Sears entrance wing where Peking restaurant was.
Former Boscov's mall entrance now covered up with demolition completed.
There has to be some irony here that this older entrance in the back is one of the last parts still standing.