Oct. 12--Deanna Laspe of Florissant has been keeping a mental tally of the most recently departed stores as she walks the corridors of Jamestown Mall about five times a week.
Of course, many stores abandoned the mall years ago. But in recent months, she's seen most of the remaining retail tenants jump ship: Foot Locker, LensCrafters, BonWorth, Finish Line, and some mom-and-pop shops that have filled the struggling mall in recent years.
And now, one of the mall's biggest draws, the JC's 5 Star Outlet -- formerly a JCPenney outlet store -- is closing, too, after its parent company decided earlier this month to pull the plug on all of its 15 stores nationwide.
"The gold guy left last week," Laspe added, pointing to a now-empty kiosk. "There's no place to shop."
The last major retailer still standing is a Macy's department store. The others that hang on include the movie theater, a Savvi Formalwear, a couple of martial arts and workout studios, a health care training school, and a few local shops.
Laspe has noticed the fliers around the mall promising a flea market set to open this weekend. The opening has already been delayed several times, but it's one of the only concrete plans for the mall's future that appear to be finally materializing.
Jamestown Mall was a bustling place in decades past. But like some other malls in the region -- such as the now-defunct Northwest Plaza and Crestwood Court -- it fell on hard times as newer malls siphoned away shoppers. Its location has often been cited as one of its challenges because it's not situated along one of today's major population corridors or a major highway.
A couple of years ago, St. Louis County officials announced a redevelopment plan to tear down much of the mall and put in its place a mixed-use development with senior housing and some retail.
But those plans are still on the drawing board. Since then, the mall fell into foreclosure and has changed hands a couple of times. The main part of the mall (not including the former department store anchors) was most recently sold in December to New Jamestown Mall Holding LLC. The purchase price -- $660,000 -- was less than half the price of when it was bought the previous year for $1.5 million, according to county property records.
Nicole Coleman, the mall's manager, said the New York-based owners had been working on fixing up the place and repairing the roof.
"They've got caught up on all of the bills that the previous owner had neglected to pay," she said.
Last November, county officials almost shut down the mall because it had gotten too cold in the theater and other parts of the mall; the previous owner had not turned on the heat. He had thousands of dollars in unpaid gas bills.
The mall manager identified the new owners as Cyrus Nazarian and Ebrahin Kashani. They did not respond to a request for comment made through her.
Coleman said that the owners still would like to bring back some national chains to the mall but that they hadn't found any takers yet. But one vendor has recently signed on to sell funnel cakes in the food court.
The flea market, which is expected to be up and running on Fridays and the weekends, will be housed in the empty storefronts by the food court. Eventually, she said, the mall operators want to move it to the walled-off wing by the old Dillard's store. But a number of repairs have to be made before that can happen, she said.
"We're really hoping it takes off," the mall manager said of the flea market. "We've heard some positive feedback about it."
Denny Coleman, president of the St. Louis Economic Development Partnership, said a flea market was not a long-term fix.
"I think any interim use is OK, but that's obviously not an ultimate solution," he said.
The partnership still stands behind the redevelopment plan, he said. One of the challenges, though, is that there are about 12 different owners of the parcels of land at the mall. Some prospective developers have taken a look at the mall but haven't been able to make the numbers work ye