|If you enter the entrance on the last photo, here is the scene. Depressing and oddly bright in the same photo.|
|And if you take a right at the junction shown last photo, here is the view. Very deserted. Note the interesting light fixtures on the roof.|
The first problem came up in 1988, but it really wasn't one. Richland Mall, in the southwestern neighborhood of Forest Acres, had been enclosed. Of course, this was a huge flop and Dutch Square shrugged it off with its much more palatable offerings. But the neighborhood around Dutch Square hurt the mall in two ways. The immediate area had aged since the mall's opening, and had struggled economically for a while. On the other hand, the far northwest environs of Cola had been booming with new money and new residents. This was still in the Dutch Square region of dominance, but it wasn't long before the potential came crashing down. A forest 4.9 miles to the northwest was chosen for commerce in 1986, and shortly after came the decline of Columbia's "elderly" shopping institution. Combined with the construction of Columbia Place Mall in 1977, the soon-to-struggle West Columbia mall needed to visit the operating room. Under the new leadership of hometown Edens & Avant, a blueprint was created. An expansion was proposed, adding Atlanta's Rich's and VA-based Miller and Rhoads, but bumps in the road told otherwise. Rich's parent company, Ohio's Federated Stores was dealing with bankruptcy proceedings and a minor recession slowed the dreams. Nothing ever came to fruition.
One could say that the mall's decline started in 1983. This was when the mall's Woolco shuttered, leaving a major anchor vacant. This was further exacerbated with the death of the Tapp's chain in 1995, leaving JB White lonely anchoring the mall. The Band-Aid was placed on the mall in 1996, with anchor replacements, renovations, and new brains behind the mall. Burlington Coat Factory and Office Depot subdivided the old Woolco. The vacant Tapp's became a General Cinema, then AMC, megaplex. This renewed the mall's success, but this wasn't sustainable nor long-lasting.
|Detail of the storefront I was talking about. Nice doors.|
|From the closed Belk to the center court. If you couldn't tell, this mall is far from large. Given the pillars on the right, is that an old Express (not about the Bavarian storefront earlier)? On the left is a Planet Fitness.|
|Detail (or really none of it) of the Planet Fitness. I'm surprised they have a mall entrance being a gym of all places.|
What once worked stopped working, but it was only part of the mall's fault. Having a discount store and a theatre where someone can catch a movie and not really enter the mall didn't help. But it wasn't helping that competition was slowly squashing the mall. With two locations at Columbiana Centre, the new mall in town to the northwest, Belk saw little reason to operate another location at Dutch Square (JB White became Belk in 1998-99). Belk Simpson became simply Belk in 2011, and closed in 2015. The vacant Belk, or one-sixth of it, is slated to become a new Planet Fitness.
|Looking into the old Woolco, now Burlington. Discount stores were never meant to be pretty, but on the inside, the store shows its age. Picture a KMart, but a tad less trashy and a lot more linoleum and questionable fashion.|
|To the left of the AMC is this entrance wing. There was probably a cafeteria down that way decades ago. Down far on the right is what I think is a Hibbett Sports, or so Google Maps tells me.|
Dutch Square won't be Dutch Square for much longer, which is a pretty safe bet. I presume demolition is in the near future, given the state of its existence and the lackluster website. Grammar mistakes and old logos and old directories, the list goes on and on, aren't very inspiring. The real question is what comes in the place of Columbia's oldest mall. A Wal-Mart positions itself just down the street at the site of an old mall (go figure) so that won't work. Target probably doesn't want a location that close to Wal-Mart and the neighborhood folk are presumably more Bentonville-inclined. I'd say destroy the mall, place in a grocery store and place a strip mall around it. Surely it's nothing exciting, and the death of a mall is always sad no matter the circumstances, but what else? The area isn't exactly ready for a Nordstrom-anchored super The Domain-type lifestyle center, and nowhere else in SC is, for that matter. Schools or offices would require the emptying of all tenants, so what can you do? Strip malls can at least house displaced tenants.
|Detail of the entrance wing I entered through and shown earlier. Took me a minute to even find out what this was.|
|Here is the center court, which is awfully lush and dated. I do enjoy the admittedly out-of-style palm trees and good ol' Murica.|
Dutch Square appears to be reaching its last legs of AC. With demolition looming, I hope Dutch Square has a happy life from now. I usually don't hand out this type of respect to malls, but when you have lasted the longest in a brick-and-mortar bloodbath, love and loyalty has supported you. When other malls have passed you by, and you last, visits have supported you. When you aren't flashy or eclectic, careless shoppers have supported you. It's sad to see such a warrior of a mall that was so close to temporary invincibility back in the 90's die out. But I hope the property sees its second incarnation in happiness. (I will be off writing obituaries if you need me)
|I didn't get a sign photo but I did Street View it.|
|I got some exterior photos, but they disappeared somewhere, so another Street View will have to do. For all you know, this could be strip mall given the exterior. Note the old Belk and the blue BCF, with Woolco vestiges included.|