Monday, April 09, 2007

Eastland Mall Metamorphosis

There's been a lot of activity over at Eastland Mall with a $45 million (increased from $30m) renovation in full swing. The newly dubbed Eastgate Metroplex is off to a good start. The biggest news so far is the signing of Coca-Cola Enterprises, who will open customer support offices in the former JC Penney space on the West end of the mall. They will occupy 61,850 square feet and expect to employ ~300 people. Eastgate developers are also busy building out classrooms for a new childhood education center operated by the Community Action Project of Tulsa County.

The external facade is beginning to change as well. I have watched them carefully remove a former incinerator chimney that took over a week. I can only a assume there were some asbestos abatement issues, or that rebar-reinforced concrete was just really giving them a challenge. They have removed the "tents" over the main entrance and will be replacing the square-tube open framework with a more traditional (read: boring) stucco treatment. Since Eastgate is going to be primarily commercial, there will not be as much need for a huge main entrance. Most of the tenants will have their own main access. Staying for sure is Mickey's bowling center. The theater will probably return after the renovation. Dillard's is in discussion over their future there. Very much in limbo is the fate of the former food court, which is simply too large for the smaller scale retail planned for this mixed-use facility.

I found this very informative Tulsa World article the other day, after visiting Eastgate Metroplex with my son for one last attempt at taking some shots. When I saw the photo at the top of the article, I was stunned. I've been trying to figure out for some time what part of this mall I visited as a kid in the early '80s, when I snuck into a cavernous uncompleted mall. Now I realize that I once wandered around in what would eventually become the 150,000 sq. foot basement below the main level of Eastland Mall. This basement surprised even the developer, who was unaware of its existence. I love the mention of the "stairs to nowhere" in the article. I'm sure there's many things like that remain from the original construction started in the mid-'70s.

Even though I couldn't go underground, I took a final opportunity to wander this mall before things really start to change inside. I always loved the waterfall that dropped to the food court level. Now, it's beautifully abandoned, dry as a bone with hard water stains streaking the stone tiles...dead plants surrounding the area. See my Eastland Mall 3 photoset for one last view of this structure as an abandoned/dying retail center. At the rate they're going, this will all be cleaned up renovated and repurposed in another year.

Does anyone know what happened to the other mall in East Tulsa? It was at 21st (maybe 31st) and Garnett and I believe it was either called Forum Mall or Mall 21. They had a pet store, a Sears Surplus and China Doll restaurant. I think there was also a movie theater there called Forum Twin. I have really good memories of that place back in the late 70s and early 80s. It was the first place I had Asian food, and I officially became a huge addict!

I don't live in Oklahoma anymore, but I enjoy your site. Do you know what are they doing with the building now?
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