Abandoned Mall: Villa Italia Mall - Lakewood, CO

Villa Italia Mall in Lakewood, Colorado, opened in March 1967. 

It closed for good on July 15th, 2001.

I'm not going to get into the biography of the large shopping mall. My experiences there number a grand total of two. Once in June of 2000 (for a baseball card show), and the other in May, 2001, when I took these pictures. Since there was no emotional attachment on my behalf toward the place, I know next to nothing about it.

There are a few good sites with real information and more pictures of Villa Italia. Both in it's heyday and in it's depressed run down state. I consulted these for this story.

Deadmalls has a basic biography, that is a good starting point. 

A link appears at the bottom of the page that takes you to another site with a nice selection of Villa Italia photos. Or you can just click here...

So let me add my piece to that total!

In May 2001, my mom was in town from Minnesota. She was in Denver visiting my sister (who lived in Lakewood) and myself (I lived in Englewood). This Colorado appearance was timed so that she could see a Rockies game with me...

That also happened to be an Expos game!

As I said, I have no emotional attachment to Villa Italia. I was aged 21-26 when the mall was open and I lived somewhat close. So going to shopping malls was something I avoided if at all possible.

My mom told me that one afternoon she was going to look at the closing mall and check out any "Going Out Of Business" sales taking place. Even though it wasn't something I put much thought into at the time, I decided to go along, bringing my very crappy 35mm camera with.

I’m sure people that are interested in Villa Italia Mall, know it a whole lot better than I do. So I’m just going to present my pictures and what I think of them. Hopefully these will trigger some memories for anyone who spent more time here than I did…

Now I regret not shooting more than one roll of film!

Hi Mom!

Foley's fought the closure of the mall in court, citing the nullification of their lease as a reason to keep the mall open. Foleys stayed open until the very end, finally shuttering with the rest of Villa Italia, in July 2001.

They ultimately lost their lawsuit, but their building ultimately won...

While the rest of Villa Italia was demolished, Foley's old building was saved and repurposed for a buncha Dick's!

Just inside the entrance to Foley’s was an escalator to Villa Italia’s newer upper level. Formerly a single level, The mall add a second floor to the entire mall, during a mid-1980’s remodel. Villa Italia was losing ground to other Denver metro area shopping malls.

Had I possessed a better camera, I would have gotten a much clearer picture of this directory. 

Let me try to zoom in a little…

Not a whole lot better, but somewhat readable in places...

Damn I wish this was a better photo…

By the time I took these pictures, most of the mall was completely vacant. Scattered throughout, there were probably less than 10 stores still open by May 2001. I don’t know when the official word of the mall’s closure hit public awareness, but it was clear that the mall was in it’s last days.

A small fountain in the middle of the mall, with a soon-to-be closed Zales Jewelers sitting the background.

I don't know if those people are customers or mall employees.

When the second floor of the Villa Italia Mall was added in the mid 1980’s, a new feature was a large food court built outside of Foley’s. This glass elevator would bring hungry shoppers up to new mall food offerings. However, the elevator was disabled in May 2001. So it could bring no hungry consumers up to where no restaurants existed anymore…

None of Yum Brands’ nasty wet cat food tacos are available here anymore…

In fact the entire Food Court is wide open with ample seating, but there are zero open food options.

The Asiana Grill has gone cold…

Luca Pizza is fresh out…

More tables for no customers…

Further away from the Food Court was the Swiss Pretzel Shop.

Which looked more open than most of the closed up retail spaces.

Dillard’s was the first mall anchor to close on October 31, 2000. Before Dillard's, this space was Joslyn's department store. They were an original Villa Italia Mall tenant, dating back to it’s opening in 1966.

Despite having closed over seven months before these pictures, the Dillard’s store still had a lot of fixtures left inside. Should have tried for better pictures.

Walking up the non-operational escalators, here’s the second floor entrance to Dillard’s.

Goody aint got it anymore…

And when they did, they charged 25% more than other retailers for it!

Had Wilson’s Leather still been open, I could have replaced my old gloves that  have needed replacing since about May, 2001. And why would you name your jewelry kiosk King? A king would surely be able to lease an actual store in the mall, not just some display cases in the middle of the walkway…

Picture Perfect in an imperfect picture!

About 15 years ago, I was working on a story about a dying mall in my hometown. Most of that project was eventually scrapped, and what did see the light of day can be found here (20/20 Sound at Northtown Mall). At the time, I was recording audio interviews with my friends about our memories of certain locations around town. These recordings would be transcribed for stories in future issues of Wasted Quarter. When it came time to talking about that mall, and in particular, the Suncoast video at Northtown, he summed his views up something like this:

Suncoast Video… Where you can pay $25 for a VHS cassette that you can get at Best Buy for $17. The smarmy attitude of the cashiers loved to lord over your head that they could look things up in their computer. As if it was some spectacular piece of miracles. Neither of us had ever bought anything at Suncoast, but we looked there each time we went to the mall. But even looking at their inventory was difficult. For whatever reason, Suncoast decided to display the VHS cassettes facing out. So you could see the titles and pictures on the boxes. Up front, but not behind them without moving a bunch of tapes. Media needs to be displayed spine out!

Something tells me that our gripes with the Northtown Suncoast would have also applied to the store at Villa Italia Mall…

Speaking of stores that strike an emotional kick to my groin, would be Waldenbooks. I loved Waldenbooks as a kid. It was a much better book store than B. Dalton’s Booksellers. Walden stocked better comic books, better comedy books and more (for a brief period) Dungeons and Dragons stuff than B. Dalton did. Walden also sold packs of baseball cards during the junk wax era, which I never saw at the Dalt.

Next door to ex-Walden was Pocket Change, the remnants of Villa Italia’s video arcade. Shockingly still open at this time, but breathing it’s last gasp. The sign in the doorway was informing customers that most of the remaining machines inside were for sale to anyone interested.

Inside and around the back sat the last three video games at Villa Italia. Galaga and Ms. Pac Man were selling for close to $1000 each. Not a bargain at all considering the condition of the machines. Arkanoid in the middle had a lower price tag on it, but it was still well over $500. And it’s not even an original Arkanoid machine!

Before leaving, I played a game of Ms. Pac Man. The joystick was loose and not as responsive as it needs to be. Sure, I’ll waste a quarter on it, but not $900 to keep the cabinet.

As nice as she would have looked in my (then) apartment, sitting next to her husband…

An abandoned Kay Bee Toys can never be mis-identified. The bright blue cashier display looked the same in every Kay Bee across the country, during the 1980’s and 1990’s. Had the chain-link gate not been in the way, I would have loved to see what had been left behind on the shelves and countertop. If you look closely, a Nintendo 64 sign can be seen just under the backwards reflection of the number 3.

Montgomery Ward closed their Villa Italia Mall location in March, 2001. Anchoring the west end of the mall, with an mall entrance next door to an abandoned glasses store.

With another fountain next to another store gasping for breath, with the mall closing around it…

JC Penney closed their store in April 2001, just before I took these pictures. Reflected in the glass is Walgreens. They were still going full tilt in May, 2001, but would be closing very soon.

You know, I bet they sold FILM inside that store!

Because unfortunately, I’ve run out of Villa Italia pictures to talk about...

So I guess it’s time to leave…

Villa Italia closed the mall on July 15th, 2001. 

After the expected period of asbestos removal and interior pre-demolition work, actual demolition of Villa Italia Mall started in January, 2002.

By the fall of 2002, construction had already began on the BelMar development. The entire mall property would be redeveloped into a new “downtown” for Lakewood.

Not sure if this 1960’s inspired sign for BelMar was placed to hint at the land’s past, but I’ll give them points for trying. The new mixed use-use retail/residential development would be similar in scope to what many other suburban areas that once held a large shopping mall, did with the land after redevelopment. Amidst the overpriced luxury apartments and condos, retail anchors such as Target, Best Buy, Whole Foods and a 16 screen movie theater would be built on Villa Italia’s grave.

I saw one movie there:

I remember falling asleep during it at one point, only to be jolted awake by a chick screaming. 

In the movie, not the theater.

The current main drag of Bel Mar. 

Almost following the east/west path of Villa Italia’s main mall walkway.

Hope you have better memories of the place than I do.

Which are pretty much, none.


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