Randall Park Mall
The Short Career of "The World's Largest Shopping Center"
On August 11, 1976, the Randall Park Mall opened its doors in the village of North Randall, Ohio. Built upon the site of the former Randall Park Race Track, this shopping complex embodied the essence of modernity and class with its unique marble flooring and distinctively structured interior. Randall Park Mall was originally constructed as a shopping center with over 200 stores on two levels. It contained more than two million square feet of space and eventually included five department stores. This immense center in North Randall was to become a “super city” in which individuals could not only shop but conduct their business and living affairs as well. Commissioned by the (Edward J.) DeBartolo Corporation, this expansive shopping center was intended to change the very structure of the greater community in which it was placed.
The man behind the massive undertaking to build Randall Park Mall was Edward J. DeBartolo, Sr. (1909-1994) of Youngstown, Ohio. Capitalizing upon the desire of 1960s American families for a quieter life away from the bustle of the big city, DeBartolo undertook projects to develop residential communities in which families could not only live, but also work and conduct their personal business as well. Through his building of massive shopping complexes all over the country, DeBartolo bolstered his economic legacy as one of Forbes’ wealthiest individuals in the United States in the mid-1970s, and shortly before his death was estimated to be worth roughly $850 million. Influenced by the famed mall architect Victor Gruen, DeBartolo based much of his designs off of original Gruen models, showcasing two-level shopping centers. Much like Gruen, DeBartolo also desired to build his shopping centers into larger cities, providing an area for consumers to conduct business, pursue recreation and even live. Edward J. DeBartolo Sr. was succeeded by his son, Edward J. DeBartolo Jr. in his business endeavors after his death in late 1994, and today, DeBartolo Holdings has moved away from the construction of public shopping spaces to pursue more private endeavors.
After three years of construction and periodic halts (including lawsuits and legal injunctions from the community) to the progress of construction, Randall Park Mall was finally ready to open its doors for business in the summer of 1976. Randall Park Mall’s grand opening was received with fanfare and jubilee as patrons and community members explored the expansive center’s endless options for shopping and enjoyed what, at the time, bore more resemblance to the grandiose manor of a famous Hollywood actor than a shopping mall. As one journalist reported, “It was more like Cedar Point than a shopping center. The thousands of Greater Clevelanders who poured through Randall Park Mall on its opening day were in a holiday mood.”
While the birth of Randall Park Mall accelerated the decline of downtown shopping and other local shopping complexes, it also provided a small, obscure community with the opportunity to become a leading contender in commerce, not just in Ohio, but across the United States as well. This enormous influence, however, would not last more than twenty years, and in an age in which development companies catered to the will of the ever-changing masses, Randall Park Mall quickly lost favor with not only the industry itself, but the local community as well. “It began to fall apart in the late 1990s. Two of the mall’s anchors, JCPenney and Dillard’s, left as part of a companywide downsizing triggered by big-box competition. Many of the smaller stores soon followed.” By 2009, this once vibrant and thriving shopping complex was closed, stripped down to the bare bones.” As crime rates within the surrounding North Randall and Warrensville Heights areas began to rise and businesses began to fail, North Randall was no longer a place to which the Cleveland masses desired to flock. Consumers lost confidence in the North Randall shopping complex as a safe, fun and engaging atmosphere in which they could conduct their recreational and business activities, and thus began to move their business elsewhere. Beachwood Place, which opened two years after the debut of Randall Park Mall, began to steal away wealthier customers as they sought shopping and entertainment in more affluent and safe areas. In 2014, less than forty years after the mall opened, work began on the demolition of the expansive shopping complex. The North Randall area continues to be affected by the legacy of Randall Park Mall and community members hope that future business endeavors will achieve the lasting success it failed to attain.