Rollman & Sons department store at Swifton Center, c. 1960
|Location||Cincinnati, Ohio, U.S.|
|Address||7030 Reading Road|
|Owner||City of Cincinnati|
|No. of stores and services||60|
|No. of anchor tenants||1|
|Total retail floor area||547,626 square feet (50,876.1 m2)|
|No. of floors||1|
Swifton Center was a shopping mall in Cincinnati, Ohio, United States. Opened in 1956 as the first mall in the Cincinnati area, it was initially an open-air complex featuring Rollman & Sons department store, which sold to Mabley & Carew in 1960 and to Elder-Beerman in 1978. The mall had undergone a severe decline in tenancy by the early 1980s, and was renovated in 1985 by the Edward J. DeBartolo corporation as Swifton Commons. Despite initial success, the renovated mall underwent another severe decline in tenancy by the mid-1990s, culminating in the closure of Elder-Beerman. Allen Temple AME Church bought the mall and renamed it to Jordan Crossing, replacing many of the inline tenants with offices. By 2013, the mall was demolished save for offices in the former location of Elder-Beerman.
Retail developer Jonathan Woodner first announced plans for Swifton Center in 1951, and sold his stake in the mall to Stahl Development in 1954. The site chosen for the center was the southeast corner of Reading Road and Seymour Avenue within the city limits of Cincinnati, Ohio, a site determined by market analysts to be the center of population for the Cincinnati market at the time. It would also be the first shopping mall in the Cincinnati area. Plans for the center called for approximately 54 tenants lining both sides of an open-air concourse, with a branch of the local department store Rollman & Sons (then owned by Allied Stores) serving as the anchor store at the south end. The mall would overall consist of just under 600,000 square feet (56,000 m2) of shop space on 41 acres (17 ha) of land. Features of the center included parking for up to 3,000 cars and a tunnel for delivery trucks, and building costs were estimated at $12 million. Stahl Development and Sun Construction Company were announced as the mall's developers, with Frederick A. Schmidt., Inc. as leasing agent;. however, Stahl Development sold its share to General Development in early 1955. At the time of groundbreaking, tenants confirmed for the center included two variety stores (G. C. Murphy and S. S. Kresge), two supermarkets (Kroger and Dayton-based Liberal Market), a Walgreens drugstore, and two Standard Oil of Ohio (Sohio) gas stations both built on the mall's periphery.
Swifton Center opened for business in October 1956. The central mall corridor was lined with protective canopies, and featured a "park-like" design with several redwood benches. The Rollman & Sons department store consisted of over 140,000 square feet (13,000 m2) on three floors, including a 140-seat restaurant, an auditorium, a malt shop, a beauty shop and children's hair salon, and different decor in each department. The 47,789-square-foot (4,439.7 m2), two-story G. C. Murphy store was both their first in Cincinnati, and the first in the entire chain to sell furniture. Kroger's 19,300-square-foot (1,790 m2) store was their largest in southern Ohio at the time, and its opening resulted in the closure of five other nearby stores which the chain deemed "too small". One year after opening, Swifton Center hosted a first-anniversary celebration which included a performance by a 66-year-old female stunt diver, live television broadcasts on WCPO-TV, and a prize drawing with a grand prize package valued at $1,000. Market analysts noted that the center, and the Rollman's department store in particular, had exceeded all sales expectations within the first year, as well as the national average for new centers built across the United States at the time. In 1960, Rollman & Sons sold both of its stores to Mabley & Carew, another Cincinnati-based department store chain. Mabley & Carew thoroughly renovated the building to meet its merchandising needs, which included dedicating the entire second floor to women's apparel and the third level to housewares, along with the addition of suits and furs. After renovation was complete, Mabley & Carew opened its Swifton Commons store in November 1960.
Fifth-anniversary festivities for the mall in 1961 included a performance by singers of the local country music-themed television talent show Midwestern Hayride, and a fashion council sponsored by Mabley & Carew to assist teenaged girls in making their own clothes. Midwestern Hayride performances were also included as part of the mall's tenth-anniversary celebration in 1966, along with a puppet show, sock hop, and another prize giveaway. In addition, Swifton Center became the first mall in the United States to issue its own credit card, known as the All-N-1 Chargit Card; customers could sign up for the card at any merchant in the mall and have purchases from all stores except Mabley & Carew charged to one account.
Decline and conversion to Swifton Commons
At the time of the mall's twentieth anniversary in 1976, the center's owners announced plans to enclose the then-open air concourses following the opening of several other, larger malls in the area such as Tri-County Mall and Northgate Mall. Major tenants besides Mabley & Carew, G. C. Murphy, Kroger, and Walgreens included Lerner New York, Baker Shoes, and Hancock Fabrics. No renovations had begun by 1978, at which point the mall had begun to suffer vacancies, along with deferred maintenance of the parking lot and outer structures. Kroger had also confirmed that it would be relocating to Hillcrest Square, a strip mall under development across the street, citing a need for a larger location. Despite the decline in the mall at this point, Elder-Beerman purchased all four Mabley & Carew locations, including the Swifton Center one, in 1978. Glazer Enterprises, of which mall owner General Development was a subsidiary, submitted a request to the state of Ohio for $10 million in industrial revenue bonds to begin renovations in 1980. The company also hired a consulting firm to study possible improvements of the center, and stated that renovation plans would consist of an exterior cleanup followed by an interior renovation. By 1981, Swifton Center had an occupancy of about 52 percent, a figure including mostly local stores which at the time were on monthly leases; among the vacancies were the former locations of Kroger, Walgreens, and Lerner New York.
Edward J. DeBartolo Corporation purchased the mall in 1985, renaming it to Swifton Commons. DeBartolo renovated the mall's exterior and brought in new tenants such as Lane Bryant, Waldenbooks, and Gold Star Chili, along with a food court. At the time, developers noted that the mall's decline was due to a perception of white flight in the surrounding neighborhoods, a perception seen by the developers as unsubstantiated since many of the former mall tenants had relocated across the street and not left the neighborhood entirely. Another factor in the mall's decline prior to the mid-1980s was a lack of escalation clause in the leases of original tenants, which in turn resulted in deferred maintenance of the property and an inability to attract new tenants in order to stay competitive with other area malls. DeBartolo had been selected by Glazer Enterprises owner Jerome Glazer to assist in mall renovations, and had gotten nearly $7 million in city grants to undergo renovations. This was also the second time that DeBartolo had renovated an existing shopping mall which had begun to falter, having previously done similar work on Cheltenham Square (now Greenleaf at Cheltenham) in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. Grand reopning of the mall occurred in September 1985, by which point SupeRx drugstore, J. J. Newberry, Kinney Shoes, and Casual Corner had also been confirmed as tenants. Among the renovations given to the property were new maple trees along the exterior, new pavement and lighting in the parking lots, along with reconstruction of interior shop space. DeBartolo also proposed to add a second anchor store along the mall's north side. By 1993, the mall's occupancy had risen to 78 percent, with a greater emphasis on off-price and outlet stores, including a trio of stores operated by Milwaukee, Wisconsin-based Value Merchants: a dollar store called Everything's $1.00; a closeout store called the $5 and $10 Store; and Play Outlet, which sold discounted sporting goods and athletic apparel. In addition, Elder-Beerman converted its store to an outlet format which sold closeout merchandise from other Elder-Beerman locations, a move which required closing off the store's third floor. However, the trio of Value Merchants stores closed after Christmas 1993, and the Elder-Beerman outlet closed in late 1995, both due to the respective companies filing for bankruptcy.
Second decline and change to Jordan Crossing
Swifton Commons was foreclosed on in 1996 when the DeBartolo corporation defaulted on loans. It was put up for auction at a sheriff's sale in August 1996, but attracted no buyers; a second auction in October of the same year resulted in the mall getting sold to Star Bank for $2.2 million. At the time of purchase, the bank formed an advisory panel to determine possible renovations. J. J. Newberry closed at the mall in 1997 after its parent company McCrory Stores filed for bankruptcy. At the time of the closing announcement, the advisory panel was two months past its intended deadline and yet to come up with a solution. Sandor Development, a real estate company from Indianapolis, Indiana, announced plans to buy the mall from Star Bank in 1997 but withdrew their offer in March 1998. By this point, the mall's uncertain financial state and the closure of Elder-Beerman and J. J. Newberry had caused a sharp decline in tenancy; of the ten remaining tenants at the time, only two (Foot Locker and National Record Mart) were national chain stores. Allen Temple AME Church expressed interest in buying the mall property in late 1998. The church announced renovation plans in late 1999, which would demolish over half of the property in favor of returning Kroger to the mall, in addition to attracting other big box retail and non-retail uses.
In 2002, the mall was officially renamed to Jordan Crossing. Construction began on the mall's northwest side for a new AME Church sanctuary, while Wilberforce University opened a branch inside the mall building, and Community Action Agencies offices opened in the former Elder-Beerman. The city of Cincinnati applied for a grant in 2010 to demolish the mall. Despite the purchase by the church, the property continued to dwindle in tenancy and had not been renovated; it also still bore signs with the name Swifton Crossing. After buying the property, the city began demolition work in March 2013. Renovation plans called for the addition of retail and office space, along with a hotel. By 2014, only the Community Action Agencies building remained of the old mall. As of 2019, no further redevelopment has occurred at the former mall site, which the city of Cincinnati has renamed again to MidPointe Crossing.
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