For Beatrice Villarreal, Metro North Shopping Center was more than just a place to shop. It was a place to relive memories. Now the doors, opened to her so many times, have been shut to the public forever.
The mall area of the shopping center, which at the end held only two active businesses and a sign promising Topsy’s would reopen in a few months, closed to make way for redevelopment. While Macy’s and the three restaurants surrounding the mall will stay open, those mini-hot air balloons that shoppers remembered so well are permanently deflated.
Villarreal and her husband have lived near Metro North for 22 years. They enjoyed the heyday of the mall, and have seen its steady decline.
“It’s sad, because we used to come and walk all over. It was a great walk. I just miss it,” says Villarreal.
After finding out Friday that the mall was about to close, they decided to take one more stroll through the place that’s held so many memories. Good times at the movie theaters, looking forward to the bridal shows, bringing the grandkids at the holidays and meeting people at the little shop where they used to stop for coffee were all on her mind. There was also that one special jewelry store on the second floor.
“When my husband and I celebrated our 45th wedding anniversary, he took my original ring and brought it down here and had it made into a pendant,” says Villarreal. “That was a lot of memories for us. A lot of memories”
For customers at The Wig Shoppe, the mood was less sad and more frustrated. While the GNC store next door quickly shut down and moved out merchandise on Friday, The Wig Shoppe was planning to stay open until the mall closed.
Carol Krevino, who was shopping there with a friend, expressed concern about redevelopment plans. She has been a customer of the mall’s shops since 1982.
“We think it stinks,” Krevino said. “Northland needs a mall, an indoor mall.”
Krevino’s main concern is convenience. Comparing Metro North Shopping Center to the open-air Zona Rosa, she said parking at the mall was easier and shoppers didn’t have to leave the indoors to get from store to store. Those who want an enclosed mall will now have to drive to either Oak Park or Independence Center.
And Krevino says the closing takes money away from local businesses. “Why is Northland giving their business to Overland Park or Independence? It doesn’t make sense to me,” she said.
Mall walkers Art Logan and Bill Ayers had one thing on their mind after the announcement the mall was closing. “Help! Where are we going to walk?” said Logan.
The two men are part of a Humana walking group that uses the mall on a regular basis. Their Wednesday and Friday walks have ended abruptly. “I don’t think anyone blames them for doing what they are doing, but now we got to look for someplace and there isn’t any place like this around,” said Ayers.
While redevelopment plans include an enclosed shopping space, walking routes probably will not reach the half mile Ayers says he clocked on his pedometer with each loop around the old mall.
A new mall would also lose its appeal to people like Ryan Sayles, who recently started using the space for walking precisely because it was nearly vacant, open and safe for his kids. “It was a good covered place, and it was clean inside. The kids can run out all their energy,” said Sayles.
The family lives close to the mall, and while Sayles imagines redevelopment will be good for the area, it won’t make much of a difference to them either way. They aren’t big shoppers.
Krevino says her support of the new shopping center depend on how it’s built. It may be something she would enjoy, “if they have a place for people to sit, maybe a little restaurant or shop,” says Krevino.
Villarreal is more optimistic about the change. “Maybe everything will be better than it was. Who knows?” said Villarreal.
Now customers wonder when something will open in the old mall’s place. Developers have not yet committed to a timeline.