Fort Saginaw Mall, Saginaw, MI
Some information courtesy Maggie and Jay.
Fort Saginaw Mall is the first shopping mall I've ever seen that was totally abandoned, and appparently it had been for quite some time now. Actually, I would go so far as to say it's the first dead mall I ever witnessed, as I vaguely remember seeing it way before Hampton Towne Centre, also profiled on this site.
I know it was the first of two malls in Saginaw, Michigan (three if the small Downtown Saginaw Mall counts). It started out with a Kmart/Kmart Foods combo that opened in 1966. The mall itself opened a year later, with the other major stores being Scott's 5 & 10, a one-screen movie theater, and Federal's department store. Around 1975, Fashion Square Mall was built on the other side of town. Easily several times larger than Fort Saginaw Mall, Fashion Square was anchored by JCPenney and Sears, as well as two local department stores: Heavenrichs and Wiechmanns, with Hudson's to come in a couple more years.
Federal went bankrupt sometime around 1977 (they also had a store at Green Acres Plaza a few miles away), and Scott's 5 & 10 became part of the T G & Y chain. The Fort Saginaw Mall Theater closed in 1976, reportedly because the manager was murdered. When Kmart abandoned the Kmart Foods concept, the old Kmart Foods space was used to expand the Kmart.
From what I can tell, Federal remained vacant until Burlington Coat Factory took over the space in the 1980s. A Big Lots was added at some point as well. T G & Y became Norman's, a local sporting goods store with branches in Bay City, Standish, East Tawas, and Bad Axe. Nonetheless, the crime rate in Buena Vista continued to climb throughout the 1980s, and Fashion Square's neighborhood was quickly filling up with big chain stores and fast foods for miles around. Despite a plethora of empty big boxes, the north side of Saginaw is still the main retail hub.
By 1990, fewer than a dozen tenants remained in Fort Saginaw Mall. Among these were typical mall fare such as Claire's, GNC, Fashion Bug, as well as a jewelry store and a cafe. This phone book also lists the mall as Saginaw Outlet Mall, which has me thinking that they tried the old trick of converting a dying mall to outlet stores. (I should also note that the outlet mall in nearby Birch Run, which at the time was only four years old, had not yet begun its expansion to the massive mall that it is today.) The outlet mall idea clearly didn't work at Fort Saginaw, however, as the only outlet store that I found was an El-Bee Shoe Outlet. Also, Burlington Coat Factory moved out in 1991, consolidating to a larger store across from Fashion Square Mall. (They have since relocated again.) Phar-Mor replaced the Burlington Coat Factory store, but didn't last long as the chain closed up all its Michigan operations in 1992. The Fort Saginaw Mall itself, except for Kmart, was finally boarded up sometime around 1998. Big Lots probably stayed open a little longer, as it had an external entrance. Finally, Kmart stayed open until May 2004.
The mall's outparcels comprised a fairly recent Burger King which replaced an older store across the street, a Speedway gas station, a former Elias Bros. Big Boy that closed around 2004, and a Wendy's that closed in 2007. Behind the former Federal's/Burlington/Phar-Mor sits a grocery store that, over the years, has been Ray's, Giantway, and Kessel Foods before becoming Save*A*Lot, which it is now. A couple other business, including a jewelry store, still operated alongside Save*A*Lot. In 2012, the former Big Boy was torn down for a Popeyes Chicken.
At the time of my visit, sometime in 2003, the mall was in horrible disrepair: broken glass, graffiti, massive piles of trash, and boarded-up windows aplenty, although the front side looked somewhat better. Behind the mall were huge piles of trash and several graffiti along the walls.
Once, while surfing the Internet looking for any more information on this mall, I found a page announcing that, in 2001, the mall was to have been demolished save for Kmart and the Save*A*Lot building and replaced with a strip mall and gas station. I don't know why these plans never came to fruition, but I do know that the plans referred to the property as "Fort Saginaw Shopping Center", and a fairly recent sign next to the Burger King identifies the vacant property as such. In 2006, Walmart was looking to build a store in the Frankenmuth area. Frankenmuth turned them down, but Buena Vista Township offered the site of Fort Saginaw Mall, and Wal-Mart declined. This was a good call in my opinion, since Saginaw already has two Wal-Mart Supercenters.
One article I found, also from 2006, also called for the property to be rebuilt as Buena Vista Town Center.
In late 2007, the charter township that the mall's located in tried to buy the property from Cafaro, the Ohio-based company that owns the vacant property. Cafaro apparently refused to sell, announcing that they had plans to redevelop as well. The township bought the property in April, and demolition was to have started sometime in 2008. It finally began in November 2009.
Thanks to a couple of Internet friends who remember the mall in its prime, I have been able to identify some of the mall's former tenants over the years. I also found the names of some other tenants by reading some of the names off the delivery doors at the back of the mall, and a few more listings came from a 1990 phone book.
* Adam Shoes
* Alberts (clothing store)
* Big Lots (1980s-1990s)
* Burlington Coat Factory
* Candle Light (1990s)
* Claires Boutique (1990s)
* Docktor Pet Center
* El-Bee Shoe Outlet (1990s)
* Fashion Bug (1990s)
* Federal's Department Store
* Fiesta Hair Salon (1990s)
* Fort Saginaw Cinemas (owned by General Cinema Corporation)
* General Nutrition Center (GNC) (1990s)
* Graystone Company (men's clothing) (1990s)
* Greenley Appliance
* Jo-Ann Fabrics
* Kmart/Kmart Foods
* Lite & Delicious Deli (1990s)
* Muir Drugs
* Nadines Jewelers
* Nobil Shoes
* Normans Sporting Goods (1980s-1990s)
* Prime Time
* Scotts 5 & 10 (later T G & Y)
* Thal's (clothing store)
* Thom McAn Shoes
* Wig Land
* Yoko Health Spa (1990s?)
Other stores included a TV store, a cafeteria (which may have been part of the Scott's/T G & Y), and a water bed store.
I took these photos sometime in 2003.
This is the former east anchor, last occupied by Phar-Mor.
East entrance. The orange awning to the left was Big Lots, which didn't open out into the mall concourse. In fact, part of the store may have taken over the east entrance to the mall.
A close-up of the east entrance.
The southern entrance. Notice the entrance to mall sign. When the Kmart pharmacy closed, its prescriptions were transferred to a nearby Kroger.
Former Big Lots.
Looking east on Holland Avenue (M-46) behind the Kmart. If you look closely, you can see the store closing banner for the Kmart, as well as the Fort Saginaw Shopping Center sign.
Some signs of deterioration along the backside.
Two views of an enormous junk pile behind the mall. I think the yellow delivery doors led to the former theater.
The west entrance.
Another shot of the entrance sign.
The following images are courtesy Matthew Weaver, who acquired them from an old Saginaw tourism book. He and I presume that the pictures date from the late 1960s.
Alberts Clothing, in the center court.
East wing, with Muir Drugs, Nobil Shoes, Thal's, and Thom McAn. Federal is in the background.
Greenley's Furniture, a local store which also had a store on State Street at the time.
Kmart and Kmart Foods.
The Kmart wing, Scotts 5 & 10 on the right. Note that this wing only had stores on one side, and the other side was just glass.
For more abandoned retail buildings in Saginaw, see Saginaw For Sale blog.