Wednesday, May 23, 2007

Cloverleaf Mall reflection

Had an opportunity to drive by Cloverleaf Mall for the first time in what seems ages. I along with my family headed down Midlothian to pick up the Chipp right at the mall and head south. We were headed to Henricus Park to see the Godspeed, which was part of the Jamestown celebration. We got to talking about how that Mall is a case study for urban planning. What was once a area of great activity, in my youth Chesterfield Mall was very small and not the Towne Center it is today by any means. Cloverleaf built in 1973 was a draw for county residents and the city residents just over the other side of the Chipp. I remember seeing hospital workers shopping before and after work, business folks , as well as families shopping for years and then things began to change. The change was two fold. First the area east of the mall failed to keep up with developments. I can only assume that this area was not a priority for the City, much of it remains the same today as it did ten or even twenty years ago. Second, Chesterfield witnessed massive growth and and influx of residents drawn to the county and as developments were undertaken to meet the demand each of these gradually moved further west with each year stretching to Powhatan along Route 60 and then along the 360 corridor from the Chipp to Amelia. This western movement is still very much in play today as seen in future developments like Magnolia Green.
I reflected that traveling east along 60 from the State Police headquarters to the mall, 60 looks reminesient of what 60 looked like ten years ago east of the Chipp in the city. Why would people be drawn back to this area? Recently people have commented about the same issues relating to Chesterfield Mall, which benefited the most with the western push of residents becoming the only true retailing option from a variety point for years until alot of the "big box" shopping centers began to go up about eight years ago. Once Chesterfield converted to the Towne Center theme, Cloverleaf continued its free-fall into obscurity. The final blow was the movement of retailer JC Penney out of its home in Cloverleaf down to Chesterfield.
I still remember shopping at Cloverleaf though as a child. I saw some of my first movies at the Cineplex that moved in behind the mall after the theatre inside were closed I think. That was back when movie theatres were a requirement for any self-respecting commercial mall.
As a father of three very young children now, they never experienced Cloverleaf nor will ever experience the kind of community mall Cloverleaf was in its prime. Malls are simply different now. People get in and get out. I remember being at Cloverleaf when "hanging-out" was in....wow that may date me...my wife much younger than myself can't seem to remember those experiences but does reflect on Chesterfield Towne Center for her childhood memories.Malls played a vital part in community back then, not so much today I think. But as friends reassure me....we have Barnes & Noble and Starbucks now...I still can't help but recall how Cloverleaf was a large part of my childhood.
Cloverleaf was purchased by the county some two years ago and will be razed next year as part of Crosland's new mixed-use development.

1 comment:

John said...

"Alter" ? Surely you mean "altar"?