ActivePaper Archive MALL MAKEOVER - DDNT, 11/5/1995


It was dusty and ugly outside the Dayton Mall this summer as crews built a department store in the torn-up front parking lot.

Inside, workers tried to be invisible as they renovated the giant shopping complex from floor to ceiling. Nevertheless, many shoppers stayed away, and noticeable numbers of small shops stood empty. People worried about the mall's future.

But those days are past. Now the Dayton area's largest shopping mall has a bright new face and a gleaming interior. Merchants again have an upbeat attitude and new shops are opening.

`We're finally giving the Mall at Fairfield Commons a run for the money,' said Christopher D. Goertler, manager of the sprawling, second-floor B Dalton Booksellers. `The update makes us more modern, and people are enthusiastic about the changes.'

Goertler said business is up.

`The numbers are starting to get back to where they once were and may be a little better now.'

Tough competition from Beavercreek's Mall at Fairfield Commons, now 2 years old, plus strip centers anchored by giant stores propelled the Dayton Mall's owners into a $20 million upgrade of the 25-year-old shopping complex.

A University of Dayton economic survey earlier this year noted that the new Beavercreek Mall was pulling business from its older rival on Ohio 725 near Interstate 75 in Dayton's south suburbs.

James DeConinck, professor of marketing at UD, said the changes were mandatory for the Dayton Mall to survive.

`I don't think they had any choice. Frankly, they wouldn't be competitive with the Fairfield Commons mall unless they improve their image. I lived in Kansas City for a long time, and they had the same situation. New shopping centers appear and the old ones have to remodel to attract business.'

The changes include construction of a two-story J.C. Penney department store in the front parking lot. The 179,000-square-foot store appears nearly finished on the outside, but won't be open until spring.

When J.C. Penney moves into its new quarters, renovation of the old store will begin. McAlpin's, a unit of Mercantile Stores Co., will open its first Dayton-area department store in that 211,000-square-foot-building next fall.

DeConinck said McAlpin's will be a big boost. `That should help them quite a bit. That should be a major addition to the mall.'

Shoppers will notice that the terra cotta brick floor in the wide concourses, installed in the mid-'80s,is gone, replaced with bright ceramic tile. The eggshell white tile is accented with shades of gray, jade and reddish-orange.

The concourse ceilings are dazzling white and highlighted by more skylights. In the circles where concourses meet are more skylights and oak benches. Live potted fichus and other plants add warmth to the cool colors.

Goertler said the red brick tile in the main concourse was still handsome but needed updating. "After a few years of anything, it's time to upgrade and keep current with the other malls. Competition is stiff.'

The second-floor food court has new restaurants and room for more. Coming soon are Bagel Cafe, Subway and Sweet Factory. They will join recent arrivals Great Burger & Potato Co. and Frullati, a health-food deli featuring yogurt, salads and fruit drinks.

The mall has 160 department stores, small shops, restaurants and food stands, the same as before the renovation, according to manager Steve Willshaw. Elimination of two upstairs movie theaters opened some large spaces not yet entirely filled. The B Dalton Booksellers store occupies one of the former theaters.

Shoppers will notice fewer empty shops. New to the mall since the renovation began in February are: Eddie Bauer, Gymboree, Pacific Sunwear, Pro-Image and Men's Wearhouse. Rogers Jewelers is the first tenant in the concourse extension linking the mall to the new J.C. Penney store. Rogers opened Saturday.

The extensive renovation included more than the concourses and J.C. Penney. Lazarus and Sears spent millions remodeling their stores. The changes include new white marble floors in Lazarus. Sears removed offices from its lower level, installed an escalator and created a large sales area for appliances, television and computers.

Some of the other stores remodeled during the reconstruction include: Gantos, Cinema I, J.B. Robinson Jewelers, American Eagle, County Seat, Tinder Box, Spectacle Shop, Gordon's Jewelers and Gift's Remembered. Florsheim Shoes moved around the corner.

`The Dayton Mall and the Mall at Fairfield Commons are going to compete,' said Bob Bisbee, manager of the Florsheim shop. `We hope they will mostly pull from different areas, but I'm sure they will overlap a little bit.'

Bisbee said Florsheim also has a store in the Beavercreek mall, but that hasn't seemed to cut into his sales. However, since that store opened, sales have climbed steadily.

The people who make their living in the mall are pleased with the changes.

`It looks like we've got a brand-new mall,' said a clerk in a men's apparel store. `The bright new floor changes the whole appearance of the mall.'

The salesman said business dropped when the front parking lot was ripped up to lay the foundation for the new department store.

`But people who haven't been here for a while are saying the new look is really nice. I haven't heard one bad thing about it.'

Bisbee said he expects a healthy Christmas selling season. `I think this holiday will be real good compared to last year. And 1996 will be even better with the new Penney store and McAlpin's. I think the mall is going to see some really strong growth.'

The mall's `Renovation Celebration' this weekend ends today. Shoppers can win a Hawaiian vacation, $1,000 shopping spree and other prizes.


* Company: Dayton Mall

* Address: 2700 Miamisburg-Centerville Road, Miami Twp.

* Stores: 160

* Owner: JMB Retail Properties Co., Chicago, a unit of publicly traded Urban Shopping Centers (NYSE-URB)

* Opened: 1970

* Remodelings: 1984,1994-5

* Anchors: Lazarus, Sears, J.C.Penney and next year, McAlpin's

* Gross leasable area: 1.4 million square feet (including McAlpin's)

* Telephone: (513) 433-0957

* Fax: (513) 433-5289

* What happened: To meet competition from the Mall at Fairfield Commons in Beavercreek and other new shopping centers, the Dayton Mall has been renovated and a new department store is under construction.

[ILLUSTRATION] PHOTOS: (3):\ (#1) A whole new light: Skylights flood the central area of the refurbished Dayton Mall with natural light (above.) New tile also lightens the area.

CREDIT: KEITH CIRIEGIO/FOR THE DAYTON DAILY NEWS\ (#2) The food court (right) also has been remodeled, with new vendors added.

(#3) Looking for new business: Denise Hurst arranges stock in the Garden Botanika store.\