Dixie Mall R.I.P.

454 CLUI photo by Steve RowellTHE DIXIE SQUARE SHOPPING MALL, crowned by the CLUI in a 2003 exhibit as The Best Dead Mall in America, is coming down. The monument to '70's commercial decrepitude, which after more than 20 years of abandonment, had evolved into a labyrinthian museum of decay, is, at the very moment of this writing, being bulldozed into piles, to make way for a new development.

The mall is (was) located in Harvey, Illinois, a suburb south of Chicago. It opened with great optimism in 1966, as one of the state’s first enclosed shopping centers. The rambling 800,000 square foot building housed over 60 stores, including the great retail anchors of the time, Sears and Montogomery Ward. Things went south relatively quickly for Dixie Square, and by the end of the ‘70’s the complex was shuttered. The swan song came a year later when the Blues Brothers, tearing through the margins of Chicago in the longest and most destructive cinematic car chase ever, careened through the mall, on their journey to Daly Plaza, at the center of the Chicago, like suburban marauders, making amends with the urban core.

Earlier this year, the 57 acre mall site was sold by the city of Harvey (which had owned it since 1983) to a developer called the Emerald Property Group for $500,000. Demolition started in March. The developer will be building a new shopping mall on the site, and has already secured some of the new retail anchors for these times: Old Navy, Barnes and Noble, and Bed, Bath and Beyond.

An exhibit, installed in the abandoned mall in 2003, featured the proposals from a NEA-sponsored competition for conceptual dead mall redesigns, organized by the Los Angeles Forum for Architecture. The exhibit is now being ground up amidst the mall debris, to be interred in a landfill.