Sunday, March 10, 2019

Meadowbrook Mall: Pittsburg, KS

Nestled in the southeastern corner of Kansas is tiny Meadowbrook Mall.  As the state's oldest operating mall, it still looks that way as well.  While the outside was updated within the past 15-20 years (unfortunately destroying a gorgeous art-deco facade), the interior retails much of its original interior details it had since its 1969 opening date.  At only around 184,000 square feet, it is a t-shaped mall but, each end of the T is an outside entrance instead of an anchor.  In fact, all of the mall's anchors extend off the side of each corridor with interior space accommodating only about 15-20 tenants.  Much of that 184,000 square feet is taken up by three of the mall's anchor tenants leaving the mall with only around 77,000 square feet.


Meadowbrook Mall is actually treated by its owners as a complex combining retail and office.  They group the mall with three outparcels including two strips with mostly office/medical and a Westco Furniture Store.  Meadowbrook Commons, a u-shaped strip on the NW corner of the mall property, has a mix of office, medical, and retail.  The same applies to the smaller Meadowbrook Annex just to the south of Meadowbrook Commons facing the main road.



First photo shows detail of center court.  Second and third photos show the court with JCPenney looking north and south.




Details of the front entrance, including the monkey statues and a plastic alligator.  On the outside, another white monkey statue is part of another fountain.

Meadowbrook Mall has survived many ups and downs in the industry considering that it never evolved into a large 3-4 anchor mall.  Its major anchor JCPenney sits in the top of the T on the east side of the mall, and it is small enough that it has no outside entrances even though it takes up 68,000 square feet (over a third of the mall's gross leasable area).  Its second anchor sits directly across from that: a vintage AMC theater that takes up 24,000 square feet and appears to have had additional screens added onto it.  The mall never had a Sears or discount store, but it did have one other junior anchor department store, which had a surprisingly interesting history.





Outside main entrance courtyard and detail.  This was far more colorful before the stucco update, but I do not have access to use the photo that showed the colorful original facade.


Detail of the outside fountain and waterfall with a white monkey statue.

Its third anchor, most recently Goody's, had quite a history of changeover.  At only 15,000 square feet, as of 2019 it will have changed names five times!  It originally opened as a location of J.M. McDonald, a partner to James Cash Penney, that opened his own department store chain in 1934.  J.M. McDonald operated there until 1983.  After liquidation, the store would be taken over by C.R. Anthony, an upscale department store chain that was mostly west of the Mississippi River.  Like McDonald, Anthony was also a partner to JCPenney!  The fact that JCPenney is a prominent anchor in the mall and that its only other department store anchor was strongly affiliated with JCPenney suggests that the construction of this mall was heavily influenced by JCPenney itself.  Anthony's itself started in 1922, but would sell out all of its stores to Stage in 1997, including the location at Meadowbrook.  After the 2009 buyout of then-defunct Goody's, Stage renamed the location Goody's.  Stage is again renaming the store in 2019 to its recently-purchased Gordman's division.


A look at the south wing with AMC theaters on the right.  Unlike center court, it was a pretty plain part of the mall with low ceilings.



A couple details of the south wing with an arbor that looks to have possibly had fountains or a sunken area originally.



A couple view of the north wing and entrance.

Despite its size and the state of the industry as a whole, the mall is doing okay.  It is mostly leased, and it has a mixture of local stores and national chains.  In the front of the mall next to the main entrances is a fountain with monkey statues.  A similar one is located outside the entrance in the grand entrance court.  Planter boxes are elevated above the mall surrounding center court, and high ceilings are met with high window skylights facing the main part of the mall in each direction.  Much of its business can be attributed to its proximity to Pittsburg State University, which is a major driver in the local economy.


South entrance detail with Gordman's/Goody's to right.


Detail of exterior siding entering mall next to Gordman's/Goody's


Goody's sure seems like an odd fit for Kansas as a store that was prominent primarily in Appalachia.  That likely explains the name change.  This was J.M. McDonald then C.R. Anthony for much of its existence.


A not-so-easy to read mall directory next to center court.


Skylight detail looking toward the south wing.

What the mall has in compactness has helped it weather many economic storms.  The only problem is, the area around the mall never built up to support it.  Nearly all of the retail is otherwise on the opposite side of town, and the mall's major anchor JCPenney is really struggling as a company.  While it has survived many flirtations with death, the retail industry is particularly harsh these days.  Keeping a small enclosed mall in a region with plentiful land in a side of town that isn't developing much is going to make things interesting in the next decade.  However, it is also one of the few retail options located along the US 69 By-Pass, and it is the only major retail center on the south side of town.  Thus, the mall still has marketability even if JCPenney leaves: especially since the store could be easily subdivided and modified the way it is configured into the mall.


Outside view of the north entrance.


1969 details are still present along the front walkway columns



Exterior views of Goody's/Gordman's (originally J.M McDonald) featuring a ribbed concrete facade.


South entrance with Goody's/Gordman's inside to the left and the theaters to the right.




These three areas appear to be the only visible outside access to JCPenney, but none appear to be actual entrances.

It is really anybody's guess as to what the future holds for the mall.  Kansas has been home to many smaller malls like this one, and most of them have faltered or completely died in the past decade.  It is likely a testament to local ownership, Great Plains Developments, LLC, that has a strong, vested interest in keeping this little mall viable in contrast to larger mall operators which would have dumped this mall off to slumlords a decade ago.  As Kansas's oldest operating mall, perhaps it has what it takes to outlast them all.


Broad directory showing the mall corridor and anchor history.


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