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Dead malls: You could shop... until they dropped

Once booming, now barren. Let’s take a peek at a mall of Charleston’s past — plus hope for the future.

The indoor mall entrance of a Target. Outside of the Target are two sets of palm trees, and an empty storefront can be seen to the left side of the Target entrance.

Target replaced the mall’s JC Penney location, which was previously a Thalhimer’s department store.

Photo by Mike Kalasnik via Flickr

Shopping malls across America have been left in a state that not even Paul Blart could save, and Charleston is no exception.

Known as “dead malls,” these abandoned, dilapidated, or mostly vacant shopping centers have become a subject of fascination — especially thanks to the online popularity of liminal space aesthetics.

Let’s go to the mall

Citadel Mall was once in its heyday.

After opening in 1981, the mall served as a weekend hot spot for locals throughout the ‘80s and ‘90s. In the early 2000s, it underwent renovations that saw the addition of a food court. During its popularity, shoppers could head to Citadel Mall for department stores like Sears and Thalhimer’s, Aladdin’s Castle arcade, and a coin fountain.

Fun fact: In 2021, season two of the television show “The Righteous Gemstones” was filmed in Citadel Mall.

Back to the future

Today, the mall is more of a mixed-use space. In 2019, the Medical University of South Carolina turned the former JC Penney store into a medical site. Citadel’s other tenants include Dillard’s, Belk, Target, and Planet Fitness.

Bonus: Stay tuned for upcoming free family movie nights at Citadel Mall.

Plus, Charleston has several other thriving shopping centers or districts where you can make like NSYNC and buy, buy, buy:

  • Mount Pleasant Towne Centre | This spot is known for shopping, dining, and entertainment, but that’s not all — events are hosted in the communal areas throughout the year.
  • King Street | Okay, so this isn’t technically a shopping center, which means your shopping won’t be confined. Options stretch for blocks in this historic part of town.
  • Tanger Outlets Charleston | Variety, convenience, and sales... bargain hunters, rejoice. Deals are offered often at this hub featuring local shops and well-known brands.

Do you have memories of a local mall from back in the day? Share them with us and we may feature your story in a future newsletter: First date at the food court, trying on prom dresses at the department store, hitting up Orange Julius before picking up the perfect graphic tee at Hot Topic — we wanna hear it all.

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