Sunday, April 15, 2007

Meriden "Hub" Mall Coming Down

Marc Bramhall recently informed me of an article from the Record-Journal regarding the demolition of The Meriden "Hub" Mall. We did a photographic story on the Hub earlier this year trailing one done by Labelscar, reporting the somewhat grim, and once impotent nature of the city's ability to make a future of site which appears to be finally coming along.

To mirror the article's focal points; the Hub, a proclaimed brownfield, will receive its demolition permit on Wednesday ensuing a power collapse at nearby vacated Canberra Industries facility and former owners of the mall which brought the attention right back the city. The site will hopefully be cleared away, rather silently (without explosives or ten-ton wrecking balls), and to begin immediately, again, hoping to have the site kaput by the end of May. In its place, the city further hopes the establishment of a "greenfield" or a park on the long-troubled flood-prone property will help revitalize the somewhat dilapidated downtown Meriden.

The mall, concepted in the late 1960s was similar in its era and fate to another pending-destruction downtown mall in Bristol; The Mall at Bristol Centre,
whose similar case has been juxtaposed by Labelscar and to which we've reported here and elsewhere historically seeing as this phenomenon is practically in my backyard.

The Hub, as its been referred since the 1980's, originally Meriden Mall, sought it best to undergo a name shift after losing the city's prominent standing and title to
flourishing Westfield-owned Meriden [then Meriden Square] entered the city limits just a year later in 1971. While not too close for discomfort, Meriden Square rose to fame opposite an already trumped, and slumping downtown mall when shortly after the Meriden Mall was renamed "Meriden Hub" to disassociate any grandiose mistaken identity, for better or worse on Westfield's behalf.

The Westfield-owned Meriden "Shoppingtown" mall, an enclosed mall which has expanded twice since and continues to grow serving its region well, is a story opposite the dire Hub property, which has been historically flawed due to it's very foundation and the flooding that has haunted it as it continues to degenerate. The very problem of the land its on is what caused former owner Canberra to flee - leaving its mess behind.

Needless to say, the mall and title given, in Meriden, certainly didn't belong to The Hub.

The site, which likely closed around 2003, with a staggering vacancy rate including the loss of prime anchorage, according to a flurry of local papers, has been boarded up for years now and has since been slated for a rather slow, hurdled demolition process.

But downtown malls and the inability to integrate them into urban settings have all shared a history of dark clouds and grim fate, especially in Connecticut. From the since turned-inside-out Chapel Square in New Haven (and thankfully fended-off then proposed Long wharf Mall to combat it), the completely reformatted "Hartford 21" former Civic Center Mall (a doomed-at-birth mall which undoubtedly had its already fate evermore sealed when we lost the Whalers), to the long-gone Lafayette Plaza/Hi-Ho Center in Bridgeport, will soon follow into a black hole of doomed downtown mall history as the Meriden Hub reduces to rubble in just over a month according to the Record-Journal.

Unlike the Bristol Centre Mall, which languished outside the bounds of space-time for many years after locking its doors in mid-2006, Meriden Hub has been a long-standing, vacant eyesore for the city for a while now. Should the city of Bristol repeat the woes of Meriden is yet to come as they themselves are estimating a gloomy forecast beyond legal battles for the mall's future.

Never having been here before late 2006, there's more information about the Hub on the aforementioned Labelscar and, of course, resourceful local and historic input on Dead Malls.
You can also read the article on the Record-Journal's website; won't know how long the page will last before becoming inactive.

In spite of the monsoon season we're currently drowning through, we hope to visit the mall this week at the earliest and provide a few more updates before the mall's clearing for a more complete gallery, hoping the city hasn't fenced off the property yet.