Cinderella City Mall Englewood, CO

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Cinderella City, in 1968, was the biggest mall West of the Mississippi River. It was THE place for anyone to go. With a 35-foot spraying fountain in the giant Center Court, and with over 270 stores, who could resist? The mall was so big, that it was divided into 5 different, “Mini-malls”: (Just a fancy name for corridors cluttered with resturants and kiosks and such) Rose mall, Shamrock mall, Gold mall, Cinder-alley, and all were connected by a 5th, Blue mall, or the center court.

Living just South of this monster, I (Only 14, so I didn’t get to enjoy much of the mall in person) was fascinated from the day I saw the white “ghost mall” as I called it. At that time, 1996, there was a measly 3 or so stores/anchors left: Montgomery Ward (Last tenant to leave) Lenscrafters, and Footlocker. Those were the last 3 to leave, rendering the rest of the mall dark, dirty, and useless. But, again, that was in 1996.

In the mall’s prime time, it had many different anchors, including J.C Penny, Neusteter’s (Which later became Foleys), Denver Dry Goods (Which later became Montgomery Wards), Joslins, and a Woolworths. (Plus 260 or more thriving kiosks/stores) At its March Grand Opening, thousands upon thousands of people pushed and shoved through the corridors of this mall, amazed that they even made it to this new wonder. However, only about 20 stores were opened on March 7th-9th. This was considered the “pre grand opening”, (Some of the mall hadn’t even been done by this time) and about a week later, the festivities really began when the rest of the stores and tenants opened. Gerri Von Frellick, the developer of the mall, got over 30,000 requests from small businesses and chain stores alike, requesting to have a place in the mall. The Denver Post even did a full newspaper just for Cinderella City, on the week of its opening.

For the next couple of weeks, various newspapers even kept a section for Cin City. Frellick explained in one sentence, how big the mall really was: “You won’t be able to tell your friends, ‘Meet me at Cinderella City’, because it’s too big! You’ll have to define a definite place.”

It all started when Von Frellick, after starting his first mall, Villa Italia, wanted to start another mall, code-named Cinderella City. He approached the Colorado Board of Zoning and Resources to get first-hand approval to put a shopping center that was planned to have over a million square feet of space, on the land that then was occupied by the KLZ Radio towers (KLZ Radio, Denver). Von Frellick proposed that he demolish the radio towers, and build his mega mall. The board approved, but neighborhoods, although in favor of having a shopping center, declined having one so close to their houses and parks. It would be too much of a disruption, said some. So, the determined Von Frellick chose to have his new creation put on the land that then occupied parks and pools. He again approached the Board of Zoning and Resources, and proposed that, if he got permission to build his mall on the park, then he would drop the name “Cinderella City”, which many of the board members found repulsive. Von Frellick also promised to the board, “I will not let you down!” The board granted him permission, reluctantly. The work began then.

The area was 65 acres, and Von Frellick figured he could work with the odd shape. He did so by making the Cin. City a “W” shape (Each point of the “W” consisted of at least one anchor, and the lines were to be the 5 mini-malls (see below for more info.)) Von Frellick reached his goal in a little under 4 years and held the Grand Opening (the first one) on March 7th (see above).Von Frellick also hoped to start a new fad for malls around the country, by adding a beautiful fountain in the center court, that could spray up to 42 feet in the air, almost touching the skylights above it.

Cinderella City remained very popular, generating over $54 million in revenue for Englewood in the first year. People couldn’t be happier with Cin. City. For next 5 years, the mall ran smoothly. Thousands of people still chose Cin City over other competing malls, despite the distance or stores they offered. However, like all things, this kind of buisiness didn’t last forever. In the early seventies, a more contemporary look for malls was the new “in” thing to do. Other malls, immediately realizing this new demand, updated their floors and walls to a more peaceful, wood and drywall look. However, in Cin City, Von Frellick failed to realize this, and foot traffic decreased slightly, as structural problems also became evident. To add to that, Von Frellick was receiving a lot of negative comments about the mall the once ruled the Englewood landscape. Gerri Von Frellic feared his mall would close. Soon, the CINEMA theaters were gone, as was Neusteters, DDG, and a number of smaller tenants. The theaters and Neusteter’s (Sharing the same 25,000 sq. feet) were transformed into a massive Foley’s, (Which also sported the new wood and white brick/drywall look) and DDG into Ward’s. The structural problems (namely the parking garage) were fixed. Gerri Von Frellick then sold the mall to KRAVCO and Equitable Real Estate (Who had been financial partners all along), and let them deal with the mall. He had made too much money and was too lazy to constantly update the mall.

“I think the mall will thrive in the good hands of KRAVCO,” he said. To add to this, Gerri’s wife also made this comment to the Denver Post: “Running the mall is like running an entire city, it’s killing my husband.”

KRAVCO and Equitable then took Gerri’s attempts one step further and transformed the whole mall. They added skylights, they added square footage, and added elevators and escalators. They also made the mini-malls’ floors (which were once glazed concrete) into various types of more appealing textures; Mainly carpet, wood and linoleum. Then, the two companies made a decision that some believe made or broke the mall: They removed the fountain and installed a huge food court under the area that the fountain stood (which used to be parking). Then, the floor above the food court was cut out, to allow light from above to enter the court. A large tree was planted in the center of the food court that grew up into the floor of the Center Court. That, in fact, did bring a whole lot more foot traffic, and the revamped mini-malls had THEIR foot traffic once again. The beautiful collage of colors in the Blue Mall were now gone, replaced with a bland white drywall with green-tinted lights from above. The green ambience in the Center Court was rather bright: Passers-by mistaken the green tint coming from the windows for an extraterrestrial being.

After that $2 million re-vamp, the customers were drawn once again to Cin City. The new skylights, remodeled malls and stores made Cinderella City a pleasant place to be. However, nearby competition rose quickly to make Cinderella’s existence even more unbearable. Cherry Creek , Park Meadows and a handful of other malls set the new bar of luxury in a mall higher than ever before. KRAVCO knew it was over. The mall was too old, and had had too many revamps. To add to this mall’s demise, there was a secret it withheld from the public just until the decaying period of its life. The mall was built on a park, which was formerly the trash dump for the city of Englewood. The mall was structurally unsafe because the ground was so poor from years of trash pile up, it was literally moving about 6 inches a year. Because of this, in years before, Cinder-alley was closed for sometimes months at a time, as were certain sections of the mall, and no one knew why. As a matter of fact, JC Penny’s was closed for 3 weeks in August of ’86, because a structural engineer found a hairline crack in one of the overhead supports, and insisted that the whole mall be closed, and checked for more damage of settling. More cracks were found and were immediately repaired. The once-a-month scene of scruffy construction workers ripping the mall’s floors and walls to shreds, and digging out wet, green-brown soil soon became a weekly occurrence. Just when the mall started to fade was the “garbage dump” revelation made public. Apart from being old, faded, and too revamped, the mall was now deemed “Structurally unsafe”. Equitable Real Estate realized this, and gave up. They did, however add one item to the mall: a $250,000 hand-made French Carousel to put in the center court. Didn’t help the mall much. This carousel would be the last piece of equipment this run-down stepsister mall would ever see.

There is no point in discussing the details on how the remaining tenants reacted, so let me put a long story short: The game was over, and a new game had begun: “Who can get out first!?” It was literally a race to the door. 85% of the mall was now vacant, and soon, more would go. The City of Englewood devised a plan to put this girl away for good: A “Mini-downtown” would be erected in the mall’s place, consisting of retail, housing, and other needed things for Englewood. Word of this news spread, and the remaining tenants saw the writing on the wall (Which, metaphorically, had been there for years, the tenants were just afraid to look), and left. All except Wards, who made an acceptable profit from the occasional sale of clothes, or appliances. Then, they, too knew it was over, and closed. The last tenant to leave. 276 down, 0 to go. The mall was then just a huge empty space with storefronts proudly exclaiming: AVAILABLE. Right. No moron in his right mind would buy anything in there. KRAVCO could have stuck a fork in this mall’s floors: IT WAS DONE!! The mall would be torn down for the next two years (Which made a 1.5 million dollar hole in Englewood’s pocket), and made into Englewood’s first and only downtown.

On May 11, 1999, a Wards employee closed the doors to the old structure for the last time, and turned the key on a new future for Englewood. Ownership was then officially given to a demolition crew, who were the last “owners” the mall would ever see.

Over the time that the mall was being demolished, people came and went, cars occasionally stopped to remember the mall that was once glorious. Then, Lewis and “Floorwax” of the local radio station 103.5 The FOX crushed a Ford falcon on the walls of Joslin’s (Which basically aided the demolition) using a crane, to start the game between the Denver Broncos and the Atlanta Falcons.

Over its 35 years, CCM has hosted it’s share of events: Grand opening I, II, celebrity appearances, and numerous festivities. This mall was ready to go in peace. And it did. In 2000, the last part of the mall fell to the ground (All except the former Foley’s which was to become Englewood’s City center). It would be pointless to share anymore memories of this mall in this article, but for everyone here, the memories live on. Wal-Mart, Bally’s and I-HOP are just a few of the new “tenants” that occupy the former Cinderella City, and the City Center, the only place that has a bigger collection of pics and articles also stands there. It was a shame to see the mall demise so quickly (Although 35 years isn’t too bad). I just wish it would have lasted a little longer.

Check out some images from Flickr

Our address

Englewood, CO
39.6477653, -104.98775969999997

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Comments (2)

  1. Cinderella City. Ahhhhhhhhh. Huge part of this Englewoodite/Denveriite’s life for 30 years. The waves of endorphins and nostalgia are so strong… I think I had such a big blast of recognition reading this totally spot on description of CCM and looking at these photos that now I gotta go smoke. What an unexpected glorious joy to find!!!!!Whoever did this…I thank you. I love you.

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