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One Last Look: Springfield's Upper Valley Mall Closes

An Ohio-based developer has agreed to buy the property and expects to repurpose it as a business park.

The Upper Valley Mall in Springfield closed Wednesday, after opening to the public around 50 years ago. An Ohio-based developer, Industrial Commercial Properties, has agreed to buy the property from the Clark County Land Reutilization Corporation, also referred to as the Land Bank, for $2.25 million. The company expects to repurpose the property as a business park.

The Land Bank’s executive director Ethan Harris said with new ownership, the property will create jobs and more economic opportunity in the area.

“It's not going to sit vacant. A lot of communities similar to the city of Springfield and Clark County can't say that for their malls,” he said. “A lot of them are still sitting there empty.”

This year mall vacancies in the U.S. hit a record high since at least 2000, with an 11.4% vacancy rate in 2021's first quarter, according to Moody’s Analytics.

WYSO’s Leila Goldstein spoke to some of the mall’s final visitors.

The following is an edited transcript of this audio postcard. Click the listen button at the top of the page to hear this story.

Marsha Moats: It's a sad day to see it...

Sis Monroe: Close.

Moats: Yeah, it really is sad. It's like [sniffles] what are we going to do now?

Rose Sutherland: It's really upsetting, honestly. Yeah, stores change, they change places. But it used to be alive.

Russell Truman: We're going to miss Upper Valley Mall and the people, especially customers, as well as a lot of the managers that were in here.

Monroe: It's just a hollow feeling. I don't know how to put it in words.

Daryl Weber: It's just sad because it really helped the entire area, the whole county, because everybody, everybody came here. Now it, I think, loses a little bit of community.

Sutherland: It was a lot of fun. My parents would drop us off me. We'd get in trouble, we’d romp around. We threw snowballs at each other in the back parking lot, at one point. I learned how to drive in the back parking lot.

Truman: We worked in Hickory Farms here in the mall. From 1974 till we sold the place in 2000. The parking lot used to be full out here on a rainy Sunday afternoon. That's what I remember most about it.

Twilla Hagans: My fondest memory is of the Young and the Restless. They had Brad and Nikki out here and I really thought Brad was cute. I wanted to see him. He was right up there. It was packed, but I stood up on, climbed up on the thing and I really seeing him. I'm like, Brad, Brad, Brad.

Leila Goldstein: Were you able to see him?

Hagans: Yeah, I seen him good. Yeah I did, I seen him.

Weber: It was bustling. It was the place to be, with entertainment, restaurants, all your household goods. Whatever you needed was here.

Aunesti Beard: I used to always come here, me and my sister, my youngest siblings. There used to be a photo booth down there by the jewelry store. We used to take pictures. I have a lot of them pictures. We used to just get dropped off, stay here for hours, morning to the night. Just over here we used to meet friends, have them come over. We’d eat and just kick it in the mall.

Truman: I think they lost some traffic to other malls. That happened when they opened one down the road here in Beavercreek.

Sutherland: Macy's or JCPenney, whichever one of them closed first, that was the beginning and that was hard. I wish things could still thrive here. People aren't going to be able to come here, shop like they used to. My mom said at one point there used to be skylights in here and fountains. I wish I would have been able to see that honestly.

Moats: It's out of our control. We don't have any say, I guess. It's just the people that own the building and the land and they make the decisions.

Weber: Hopefully the business park will take off. Hopeful.

Hagans: My mother always said that Springfield is going to become a highway and byway, somewhere you just ride through. People actually would come from out of town to come to our mall. There’s really no reason to come to Springfield.

Sutherland: I came today because my best friend wanted some of Mark Pi’s orange chicken. They're closed though.

Beard: I just came, wanted to walk around. I haven't been here in forever, for real. But it's crazy, everything's empty and dark.

Moats: Just to take one last look. It’s sad, it really is.

While working at the station Leila Goldstein has covered the economic effects of grocery cooperatives, police reform efforts in Dayton and the local impact of the coronavirus pandemic on hiring trends, telehealth and public parks. She also reported Trafficked, a four part series on misinformation and human trafficking in Ohio.