HARRISBURG, Pa. (WHTM) — Did you know that one of the largest malls in the Midstate is considered to be a dead mall?
A dead mall is defined as a mall with a high vacancy rating, has low consumer traffic or that is deteriorating in some way. One of these dead malls is right here in Central Pennsylvania.
The Harrisburg Mall, located in Swatara Township is the largest mall in the Harrisburg region. The mall features 995,000 square feet of space and currently has 38 tenants. The mall opened in 1969 and was originally named the Harrisburg East Mall. It opened with three anchor tenants: JCPenney, Wanamakers, and Gimbels.
According to Best Attractions, during the construction of the mall, a limestone cave was found underneath the mall. It has been known as Big Pit, Paxtag, or the Crystal Paradise Cave.
The mall has seen many tenant changes since opening in 1969. The first tenant that closed was Gimbels in 1978. Other anchors such as Lord and Taylor, Hess’s. Boscov’s and Macy’s have all been anchors at the mall, with Macy’s being the most recent closure in 2020. Only one anchor remains, Bass Pro Shops, which opened in 2004.
In 2004, the mall went under a large renovation project which cost an estimated $77 million dollars. Best Attractions said that this renovation included a 14-screen theater and added a ‘streetscape-type’ look to the outside of the mall. The exterior renovation never was completed due to financial challenges.
In 2009, the mall was sold at a sheriff’s sale, with Baltimore-based St. John Properties buying the mall in 2012.
In June 2023, the mall owners indicated they would tear the mall down while leaving Bass Pro Shops in operation. The Swatara Township Commissioners have agreed to allow the property to be rezoned. In February, ownership proposed a redevelopment plan that detailed new businesses that could come in and replace the current ones.
As of the writing of this story, the costs of the project as well as when work will begin is unknown.