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Demolition of north county's Jamestown Mall, closed for 9 years, finally begins

The Jamestown Mall, photographed on Monday, Sept. 25, 2023, near Florissant, Mo. The mall closed in 2014. After nearly 10 years of vacancy, the demolition began on Tuesday, Sept. 26, 2023.
Tristen Rouse
St. Louis Public Radio
The Jamestown Mall near Florissant, Mo., photographed on Monday. The mall closed in 2014. Demolition of the mall started on Tuesday.

The Jamestown Mall, a symbol of community in north St. Louis County long plagued by vacancy issues, finally start to be demolished on Tuesday.

“It is as difficult to sometimes demolish something as it is to build something,” said Kevin O’Malley, the chairman of the St. Louis Port Authority, which bought the 142-acre property in 2017.

Expected to be complete by next summer, the demolition of the former mall’s entryway and an adjacent tower by two backhoes was met with cheers from north county residents.

"I will miss the mall. I enjoyed it,” said Gwen Reed, a longtime teacher in the Hazelwood School District. “It brought tears to my eyes to see it come down."

Tuesday’s event happened more than nine years after the mall in unincorporated St. Louis County closed its doors for good — with years of struggles prior. Since, many local elected officials and community advocates have tried to demolish the more than 1 million-square-foot facility that sat without use and attracted crime.

As a fire truck sprays water, a tower adjacent to the now former mall's main entryway falls after a backhoe starts demolishing the vacant facility.
Will Bauer
St. Louis Public Radio
A tower adjacent to the former mall's main entryway falls on Tuesday after a backhoe starts demolishing the vacant facility.

“It's been a real eyesore for the folks that live close by and have to look at it every day,” said St. Louis County Executive Sam Page.

Last year, the county approved $6 million for the demolition from its share of American Rescue Plan funds. The State of Missouri also chipped in $6 million for the project from its ARPA share, according to local officials.

Between now and next summer, when the last rubble is cleared, the St. Louis Port Authority will start the process of determining how to redevelop the massive property by meeting with potential developers and community leaders.

Although there are few specifics, many of the local leaders and community members said they want something that will serve the community through such uses as recreation or services. Before the space is redeveloped, it will be made into a green space, according to the port authority.

Missouri Sen. Brian Williams recalled thinking to himself when he would drive by the Jamestown Mall, "Today is a really big deal."
Will Bauer
St. Louis Public Radio
"Why is it still sitting in our community and other communities don't have to deal with this?" state Sen. Brian Williams, D-University City, recalled thinking to himself when he would drive by the Jamestown Mall. "Today is a really big deal," he said Tuesday.

The Jamestown Mall, despite its problems, is still seen as a staple of the region by many in the surrounding communities.

“It was just a safe place to be with your friends,” said Stacy Reed Lyles, the daughter of Gwen Reed, who also works in the Hazelwood school district.

The mall first had vacancy problems in the 2000s, according to local news reports. In 2006, Dillard’s closed its store. Sears closed in 2009.JCPenney would close in 2013 and Macy’s in 2014.

A year after St. Louis County approved the demolition plans, afire caused significant damage to the vacant space. Another fire caught over the summer too.

“It is time for change,” said Ruth Lee, a member of the St. Louis Port Authority. “This change symbolizes the promise of economic development and growth and renewal for our community.”

Editor Lara Hamdan contributed to this report.

Will Bauer is the Metro East reporter at St. Louis Public Radio.