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Encyclopedia of Cleveland History

SEVERANCE TOWN CENTER

SEVERANCE TOWN CENTER

SEVERANCE TOWN CENTER, hailed as Ohio's first indoor shopping center, was erected at the corner of Mayfield and S. Taylor roads in CLEVELAND HTS. on the former site of the 161-acre estate of JOHN L. SEVERANCE (1863-1936) and later the residence of his nephew, Severance Millikin, who lived on the property until 1960. In 1953 Millikin hired the AUSTIN CO. to develop plans for the future use of the property, and in 1954 the site was rezoned for commercial, residential, and office use. The following year, the Austin Co. acquired the land and a Seattle development firm, Winmar Co., Inc., secured a controlling interest in the mall project in 1960. Ground was broken for construction in Feb. 1962. With Halle's and Higbee's anchoring each end of the mall, Severance Center opened officially on 17 Oct. 1963. By Mar. 1964, 52 shops and stores were open in the mall and the center was doing $1 million in business a week.

Facing competition from newer malls opening in the Greater Cleveland area, Severance was remodeled in 1972 and underwent several major changes in the 1980s. In 1981 Gold Circle built a new discount department store by adding another wing to Severance's existing facilities, but when sales failed to meet Gold Circle's expectations in 1985, the store was closed. In the meantime Halle's had gone out of business in Mar. 1982, creating a major vacancy at the west end of the mall. The Winmar Co. announced a $20 million remodeling project in 1984 that would enlarge Severance from 71 to 120 shops and transform the mall into a "regional town center" linked to the nearby Cleveland Hts. city hall. In 1989 Joseph Horne Co., a Pittsburgh-based retailer with 3 department stores in Greater Cleveland, moved into the vacated Halle's store. The Joseph Horne Co. was bought by DILLARDS DEPARTMENT STORES, INC., however, which subsequently became Severance Town Center's largest store. In 1995 there were 85 shops in the center.