There’s something creepy about buildings that used to have lots of people in them, but are now vacant. Places like old factories, or abandoned hotels. On the west side of Columbus, Ohio, is a place like that, a dead old mall that once was a vibrant, packed shopping center. The interesting part is, it doesn’t know it’s dead.
The Westland Mall was part of the four cardinal point malls developed in the late 1960s on what was the outermost edge of Columbus at the time. It, like its brothers, Northland (closed in 2002 and demolished in 2004), Southland (closed), and Eastland (still in operation), was originally an open air shopping center that was enclosed during the mall-frenzy of the early 1980s. Westland and Northland were the two most successful centers, and both were heavily trafficked in the 80s.
Westland’s decline began when the city began pushing outward, and what was once the edge of the city was folded into a middle ring. Still it was located right off the main highway belt surrounding the city. Then came three projects that spelled the doom of Westland Mall. The first was City Center, an attempt to bring shoppers back downtown. For a short period of time, City Center mall was THE place to go, and Westland and its brethren began to suffer. Then came Tuttle Mall, located on the northwest side of town, it was much more modern, a two storey mall with food court. Finally, Easton, built on the east side of town where the highest growth was occurring, put the final nail in the coffin.
The problem is, again, Westland, unlike Northland which closed in 2002, didn’t know when to quit. The mall is still open, and still has some businesses in it. However, walking the dimly lit halls of the shopping center, you feel like you’ve stumbled into a relic from the past.
The mall is still operating and there are a few shops, but the building is slowly falling apart. In some areas yellow caution tape is set up around ripped up brickwork and water damage. Almost all of the planters are dead or dying. The lights are working at about 30% normal, making it dark and dingy inside, and the shops rarely have more lighting. The directory has more marked out stores than open, and in my visit I saw no more than a half-dozen people wandering the quiet walkways.
The mall is, for all intents and purposes, a zombie. It’s not really alive but refuses to die. I was really disheartened seeing how this mall, which was once the center of a thriving community, has turned into a lifeless husk. As I walked along, my shoes echoing off the faded bricks, I wondered if there was any way that the mall might ever return to its glory days. The mall’s website isn’t even in operation any more, the site showing “account suspended”.
But wait! The mall may survive yet! In a way, any how. NBC 4 Columbus reported in May of this year that the mall might be rebuilt into an “Easton-like” shopping area as part of the upcoming casino opening on the west side. It certainly makes sense, since the casino will draw a lot of money to the area. Apparently the mall owners are planing to demolish a lot of the mall and rebuild it into an outdoor shopping center, just as it originally was.
So perhaps the zombie can come back from the dead one more time. We’ll see – I found no further updates after May.