Nearly 300 concerned citizens gathered today at Northwest Plaza, aiming to spur interest in its revitalization. The mall-walk and unofficial rally was organized by St. Ann resident Steve Erdelen, who grew up hanging out at the plaza’s Grand Court Fountain in the 1960s and 70s and recently launched a popular Facebook group called “I hung out at the fountain at Northwest Plaza as a teenager.”
As supporters streamed into the mall this afternoon, many astonished by just how empty it has become, security guards and other mall employees noted that they hadn’t seen this many people at Northwest Plaza in at least five years. “A lot of folks assume it’s dangerous here, but the fact is it’s mostly just dead,” one Sears employee told me. “I would love to see the place redeveloped, because it has so much potential.”
That sentiment was echoed frequently at the rally, with most of the attendees recalling fond memories of Northwest Plaza and many still residing in the North County area. “It’s just such a waste,” Judy Gaithers of Overland said. “I don’t see Northwest Plaza becoming what it used to be, but surely it can be converted into something positive.” A corporate headquarters, a college campus, a mixed-use development with residential and retail – those were some of the ideas being kicked around the crowd.
Yet despite the hopeful spirit of today’s gathering, mall management tried to prohibit the media from taking photographs and initially denied Erdelen’s request to hold a much larger event. “This is not an insurrection, it’s a resurrection,” he told the audience, which included officials and staff from the city of St. Ann. “We’re here to show our support for the future of Northwest Plaza.”
“We will revitalize this mall,” St. Ann mayor Gary Guittar later assured the crowd. “With the support of citizens like you, we can do this.”
He and Erdelen then led the group on a quick mall-walk, firing up many attendees but also raising questions with others. “I’m thrilled to see so many people show up today,” a Florissant woman with two young children told me. “But what’s next? Where do we go from here?”