Take one look at the Knollwood Mall parking lot on a Saturday afternoon and you’d never believe this is the site of a dead mall. The parking lot is a busy, chaotic clusterfuck that stretches from the Kohls department store to the Old Navy, extending well into the Cub Foods parking lot. Frankly, I’m not sure which is a bigger pain-in-the-ass to deal with: Highway 7, where the Knollwood Mall sits or the Knollwood Mall parking lot itself.
The history of this mall is interesting, so let’s delve into that first. This is all based on anecdotal information from deadmalls.com and other various resources, so if you’re writing your dissertation on the Knollwood mall (why?), I’d think twice of using this blog as a reference.
The Knollwood Mall started its life in the 1950s as “Knollwood Plaza,” a strip mall with all outside-facing shops. If you look at this photo, Knollwood Mall looked an awful lot like the Golden Valley Shopping Center still does today.
In the ’70s, shoppers were lovin’ the climate-controlled environment of enclosed malls, so Knollwood mall owners decided to hop on that bandwagon. Even though Knollwood Plaza was doing fine, they demo’d it and rebuilt from the ground up, turning it into the Knollwood Mall that we know and love today. Sort of, anyway.
From my research (because I never visited this until the mid-90s, so most of this info is coming from DeadMalls.com), it looks like Knollwood was a hoppin’ place until it hit the skids in 1994 and went on a slide, slide, slippery slide.
In 1994, Carson Piere Scott left and got replaced by Kohls. The mall at that point came under new ownership. The new owner teased St. Louis Park & Hopkins residents with the promise of a giant movie theater. He went as far as to shut down the current fourplex and close off the entire east wing of the mall to make way for the theater. Unfortunately, this move catapulted the Knollwood Mall into retail despair.
He never followed through on his promise though. Why? Was it a cruel joke? Did financing fall through? I don’t have an answer for that. The movie theater was never built and the east wing was never reconnected to the mall. So now, instead of a 16-screen megaplex, we’ve got a mall with no movie theater and entire wing of abandoned stores. This guy did a hackjob on this mall and is why today, this whole place is a disjointed mess. So if you’re wondering why stores from Old Navy on down are not connected to the mall, this is why.
This mall has been manhandled so many times, it’s hard to picture what it originally looked like. In fact, I can’t say I’ve ever been here before all the “remodeling.” I think the only time I went here was in the mid-90s and went to the Kohls. I remember being dumbstruck on how dead this mall was even back then. The tiles on the floor, especially in the no-food “food court” and the beams on the ceiling look very ’70s, so I’m guessing other than drywalling over storefronts and sealing off entire wings, a lot of the “guts” of the mall remains the same.
Today, there isn’t much here. What’s left of the enclosed space is not very big and so many of the storefronts are either drywalled over or have a crash gate up. The food court has no food (so I guess it’s a “court”, huh?) There’s a bunch of tables and chairs, but all the fast food places are drywalled over.
For the stores that are left here, you can be sure that at any given moment, one or more of the tenants in the Knollwood Mall is going out of business. When I visited, this tenant was Avenue, a ladies plus-size clothing store that had been here since 2003. If you see a new business here, it’s probably not going to make it over the 6 month hump. The lesson here is if you see something in that skin care shop you really like, buy it now, for next month it’ll be a perfumery.
I wonder why they even bother with the interior mall? What, there’s like a Bath and Body Works and a GNC here, and a candy vending machine island. Why waste the electricity? Finish the job. Drywall everything off and call it a day.
The mall does still host events like indoor swap meets and sports cards shows, so I suppose they generate revenue that way. In the mall’s heyday, Santa Claus and the Easter Bunny made their cameos during their respective holiday seasons. I’m sure the Knollwood Mall stop was cut from their tour schedule years ago.
There’s not a whole lot going on inside the mall, but the exterior-facing stores are hoppin’. So in other words, the mall started as an exterior-facing traditional strip mall, then became a traditional enclosed mall, then turned half the mall back to a strip mall…and now the stores with all the life are exterior-facing. What’s old is new again, right?
As far as where everything was, I can’t tell you. From a few Google searches, I’ve been able to put this tenant list together:
Powers Department store
Montgomery Wards (Now Cub Foods. No mall entrance)
JC Penny (Closed 1997)
Donaldsons/Carson Pierie Scott (now Kohls)
Four-screen movie theater
Gold Mine Arcade
Walgreens (Moved across Highway 7. Now Old Navy)
Christopher & Banks
Caribbean Tanning Salon
Everyday Hero (Now DSW)
Country Club Market
Steve and Barry’s
1 Potato 2
Basement: (!!! Yes, this mall has a basement!)
KRS Computer & Business school
Four-screen movie theater? This is a guess. I’m making that assumption based on the Hollywood-style lights.
Bath and Body Works
Foss Swim School
TJ Maxx/Home Goods
An army recruiting office
A massage parlor
Exterior/no mall connection
Closed off to the public.
So what do you know about Knollwood? I’ve only been here a handful of times, mostly just to eat at Panera. I’m sorry I’m not much help, but enjoy the rest of the photos! (all photos taken June 2012)