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Mid Rivers Mall marks 30 years as county’s economic center

Nearly a decade before the development of Mid Rivers Mall began, the dream of a large shopping mall serving St. Peters and its surrounding communities was already taking shape. As far back as 1972, discussions and planning for the retail center had begun under the tentative name Rivers West Mall.

In 1976, Famous-Barr owner May Department Stores Company secured an option to purchase 165 undeveloped acres on the south side of Interstate 70 at what was then Hwy. C [now Mid Rivers Mall Drive]. Construction of its original anchor store on the site began in 1979.

At the time, St. Peters was already growing fairly quickly – its population rose from just 486 in 1970 to 15,700 in 1980 – but the city was hardly a shopping destination. Area residents either headed east to Chesterfield Mall or across the Blanchette Bridge to shop at Northwest Plaza in St. Ann.

When the new freestanding Famous-Barr opened in August 1981, originally as a “budget store” selling markdown items from other area locations, all that changed.

“There was no big store like Famous-Barr anywhere around, so it became a destination for the entire county,” said Len Pagano, who has served as a St. Peters official since 1983 and as its mayor since 2007.

Plans for the mall’s expansion beyond its original anchor were stalled for six years by a long period of economic recession, but in October 1987, the new Mid Rivers Mall opened with great fanfare, featuring a riverboat theme and a large water fountain in its center court. Dillard’s became its second anchor.

Today, Mid Rivers Mall includes four anchor stores and about 140 specialty stores. Sears and JCPenney joined Dillard’s and Famous-Barr [now Macy’s] in 1990 and 1996, respectively. The mall is owned by CBL & Associates Properties, Inc., which acquired it in 2007 from Westfield Group.

Its leasing manager, Tereasa Edwards, also has a long history in retail management there. After working for two of its original specialty retailers, which are no longer in business, Edwards spent many years as a manager for now-defunct women’s fashion retailer Contempo Casuals.

Edwards hinted at the announcement, to be made “very soon,” of a major new retail tenant coming to a 20,000-square-foot space in the mall. She said it will be the first of its kind in the St. Charles County area. To make room for the large enterprise, other tenants will be relocated and will get brand new looks in the process.

Additionally, Edwards said Marcus Group, which now owns the mall’s 14-screen theater, has committed to updating the theater and continuing to operate it.

“We’re working to give people a reason to come to the mall more often and stay longer,” Edwards said. “A lot of that will be related to entertainment offerings that will be new to the market – and we hope to be able to announce some of those very soon as well.”

Pagano added that new retail development in the area, such as the Shoppes at Mid Rivers, was planned to complement the mall’s offerings.

He said he believes Mid Rivers Mall is the major impetus behind a great deal of the explosive growth that has occurred over the past three decades, both in St. Peters and in St. Charles County as a whole.

“The mall gave a shot in the arm to the entire county,” he said. “It’s a dream that came true. It is the reason why that whole area grew, and it really helped to create the area’s largest economic synergy center.”

Mid Rivers Mall will celebrate its 30th anniversary on Saturday, Oct. 14 – exactly 30 years from the date of its original opening.

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