UPDATE July 2, 2023: The Chambersburg Mall has reportedly closed permanently.
We had the opportunity in early April to visit a fascinatingly dead mall in central Pennsylvania. At the time of the visit, the only sign of life was an open AMC movie theater. The rest of the mall was pretty much fully abandoned and yet, accessible to the public to enjoy the historic look at once was. We will explore the history of the Chambersburg Mall, share a link to the video of our visit and ponder its potential future.
History of the Chambersburg Mall
The Chambersburg Mall in Chambersburg, Pennsylvania originally opened in October 1982. It was developed by Crown American Corporation, a real estate company based in Johnstown, Pennsylvania. In its early years, the Chambersburg Mall thrived as a popular shopping destination in the region. It housed a variety of stores and boutiques, attracting shoppers from Chambersburg and the surrounding areas.
The mall’s original anchors were Hess’s, Geebees and a movie theater. The Bon-Ton was later added in 1985. Sears was added to the mall in 1991 when it relocated from downtown Chambersburg. When Hess’s closed all of its stores in the early 1990’s, a JCPenney was added when it also relocated from downtown. Gee Bee became a Value City in 1992 but that store closed in 2008 and eventually became a Burlington.
The mall had several changes in ownership. It was purchased by PREIT or Pennsylvania Real Estate Investment Trust in 2003 only to again be offloaded by PREIT in 2013 sold to a private equity firm called Mason Asset Management. At this time, it was already in a state of decline as it was branded as one of the most endangered malls in America in a 2009 report by US News and World Report.
Sears closed at the mall in late 2014 and the space is now occupied by Black Rose Antiques & Collectibles, an antique mall with several other central Pennsylvania locations. JCPenney closed in mid-July 2015 and in late August 2018, The Bon-Ton closed as a result of the entire chain filing for bankruptcy. Both the JCPenney and Bon-Ton spaces remain vacant. On January 18, 2019, Burlington closed at the mall leaving Black Rose Antiques & Collectables as the only anchor left.
The Decline and Future of the Chambersburg Mall
Chambersburg Mall had as many as 75 stores at its peak in the 1990s and early 2000s but now, with the aforementioned decline, as you can see in our video documentation, it has dwindled down to an eerie empty space. Little did I know, on the day I visited on April 6, 2023, it was announced that the AMC would be closing permanently. The AMC then closed 10 days later on April 16 2023. The mall website now lists only three remaining businesses. Black Rose Antiques, Black Gap Studio (an art gallery), and 4-H robotics. I have to say this is the most dead open mall I’ve ever seen. It was stunning to see custodial staff on site and imagining what a day at work in a place so empty would be like. I am glad I made the journey because it’s very unclear how long this place will be around.
It’s hard to tell what the future of this mall will be. Like many other people have commenting when reading about the Chambersburg Mall online, it feels like it is in the middle of nowhere. When you drive to it, you are going through very rural residential areas and all of a sudden you go up this big hill to go to the mall. In most situations, a mall is surrounded by a drag of other strip malls, restaurants and destinations. But with this mall, it appears to be the only, now lifeless, sign of life around.
One article noted that because the Chambersburg Mall is located in the township of Scotland which is a “dry” area where no alcohol can be served that it might have also been a factor in its lack of success. Think of the many chain restaurants that often surround malls that serve alcohol, none of these can open in proximity.
Given that the place is virtually empty and the property condition is in serious decline, it is a safe bet it will likely be demolished and repurposed some time in the next decade. Or perhaps, it could be bought by Amazon to be used as a warehouse or logistics center given its proximity to major interstates. It is hard to tell, but we are glad we got to see it likely one last time.
How many Kmarts are left?
How many JcPenneys are left?
Mall Tours: Logan Valley Mall, Altoona, Pennsylvania
How many Sears are left?
Sears: The Florida Mall, Orlando, Florida
Dead Malls: Columbia Mall / Columbia Colonnade, Bloomsburg, Pennsylvania