Monroeville Mall

Monroeville Mall
Monroeville Mall
An Entrance to the Monroeville Mall
Location William Penn Hwy. (Business U.S. 22)
Monroeville, Pennsylvania
Opening date October 1969
Developer Oxford Development Company d/b/a Shopping Center Management LLC.
Management CBL & Associates Properties, Inc.
Owner CBL & Associates Properties, Inc.
No. of stores and services 180+
No. of anchor tenants 2
Total retail floor area 1,418,700 square feet (131,800 m2)
Parking 6,800 spaces
No. of floors 2 (Macy's and future J.C. Penny anchor are 3 levels)

Monroeville Mall is a two-level, enclosed shopping mall in Monroeville, Pennsylvania, east of Pittsburgh. It is located near the junction of Interstate 376 and I-76. It sits on 170 acres (0.7 km2) and has 1,418,700 square feet (131,802 m2) of leaseable space on two levels, making it the second largest shopping complex in Western Pennsylvania.

Developed by Oxford Development Company, the property was acquired in 2004 for $232 million by CBL & Associates Properties, Inc., a REIT based in Chattanooga, Tennessee. Recently, the mall finished a remodeling project to compete with several newer, more luxurious malls in the Pittsburgh area. It is one of two CBL malls owned in the Pittsburgh area, the second being Westmoreland Mall in Greensburg.

The mall is most famous for its appearance in the George A. Romero horror film Dawn of the Dead (1978).



Before the 1950s postwar migration movement, Monroeville was predominantly a rural farming area. The opening of the Pennsylvania Turnpike in the early 1950s followed by completion of Interstate 376 (Parkway East) in the early 1960s would expedite the growth of Monroeville and the eastern suburbs. In November 1954, the Miracle Mile Shopping Center opened for business with numerous shops and eateries. As the novelty of shopping malls were becoming increasingly popular in the 1960s, residents of Monroeville and the eastern suburbs shopped at the defunct Eastland Mall in nearby North Versailles, or at Greengate Mall (now demolished and rebuilt as Greengate Centre) in Greensburg, Westmoreland County.


In the mid-1960s, Don-Mark Realty (later Oxford Development Company) proposed building the largest shopping mall in the United States in the form of Monroeville Mall. For the development, Don-Mark acquired a 280-acre (1.1 km2) tract known as Harper's Mine. Despite local residents questioning whether the land was indeed a prime location for development, Don-Mark was confident that the site was perfect for the proposed mall. By 1966, grading equipment would begin leveling part of the massive site in preparation for the mall's construction. In fact, more than 5,000,000 cubic yards (3,800,000 m3) of dirt would be moved to level the 110-acre (0.45 km2) portion of the 280-acre (1.1 km2) site, with excavation costs totaling $2.5 million at the time. Construction on the $30 million dollar mall would begin in 1967 and last for two years. Outside, the massive parking lots were paved and spaced to accommodate 6,500 vehicles.[1]


In May 1969, the 1,130,000-square-foot (105,000 m2) Monroeville Mall opened its doors with Gimbels and Joseph Horne Co. at opposite ends and J.C. Penney in the middle. The five and dime G.C. Murphy store provided a lower-price alternative for shoppers on the lower level. The mall contained 125 stores on two levels and featured the Ice Palace, which was the first world-class ice skating rink in an enclosed mall on the East Coast. Another unique feature was the location of a local Italian restaurant directly adjacent to the rink, with large picture windows in its dining rooms that gave patrons direct views of skaters on the rink. The mall's opening would eventually lead to the decline and closure of the East Hills Shopping Center in nearby Penn Hills. It would also affect business at the near-by Miracle Mile Shopping Center, which was greatly impacted following the relocation of its J.C. Penney store to the Monroeville Mall, although business would gradually level out over time.[1]

Mall amenities

The mall was decorated with fountains and plant life that flourished under enormous skylights. The Gimbels court of the mall featured a large yellow clock tower that housed 12 animated puppets, each one representing an ethnic group in the Pittsburgh area. One puppet performed every hour, and all performed together at 1pm and 6pm. The court at the Horne's end of the mall had a large, circular fountain, surrounded by a seating area. The store selection in the mall ranged from high fashion to hardware. There was a bank, several places to eat, pharmacies, pubs and even a ministry center, as developers had intended on making the mall into an indoor "town center" for the Monroeville community.[1]

Renovations and expansions

With Monroeville Mall fully operational, the areas surrounding the mall began to develop as well. Outparcels such as a movie theater, a Marriott hotel, a freestanding Montgomery Ward store, and a number of retailers, auto service centers and restaurants were subsequentially built during the 1970s. The mall annex would also be developed directly behind the mall and feature an A&P supermarket, among other businesses. The Greater Pittsburgh Merchandise Mart, the predecessor to the much larger Pittsburgh ExpoMart of Monroeville, was developed as a facility for the display of goods by representatives of various manufacturers. It would be replaced by the larger facility in 1981 and redeveloped for a Borders bookstore. In February 1984, much to the dismay of local residents, the Ice Palace was replaced by a food court. In later years, most of the mall's decorative ponds and bridges would be replaced by numerous kiosks. In the early 1990s, the distinctive clock tower was dismantled in lieu of a stage, which has since been replaced with a bungee jumping attraction, while the fountain at the opposite end was removed in the early 2000s for a children's play area, themed to Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood. The largest renovation and expansion project ever at Monroeville Mall was completed in 2003-2004. The main entrance area fronting the mall was redeveloped into an 80,000-square-foot (7,400 m2) lifestyle center called The District. Inside the mall, cosmetic upgrades to the lighting fixtures, flooring, railings and seating were done. Escalators were also installed in the court areas at both ends of the center.[1] In addition the glass Westinghouse elevator located in the food court was refurbished, the neon lightning was removed, and the outer structure was painted a silver color as it used to be red. The fountain behind the elevator has also been removed to maximize seating area for the food court. In 2009, the ExpoMart was converted into office space and a smaller convention center opened along Mall Boulevard in a renovated building.

In May 2010, local sources indicated that Walmart was considering opening a smaller format store in the former Boscov's anchor space. Other potential retailers that were mentioned included Cinemark Theaters and J.C. Penney, which currently operates a location at the mall. Recently, the mall's owners have been making an effort to reduce the environmental impact caused by the mall's operation. Much of the lighting inside the mall has been changed to Compact Fluorescent Lighting. The mall's interior lighting, which used to stay on during operating hours, now operates by photocell, so the interior lights turn on only when natural sunlight is not sufficient. Utilizing multiple trash compactors, the mall recycles 240 tons of cardboard every year. Also, in 2008 the Security vehicle was replaced with a fuel-efficient Mercedes SmartCar Fourtwo, which averages 40 MPG. As a result of their efforts, CBL & Associates, Inc. proclaimed Monroeville Mall to be the 2009 Green Property of the Year.

In popular culture

The Monroeville Mall has been featured prominently in numerous films, as well as in various computer/video games.

Dawn of the Dead

Monroeville Mall is most famous as the filming location for the movie Dawn of the Dead, the 1978 cult horror classic, directed by George A. Romero. In 1977, George A. Romero began filming Dawn of the Dead on location at the Monroeville Mall. All filming inside the mall took place at night after the mall had closed, with filming often continuing until dawn. Filming in the mall began in October 1977, but had to be suspended when the mall's Christmas decorations were hung shortly after Thanksgiving. Filming resumed in January after the decorations were removed. It was during that break that much of the mall's exterior shots were filmed, as well as filming at other locations. The mall was used as a fortress to protect four human survivors from a world taken over by the walking dead. Romero used the location to its fullest, beautifully displaying the mall and its vastness, almost giving the mall a cavernous feel. The movie went on to become a huge hit worldwide, leaving legions of dedicated fans in its wake. Fans travel far and wide, sometimes from other countries, just to have a chance to visit the location.[2] Several pictures taken during the filming are on display in a room on the upper level near Macy's. In addition, Time and Space Toys on the mall's lower level features an in-store museum called Monroeville Zombies that is based on Dawn of the Dead and contains artifacts, memorabilia, scale models of the mall as depicted in the movie and life-size replicas of various zombies. This exhibit has now been reopened.

Other films


  • The fictional mall of Willamette named "Willamette Parkview Mall" of Dead Rising was also inspired by Monroeville Mall as the same setting as Dawn of the Dead, although the creators had noted that the game was not developed, approved or licensed by the owners or creators of George A. Romero's Dawn of the Dead.
  • A zombie walk, an organized public gathering of people who dress up in zombie costumes, takes place at the mall around October of each year.
  • A second city of Monroeville was started in the browser-based multi-player game Urban Dead on the 25th of February 2008 including Monroeville Mall, as a promotion for the release of the film Diary of the Dead.
  • An inner-city shopping centre named "Monroeville Mall" is shown on the cover of the zombie survival board game Mall of Horror.
  • Rock group My Chemical Romance recorded a song, "Early Sunsets Over Monroeville", based on the film Dawn of the Dead.
  • The fictional Pittsburgh suburb of Libertyville, Pennsylvania, in the Stephen King novel Christine was inspired by Monroeville, Pennsylvania, and the Monroeville Mall.
  • The original television commercial was parodied by Adult Swim in the form of a promo.
  • Exterior scenes of the mall were used in the television series Queer as Folk, in an episode during the show's final season.

Anchor stores

In 1969, the Monroeville Mall opened with The Joseph Horne Company, Gimbels, and JC Penney as the original anchors.

In 1970, the entire Gimbels chain was purchased by the tobacco conglomerate BATUS. In 1986, after years of declining sales, BATUS announced that Gimbels was on the block. Unable to find a buyer for the entire chain, BATUS closed down the entire Gimbels Pittsburgh division, selling or closing all locations. Some of the more attractive mall locations, such as Monroeville Mall, were taken over by the St. Louis based May Department Stores Company for its Pittsburgh based Kaufmann's division. This effectively caused the shuttering of the entire Gimbels Pittsburgh division. The Monroeville Mall location was closed and completely renovated, including adding a third floor, before reopening as Kaufmann's. In 2006, when The May Department Stores Company was purchased by Cincinnati based Federated Department Stores, this store was acquired by Boscov's as Macy's was already located in the former Horne's spot at the opposite end of the mall. In October 2008, Boscov's closed their Monroeville store as part of a restructuring plan within the company.

The Joseph Horne Company (owned by the New York City based Associated Dry Goods Corporation) operated in Monroeville Mall until 1994. In October 1986, The May Department Stores Company merged with Associated Dry Goods Corporation. May promptly sold The Joseph Horne Company to a group of local investors. In 1995, Federated Department Stores acquired Horne's and renamed all former locations under its own Lazarus regional nameplate. In 2005, Federated eventually merged all its divisions (including the former Joseph Horne/Lazarus locations) into Macy's as part of a nationwide rebranding program.

CBL announced in 2011 that J.C. Penney will relocate to the former Boscov's building and a new movie theater will be built on the J.C. Penney's current occupation.[4]


  • Macy's - 240,567 sq ft, 3 levels (formerly Hornes, 1969-1994; Remodeled and Re-branded to Lazarus, 1994-2005; converted to Macy's in 2005)
  • J. C. Penney - 210, 467 sq ft, 2 levels (original anchor, opened 1969; closing in September 2012 and re-locating to former Boscov's space; space to become Cinemark Imax Theater in near future)
  • Space Available - 262,000 sq ft, 3 levels (formerly Gimbels, 1969-1986, expanded and re-opened as Kaufmann's, 1986-2006, converted to Boscov's, 2006-2008, space to leased by J.C. Penney and open in September 2012)


External links

Coordinates: 40°25′47.12″N 79°47′42.60″W / 40.4297556°N 79.795167°W / 40.4297556; -79.795167

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