Almost a year ago, it was announced that Northgate Mall was going to get a big, fat redesign. The light rail is on its way, the National Hockey League needs some practice rinks, and, though 90 percent of the new site will still be retail, the storied mall has run its course.
News has been trickling out that all the big flagship stores that seemed impervious to change like Nordstrom and Macy's—which was there originally as the Bon Marche when the mall first opened in 1950—are closing. Goodbye, JC Penney, so long, Old Navy. It's a fire sale for Northgate stores and, well, it turns out that everything must go.
If you're looking for some cheap shopping, spend your weekend pillaging Northgate's bones for any meat that's left.
According to the Daily Journal of Commerce, the overall master plan for the mall redesign hasn't been approved yet but the three-rink Northgate Ice Center's final design is ready for review. In the meantime, Northgate Mall is going through one prolonged, hard-to-watch death rattle.
The mall has felt like a ghost town for much longer than just these last few months. On Friday, Business Insider took a tour through its echoey halls and outlined a lot of what I had seen in October when I did some reconnaissance for a story all about Northgate Mall (and Ted Bundy, weirdly). It was the first indoor mall, after all.
After that piece, someone named Mary emailed me with this anecdote about Northgate Mall:
In 1974 I was terrified of Ted Bundy, as I was the same age and description as his victims, and had absentee parents who did jack shit to look after me. I was a ballet obsessed teen who took the bus from West Seattle, transferred downtown, and went to the U-district for my ballet classes three times a week. I quit after he abducted Georganne Hawkins from behind her sorority house just a few blocks away from my studio, as I had to wait in the dark for the busses home and just couldn’t take the fear.
Fast forward to about 2003 or so. I was at the Northgate Mall by myself on a quiet morning. I stepped onto the escalator at JC Penneys to go upstairs. Halfway up, a man behind me leaned forward and murmured in my ear in a sickly-sweet fake baby voice, “WAIT FOR ME, MOMMY!”
It was so weird, so creepy, that for one split second I thought of ignoring him but instead swung around to confront him, and there was nobody there. Nobody. Not on the opposite elevator, not below me, not anywhere. There was no possible way anyone could have run off in that one split second.
I do not have hallucinations. I was not drunk or on drugs. I have not told anyone else of this because it is just so fucking weird that I don’t even want to think about it. But to this day I can hear the way he said it, the way the hairs in my ears crinkled in revulsion, the obvious intent to upset me. It was indescribably creepy.
I have no idea if it was Ted Bundy or just some lost soul getting his jollies on a lone housewife in a nondescript mall. But it really did happen.
I’m not even sure really why I’m writing to you, except to say that your writing really touched a nerve, and I wanted you to know your piece made me think about that long-ago incident.
Northgate Mall is populated with ghosts from Ted Bundy and the Green River killer to an old hospital that caused the dead baby ghosts someone on NextDoor told me they saw running through the hallway once. Jury's out on that one, though.
However, not everyone appreciated this characterization of this monument to American consumerism. Wendy sent me an email in June about a piece I wrote back in September 2018. This is what it said, all typos have been kept in:
I grew up in Seattle and have wonderful memories of Northgate Mall; and disagree with all your negative statements.
Every Christmas local school choirs would sing from the tree in front of the Bon Marche (The tree had Bleachers inside it for standing). I have wonderful memories when I was a child in one of the choirs. The shopping mall used to be open. Then it was enclosed to compete with the other malls and covered when it rained. The location of the mall is great; it is easy to get to from the freeway and not so overwhelming as Alderwood Mall and Bellevue Mall. It used to be crowded all the time. Now, not so much.
Amazon and people ordering on line are taking away the brick and mortar stores. I have great memories of working at a few of the stores in the mall part-time. It was always a happy place for me and other locals. Although I hate to see it go away, the owner is smart to make positive changes. It is the end of an era. The brick and mortar stores are getting smaller.
Your negative statements, I felt, did not describe Northgate Mall. This mall has a wonderful happy history.
Whatever Northgate was, it is no longer. Or, at least, it won't be for long. I didn't have an emotional attachment to it like Wendy. Honestly, I started looking into its weird history because I was always so unnerved in that huge cavernous hallway and its constant emptiness.
The new mall is expected to be up and running when the new light rail station opens in 2021.
And just so we're clear, I'm not really interested in any more odes to the mall—send all your songs and poems about this dump to another Seattle publication—but let me know if you have any other weird experiences.