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Crestwood Plaza

Published August 11th, 2012

A reflective visit to a dead mall just shy of the wrecking ball.

Downward

Crestwood Plaza began in 1957 as an open-air shopping center in the suburbs of St. Louis (the first of its kind in the area), built along what was then Route 66. It thrived for four decades before beginning a slow decline that has accelerated between 2008-2011. In February 2012 the owners announced a redevelopment plan that would return the property to its open-air origins.

The mall remains.

Dillards Canyon

The parking garage at the east end of the mall was constructed with the addition of a Styx, Baer, and Fuller (later Dillards) department store in 1967, as was this massive concrete pit adjacent to the store.

Even in the mall's prime the spaces here were frequently vacant, presumably due to the threat of incurring damage to one's vehicle in the form objects (or teenagers) thrown from the upper level. During my time working at the mall I frequently heard reports from security officers of kids who had either jumped or fallen into the basin.

Blocked

When my friends and I began regularly hanging out at Crestwood after school in the mid-90s, the garage entrance became our preferred gateway. Standing in the bed of my friend Matt's truck, we could reach some of the metal work lining the ceiling and, shaking it, incite a ripple effect that would echo throughout the space.

Mid Mall

At the mall's peak, this was the heart of Crestwood Plaza. In later years it would frequently be occupied by craft booths and people selling old Life magazines.

Sears

Sears was the shit when it opened this store in the late '80s, one of the last stores to vacate the mall. I primarily used it as a shortcut from the center atrium to the less populated east end of the mall and vice versa.

Food Terrace

During high school I arguably spent more time here than in my parents' dining room. At the far east end of the food court was Exhilerama, an expansive video arcade/bumper car/laser tag facility. At the opposite end was the First Federal Frank & Crust pizza stand where I would go during my dinner breaks for free pizza and awkward solicitations from the girls who worked there.

Suncoast

I worked here off and on during six formative years while in high school and college. In that time it became more of a hideout or a clubhouse than a workplace. Many of the people I met here remain close friends. I bled, cried, and vomited here. I laughed, flirted, and celebrated.

I also recreated Kate Capshaw's dance from the opening credits of Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom.

Outpost

It's hard to believe now, but during the halcyon days of the late '80s and early '90s it used to take 20 or 30 minutes just to navigate from one end of the mall to the other on a Friday or Saturday night. Often I would pause along the way to talk with small groups clustered around a bench like this.

For all of its faults -- and there are many -- Crestwood and malls like it did a lot to facilitate these kinds of interactions; interactions that just don't happen at the "big box" developments that have undermined malls (and in many cases replaced them) over the last ten or fifteen years.

Skydome

Someday soon this skylight will be shattered and the pieces will drop to the tile below and then be swept up and taken away and disappear, and it won't be that great of a loss. But it will be a loss.

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