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After demolition, what’s next for Jamestown Mall?

The Jamestown Mall Dillards in December 2016.
Mike Kalasnik | Flickr
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Jamestown Mall has sat vacant in unincorporated St. Louis County for about 11 years.

Last month, the St. Louis County Council approved a plan for the demolition of Jamestown Mall, which has sat abandoned in unincorporated St. Louis County for more than a decade. The council has earmarked $6 million in federal COVID-19 relief funds for the effort.

Jamestown Mall’s decline was slow, and there were warning signs decades ago, said Bob Lewis, an assistant professor of urban planning and development at St. Louis University.

Bob Lewis is an assistant professor of urban planning and development at St. Louis University.
Emily Woodbury
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Bob Lewis, an assistant professor of urban planning and development at St. Louis University, has spent much of his career studying malls and the way urban and transit planning affects their success.

When the shopping center was built in 1973, developers expected a major suburban expansion into St. Louis County. That expansion wasn’t as large as predicted. For one, construction on homes just north of the mall was halted after geologists discovered sinkholes and karst topography where the subdivisions were plotted.

“And so the county basically said, ‘We're not gonna allow any further development of any significance on that land,’” Lewis said.

White flight and economic disinvestment in north St. Louis County affected the area’s growth, as well as the location of the mall in relation to a major roadway.

Decades ago, malls were mostly built along arterial roads. To be successful today, he added, malls need to be built along heavily traveled interstates. That wasn’t the case for Jamestown Mall.

“It made a huge difference, as it turns out,” Lewis said.

Lewis is one of several consultants hired to help the county decide how to use the land.

“The county port authority is trying to figure out what to do with it now and recover the expenses, if they can, that they've put into it to stabilize it,” Lewis said. What is built there next, he added, will need to have community support and make economic sense.

St. Louis County Councilwoman Shalonda Webb, who pushed through the demolition proposal, is in the process of gathering input from residents and stakeholders regarding six proposals for the land use.

Bob Lewis joins St. Louis on the Air

Lewis said ideas for the site include new housing, corporate offices, a high-tech center, a logistics center, farmland or a place for renewable energy production.

“There's a lot of land for development,” he said. “I think the best-case scenario is really going to be something [where] the community can be on the property in some manner. Could some of it be a park or a trail system?

“Why not?” he added. “It's a huge site, and there's plenty of room to do that sort of thing … even with some of these other developments.”

One thing it won’t be, Lewis confirmed, is a mall or major shopping center.

“That's off the list,” he said. “We gave that an honorable mention in our report, but you're not going to get a market for that.”

Correction: The former Jamestown Mall is located in unincorporated St. Louis County. A previous St. Louis Public Radio report listed the wrong location for the former shopping center.

St. Louis on the Air” brings you the stories of St. Louis and the people who live, work and create in our region. The show is hosted by Sarah Fenske and produced by Emily Woodbury, Kayla Drake, Danny Wicentowski and Alex Heuer. Avery Rogers is our production assistant. The audio engineer is Aaron Doerr.

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Emily is the senior producer for "St. Louis on the Air" at St. Louis Public Radio.

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