The shopping malls that once dominated retail in urban areas are now turning into decaying ghost towns. Online shopping and changing retail landscapes have been steadily putting these megalithic establishments under, leaving thousands of square feet of boarded-up shops patiently waiting for developers to demolish them.
On the way to Vallco, one of the Bay’s dead malls, Alejandra and I were blasting mariachi, eating dollar-fiddy Jack in the Box tacos and picturing what kind of ghostly place we would end up in. We were expecting a reverberating, dilapidated structure crawling with pests and covered in graffiti. Well, the place isn’t quite as dead as we thought. There’s still an operating movie theater, an Asian buffet, and a Coldstone Creamery. Cardboard-lined glass and locked storefronts complete the rest of its 1,200,000 square feet, making this cavernous place a sorry reminder of what it once was. There were also enough security guards to staff a fully operating mall, probably the reason it hasn’t been overtaken by hooligans. Upon some further sleuthing, we found a tiny, but staffed, managerial office on the ground floor. I guess this depressing place is slated for redevelopment.
Comparing this mall to some of the nearby giants, Vallco’s decline is probably attributed to its second-tier status in an area that is growing more affluent by the day. Cupertino is a thriving city whose residents are more interested in luxury than Hot Dog on a Stick, evidenced by the bustling Apple campus sitting just a block away. While Vallco mainly attracts high school kids cutting class, San Jose’s Valley Fair is complete with a ground floor reserved for luxury brands like Burberry, LV, and YSL. This mall is in a permanent state of constructing more parking garages to meet its continually increasing demand—Valley Fair got so packed one holiday season that we spent 40 minutes circling for parking…before giving up and going home defeated. Quite a contrast to places like Vallco, which specializes in silence and desolation. We made full use of its emptiness though, acting nonchalant whenever security passed by, before accessing its restricted areas and playing cashier behind a few open counters. I’m not sure how smart it is to be discussing this so openly on the internet, but here’s what we ended up with.
(Vallco isn’t going to be around for long, and if you’re interested in exploring some of your own nearby abandoned malls, check out deadmalls.com)