Thirty years ago enclosed malls were beautiful, youthful places to spend disposable income. Today they are the cougars of retail, trying desperately to stay relevant while competing with the next great thing—the open air mall. Southwyck Mall was once a bright spot in Toledo’s retail. Today the mall is gone, razed in the hope that another developer would find the empty sight attractive and build on it. This has not panned out.
Southwyck Mall opened in 1972 with 700,000 square feet, 5,000 parking spaces, 2,000 employees and a seven cinema complex (a truly unique marvel in 1972). The Center Court featured a carousel. Fountains were scattered throughout the mall, and the interior had an Old English feel. At the time the south end of Toledo was the fastest growing section of Toledo. The Masonic Auditorium had recently been built nearby, and housing and apartments developments were going up at a fast pace. There was also several office complexes nearby that employed thousands of workers.
Southwyck Mall played a vital role in the Toledo area for many years. People loved to shop there, filling the corridors with eager shoppers, drawing in all kinds of activity. Most Toledo residents have fond memories of the mall. For years the Children’s Miracle Network Telethon would broadcast live from the mall. One year several original Norman Rockwell paintings were displayed as part of an exhibit hosted by the Boy Scouts of America. On October 30, 1976 Jimmy Carter made a campaign appearance at Center Court, speaking to 12,000 supporters on the 16th anniversary of JFK’s campaign appearance in Toledo.
The fairy tale of malls soon aged. Many latchkey children would spend their afternoons at the mall, annoying serious shoppers. Over time Southwyck Mall acquired a reputation as a gang hangout. When crime became prevalent in the Southwyck area, people shopped at their own peril.
When Owens Illinois moved their headquarters to suburban Perrysburg, followed by the opening of Levis Commons mall, Southwyck began to seriously struggle. Slowly the mall began to suffer. Anchor woes combined with poor management and a changing demographic led to Southwyck’s demise. Soon empty storefronts became common. Finally the last anchor closed, moving to the newer, open air Fallen Timbers Mall.
Southwyck Mall officially closed after 36 years of business in 2008. In 2009 the mall was demolished. The City of Toledo hoped that the empty spot would draw interest from other developers. So far, none have panned out. Today the area where Southwyck sat is vacant. All around the former mall vacant building are in several stages of decline.