Howdy dear readers! How was your Friday night? Did you enjoy a few brewskies on the patio of your favorite watering hole? Hit up ‘da clubz? Go for a boatride on Lake Minnetonka? Take in a Twins game at Target Field?
As for me, I spent my Friday night at the Coon Rapids Family Center Mall. The party never stops.
As far as dead malls go, Coon Rapids Family Center Mall is one pretty fuckin’ sweet dead mall.
Sorry. I’ll try to watch my language. This is a FAMILY mall.
Now that Brookdale is gone, this is one of my favorite dead malls in Minnesota. Coon Rapids Family Center Mall has this dead mall thing down pat. If you’re in mall management and hope that your property becomes a dead mall one day, then let the Coon Rapids Family Center Mall be your mentor. Take notes, mall managers, for this is a dead mall done right.
First, you’ve got empty storefronts. This is a pretty easy one to cross off the dead mall checklist. I mean, you can’t have a dead mall when you have no real estate for lease.
Second, it should have a dated appearance. Most malls have gone through a renovation or two in their day, but it’s the ones that make you feel like you’re in another decade that are the best dead malls. I believe the interior of the Coon Rapids Family Center Mall has been through one renovation, perhaps in the early ’80s? The outside, though, looks straight out of the 1960s.
Next, it’s gotta be dark & depressing inside. A brightly-lit dead mall isn’t going to give off the same vibe as a low-lit one. It’s a dead mall for crying out loud, make it moody.
Then there’s the creep factor. A dead mall needs to be creepy and there’s gotta be something in that mall that gives you that sinister feeling. For the Coon Rapids Family Center Mall, these strange paintings in the windows will do the trick.
The mall also has to have physical signs of decay. When I go to a dead mall, I want to see peeling paint! Letters missing off signs! Weeds in the parking lot! Broken glass! Lots of muthafuckin’ rust!
…(Families!!!! Must think of the families!)
Finally, if it has tenants, it must have mostly non-traditional tenants: When a mall is on its last breath, management lowers the rent to bargain-basement prices to attract tenants. This is how those oddball businesses, like real estate offices, small engine repair shops and police substations always seem find their way into an enclosed mall. In the Coon Rapids Family Center Mall’s case, their main tenant is a school. It’d be awesome if they had a DEB and a check cashing place, but the nearby Northtown Mall has that covered, so I’ll let it slide.
When I rolled up to the mall, I noticed that the parking lot was PACKED. I wasn’t surprised, as it’s a Friday night and the cars are obviously there for the Grand Slam arcade and not the mall itself. Still, though, I expected shady characters, drug dealers, hell, even zombies inside the mall. Who did I see? No one. I was the only one in the entire mall. Granted, I came here on a Friday night and the mall’s main tenant is a school. But still. I had free reign of this place!
I don’t know much about this mall and there isn’t much information out there. This is all I know:
The mall opened in 1964 and was originally named “Thompson Heights Shopping Center.” Red Owl grocery store anchored the mall; other tenants included a movie theater (the Owl Theater in the 1970s, which at one point was renamed “Rapids Cinema”), a cafe, home improvement store, a clothing store, a sporting goods store, a bakery and a pharmacy. (Sorry, my source did not name names, but maybe you can?)
Looking at the mall directory, however, you can make out some of the names of former tenants: I spotted a Brauns (Mom would be so happy!), Lapanta’s (I believe it was actually Lapanta’s Hallmark), a chiropractor and a Bible store, but that’s all I can see. Perhaps you can do better?
The mall doubled in size in 1972. Red Owl left the mall in the 1990s and the Grand Slam arcade took its place. Once Red Owl left, mall management changed its name to the Coon Rapids Family Center Mall.
The mall has very few tenants these days — there’s a barber shop, Marta’s Tailor, Grand Slam, and a school. I visited this mall back in 2009 and took pictures, but never wrote the post. Fortunately, the mall is virtually the same, except that Mr. T’s cleaners is no longer here and the flags have been removed from the parking lot poles. The mall has been dead as long as I can remember, but I never actually walked inside until now.
I don’t know the when’s and why’s of this mall’s fall from grace. I don’t know when/why the majority of the tenants jumped ship or know a timeline of when the Anoka-Hennipen District #11 school moved in. I will say though, at least the mall remains true to its name: Schools and arcades are, in fact, family-friendly.
I have no stories or memories about this mall, so I can’t bond with you, dear reader, over stories about how I almost got tossed from a Grand Slam birthday party for finding a loophole in a Skee-Ball machine’s ticket dispenser. Never happened, because I’ve never been there. Those kind of shenanigans, however, did happen over at the Village North Circus Circus…
I know, there’s a whole lotta ‘I don’t know-ing” going on but there just isn’t any information out there. You can Google it yourself, if you wish, but I’ll spare you the trouble because all you will find are maps, lodging information near this mall (as if this were an attraction for those planning their next family vacation) and results from this blog.
As far as I know, there are no redevelopment plans in the works, so if you care to stroll through this mall yourself, there’s no need to rush. But why waste the gas? You’re on the Dumpy Strip Malls blog; I visit these suburban shitholes so you don’t have to. (Hmm…new motto?)
The Riverdale shopping area, located a few miles north of this mall and built in the late ’90s, killed this entire area. A few years ago, I did a post about the abandoned Target across the street, so check that out if you want more information on this area. I wrote that post in 2009, and it has since been torn down.
Don’t forget to check out the photo gallery – I took a lot of photos here and I can’t possibly put them all on this blog post — and some are from my first trip here in May 2009. Any memories of this mall or any information you care to share? Please post in the comments!