I begin this story by sharing links to two stories I wrote in 2015 about Great Northern and Destiny USA, never considering the possibility that one mall would be totally gone, while the other feels like it’s dying fast, and might not be viable in another 3 years. Am I depressed… yes!

When I wrote that particular article about Great Northern Mall, I had a feeling it was ready to shut down. All of the restaurants were closed. Sears was still open, but they were starting to remove all of their merchandise. Dick’s and Bath & Bodyworks were still open, but only B&B was sustaining itself. Macy’s was closed, most of the other stores were closed, and the mall was renting space to small, local businesses, but that wasn’t going to last long. Friendly’s stayed open as long as it could, but their entire corporation was in trouble, which I didn’t know about at the time.

During that same period of time, many changes were happening at Destiny USA. The covid pandemic didn’t help, but not everything that happened could be blamed on that. For many of the smaller businesses, covid takes the blame; for the larger businesses, it turns out all of them were suffering nationally already, and some of them were anchor stores at the mall.

Let’s see, what stores can I remember? Penney’s, H&M, Lord & Taylor and Best Buy immediately come to mind. Macy’s is probably on its last leg, as the corporation is looking to close multiple stores across the country and it’s not as vibrant a place as it used to be. Many restaurants have closed, both large and small, but Cheesecake Factory seems to be sustaining itself well, and P.F. Chang’s is hanging in there; thank goodness! Other restaurants have given up the ghost, being replaced by newer and smaller restaurants that are probably on pins and needles because foot traffic is a lot lower than it was in the past. I’m not going to mention how many changes the food court has gone through, but it’s easy to see the decline in traffic and how rare it is to see the seating totally full these days.

The decline of malls in the United States isn’t a new thing. A mall called Randall Park Mall in Ohio, which opened in 1976, was once the largest mall in America. It only made it 33 years before it closed, and the structure was demolished in 2016. Mall of America, the current largest mall in the country, declined in sales 1.1% from 2022 to 2023, which isn’t bad. The area it’s in has seen a major decline on its population over the last few years, but the mall is close to its airport and still gets visitors from around the world continually, mainly because it has many indoor parks and recreational facilities.

Destiny had great hopes when it was still called Carousel Mall, but it all crashed when the original builder, Robert Congel, started building it with the goal of making it the largest mall in the country, which didn’t depress me one bit. I was lucky to be one of the earliest people inside the mall while it was being built, but it was unofficial and only one person knew it at the time; I’ll leave that alone for now. 🙂

What happened? Way too much information to get into, but suffice it to say that Destiny never made it to the top of “malldom” when it came to size. It also didn’t create a new neighborhood with upper middle class housing, hotels, a golf course and a few other things. If you go by the mall these days, you’ll still see lots of empty space on one side of the mall that no one actually knows what to do with it. In my opinion, that was the thing that started the decline of Destiny, although it was still pretty good for a while.

So, let’s get back to the main topic; is our area close to being mall-less? I mentioned Great Northern already, but what about Shoppingtown Mall, Penn Cann Mall, Seneca Mall, Fayetteville Mall, Tri-County Mall, Camillus Mall, Marketplace Mall, Fayetteville Mall, Finger Lakes Mall… am I missing any? If I’d gone outside central New York, this article could have taken all day to get through and depressed a lot more people, including myself.

Destiny’s going through other issues. They’ve luckily secured a 5-year extension on their outstanding $430 million debt in 2022, even as its value sank 80%, putting it deeply underwater. It’s also become a more dangerous place, with more public shootings and stabbings being reported, along with the attack on former Syracuse basketball coach’s wife in the parking lot, also back in 2022. That, along with many open and empty spaces, don’t sound like the chance of success is great.

Personally, I want to believe the mall will survive, that smarter people will come up with ideas to keep the mall afloat, and that it won’t default on their debt repayment in any way. There used to be shows in the mall that drew thousands of people, but I don’t know if that kind of thing will work anymore. What I do know is that if Destiny falls, we’ll only be left with strip malls… which might have “mall” in the name, but y’all know what I mean.

How do you feel about the potential loss of the last great mall in central New York?

© February
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