While in Spokane last week my brother and I decided to do some Black Friday shopping. Well, we didn’t really do any shopping but we wanted to check out the day after Thanksgiving pandemonium. After we hit up the Spokane Valley Mall we drove across the city to Northtown Mall, the largest, and most recognizable, shopping center in town. Growing up in Spokane, Northtown Mall was a landmark. It had recently received a very extensive expansion and was the place that out-of-town shoppers flocked to. The place had energy.
However, this Thanksgiving weekend when I returned to Northtown on Black Friday there was a dramatic change in the mall. I would estimate that about 20% of the stores were vacant. Spaces where well known businesses had staked out for years were now gone. At one area in the mall it was especially eerie. Except for the anchor stores, everything was gone, even the ATMs that were once attached to the walls! The place had seemed to turn into a ghost town. I questioned my brother and cried out on Twitter asking what was going on.
It took a while but today I found out my answer. It turns out the mall will soon be undergoing another massive renovation project. The area that had turned into a graveyard will be demolished and then resurrected in grand fashion. Northtown had supposedly moved/bought out/kicked out all the businesses in the area in preparation for the upcoming huge project. It suddenly made sense to me. Except for one thing…
In the bottom level of Northtown Mall there used to be a fun center called Bumpers. The large area contained bumper cars, an eighteen hole miniature golf course, a climbing wall, full arcade, party rooms, and pool tables. During our youth, my brother and I spent a lot of time there. However, like many of the other tenants in Northtown, it packed up and left. The business headed out to the valley to attempt at a fresh start in an old bowling alley location.
The bottom level where Bumpers resided used to be partially exposed to shoppers. While you were on the second floor level by all the ice cream shops or even further up on the third level you could look down and see the bumper cars and redemption front desk of the center. The climbing wall elevated all the way up to the second level, showcasing one of Bumpers’ most popular attractions to shoppers who may have not had the chance to make it down to the basement level yet. An escalator and see-through elevator connected Bumpers with the other levels of Northtown. However, that level of transparency is no more.
When Glen and I visited Northtown last week we were a little shocked to see that the gaping hole in the middle of the second level that allowed people to see inside of Bumpers was totally gone. The black and white tiled floor of the mall now extended completely across where the open space used to be. It was as if the once busy kids arcade zone had never existed. If you were a first time shopper to Northtown you would have absolutely no idea that you were walking across a floor that had just been there for a couple months, let alone realize that underneath you rested a large vacant basement.
Or is it really vacant? That basement level in Northtown is vast. There is a whole lot of space down there. Would Northtown really leave that space totally empty? Why did they feel the need to completely cover it up? Although I don’t generally believe in conspiracy theories I do enjoy considering them and let me tell you, Glen and I had our minds rolling about what was going on underneath us. My first suggestion is that it is now an underground dance club where loads of illegal activities occur. Or thinking about it now, maybe the space is now used for a secret fight club. Maybe they have converted it to a detention area where lost kids, unruly teenagers, and out of line shoppers get transported to and forgotten about. Or perhaps one of those roller derby teams have made the area their new practice headquarters.
It crossed my mind that it might be a graveyard for old and dysfunctional furry characters that play in those bands at Chucky Cheese’s and other kids centers. Maybe the seasonal store Spirit is holding the space for next Halloween. Or maybe it is where 2Pac and Elvis are now hanging out. For all we know, it might now be a holding zone for excess Area 51 materials.
Bottom line, I just feel as if someone is trying to erase the memory from our minds that a giant basement does in fact exist at Northtown Mall. By patching up the hole, making access impossible, and by not disclosing future plans for the space I must say that I am intrigued about what is really going on underneath the mall. Does anyone else have any ideas? Don’t Blink.
Check out the web site: http://www.deadmalls.com.
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I am former mall staff, I have spent a lot of time in the basement. I can tell you that it is far more vast then you can imagine. It has series of very long hallways that seem odd though not terribly remarkable. However each doorway in the hallway leads to massive spaces that stores used to occupy. They are massive concrete rooms.with 30 to 40 ft ceilings, however there are seldom light fixtures in the rooms. The coolest rooms are the ones on the corners that were anchor tenants so the space is ridiculously big, and they continue to creep further and further back until there is simply the old offices and storage space the store used to have. A lot of these old stores are leased to stores in the mall as storage or workshops. Golf carts are used to get around down below it is so large.
In the late 90’s there was talk of converting part of it into an all ages nightclub or to use for more shopping. Owners did not want the liability of the club and the biggest reason the space isn’t used outside market forces is simply the required parking ratio. It is really cool down there and will eventually be utilized somehow..
Thanks so much for the insight. That look inside the basement is crazier than I could have ever imagined. So weird that so much of that space is unutilized (although I do understand the parking ratio scenario). Question for you…do you know of or heard of any of the stores that used to occupy the basement level?
It was the basement under the old Sears store built in 1961.
Crazy! Have you ever been underneath there before?
the new Manhattan project is down there