Paradise Pavilion is a major shopping center in West Bend, Wisconsin It is currently anchored by Kohl's Department Store and ShopKo, with a long strip of nearly 25 shops between these two anchor stores.
The plaza was originally an enclosed mall named Washington Mall, opened in the autumn of 1979. In this phase of its life, Kohl's Department Store (opened: August 1979) was its flagship store at the north end. A supermarket anchored the south end, but this would close a few years after the mall's opening.
West Bend also had the older enclosed Westfair Mall (opened 1971 - closed 1990) at the southmost edge of town, far from the city center and West Bend Plaza (Then anchored by a Kohl's Food Store, Ben Franklin Variety Store, and Walgreen's Pharmacy), one of the city's first shopping centers. Washington Mall boasted more nationally-known names among its 15 or so tenants, and was slightly larger.
The mall was typical of late 1970's small malls with its low clearance, tiled ceilings and light provided by means of overhead fluorescent or mercury-vampor lamp ceiling fixtures, making it rather dark in the common area. One main concourse stretched from Kohl's at the north to the south anchor store. One side concourse ended at the only entrance into the mall from the outside, and joined at the main hallway in the middle, creating a 'T" shaped pattern.
Westfair Mall was part of a dying trend of malls built throughout the 1970s to serve just the immediate city region, rather than playing the part of a large regional mall that would serve the county and adjacent regions. One of its anchors, ShopKo (not original to the mall, but opening in the late 1970s), quickly outgrew their small space and decided to make the move into a newer, larger store across the street. This would open in 1986, mostly to take advantage of new traffic created when the West Bend Bypass (U.S. Hwy 45 Bypass) was completed that same year.
The expansion of Washington Mall soon commenced. The original south anchor was razed, and the newer portion built southward to connect with the new ShopKo store. Original plans called for room to house over 60 shops, a full food court, multi-screen cinema, and a brand new JCPenney store. Due to land restraints, most of these plans never came to be.
Paradise Mall had its official opening in the Spring of 1988. The proposed JCPenney that was part of the original plans for the mall came in July of that year. The mall's updated architectural style was opposite that of the old mall before it. Bright pastel colors, high ceilings with plenty of skylights, and accent lighting by way of marquee and neon were prominent features, typical of many malls in the 1980s. The older portion was remodeled to somewhat mimic the design of the newer portion of the mall. The most it got was new tiling to match the newer section of the mall. the old section's narrower concourse width and lower ceilings gave it away.
It should be noted, that during the Washington Mall phase, the mall was 100% occupied. Paradise Mall would never see 100% capacity, having room for nearly 40 tenants. Only half of this space would ever be filled. Some tenants from Westfair Mall would eventually relocate to the newer mall, as that mall eventually closed to the public in 1990. Also while the mall was being expanded south from the former Washington Mall building, some of that mall's original tenants would pull out, rather than relocate.
JCPenney would close in August 1997, citing sluggish sales as their reasoning. This small 20,000 S.F. store was never reoccupied by another tenant.
The mall would never officially cease operation, but it would go through a de-malling phase that started on May 1, 1998, and lasted through the middle of 1999. Existing businesses were moved to the backside of inline space and a makeshift walkway was created between Kohl's and ShopKo, while the walls facing S. Main St. came down.
After the eastern half of the mall was razed, and the backside of shops refaced and given their own entrances facing the parking lot, the new Paradise Pavilion would be complete in time for the 1999 Christmas holiday shopping period. During the mall's conversion from an enclosed structure to a strip of shops, ShopKo and Kohl's would also see extensive remodels to their stores inside and out.
The mall is currently 95% occupied. Though the city had lost a common area for community events, the conversion to a strip mall has proven a success.
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