America’s first mall is about to be redeveloped into offices, homes, and an NHL training center. We went inside and found it eerily empty.

Northgate Mall was eerily abandoned.

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Northgate Mall was eerily abandoned.
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Irene Jiang / Business Insider

Opened in 1950, Northgate Mall in Seattle was the first shopping center in America to be called a mall.

But now, after years of struggling to reinvent the mall, developers have decided to transform the property and the land surrounding it into a mixed-use commercial and residential complex and NHL training center. The project is expected to be complete in 2021.

Nordstrom is the latest of a slew of major retailers including JCPenney and Macy’s that have decided to close their Northgate locations. Merchandise and employees from the Northgate store will be redistributed to other Nordstrom stores in the area. The Nordstrom Rack, however, will remain open.

Read more: These haunting photos reveal the retail apocalypse ripping through America

However, it isn’t only department stores like Nordstrom and Macy’s that are rushing to abandon Northgate Mall before it closes. Smaller retailers and longtime food court locations are also jumping ship, with some local reports saying they were forced out by developers.

Not even phone-charging stations and a Pokemon Go play center were able to save America’s first mall from the retail apocalypse.

We toured the mall to see what it was like, and we were unnerved by how eerily abandoned it was:


There was a strange, sewage-like smell in the eerily empty courtyard leading to the mall’s entrance.

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Irene Jiang / Business Insider

Its halls were built to handle a much larger volume of foot traffic than it receives these days.

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Irene Jiang / Business Insider

Read more: ‘Stranger Things” new season features a slew of iconic stores that no longer exist


Vacant storefronts were absolutely everywhere.

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Irene Jiang / Business Insider

We saw a sign being stripped down from a shuttered, empty store.

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Irene Jiang / Business Insider

Old Navy was still around, although it was running closing clearance specials.

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Irene Jiang / Business Insider

Its estranged twin, Gap, fared no better.

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Irene Jiang / Business Insider

Its windows and walls were littered with red sale signs.

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Irene Jiang / Business Insider

The store appeared to simply be clearing out as much merchandise as possible.

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Irene Jiang / Business Insider

That meant not just clothes …

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Irene Jiang / Business Insider

… but everything in the store, including fixtures and mannequins.

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Irene Jiang / Business Insider

Signs on shuttered stores promised “More Style Coming Soon.” However, the mall’s redevelopment won’t be completed until 2021, and then, it will no longer be a traditional mall.

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Irene Jiang / Business Insider

The mall is not going without a fight. Recently added charging stations invite shoppers to stay longer.

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Irene Jiang / Business Insider

There was even a futuristic Pokemon Center.

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Irene Jiang / Business Insider

However, these well-intentioned methods of modernization have apparently done little to draw shoppers to the mall’s stores.

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Irene Jiang / Business Insider

Torrid was barely keeping its lights on.

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Irene Jiang / Business Insider

And iconic soft pretzel vendor Wetzel’s Pretzels didn’t have any takers.

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Irene Jiang / Business Insider

But, neither did Auntie Anne’s.

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Irene Jiang / Business Insider

Loft looked like a mausoleum.

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Irene Jiang / Business Insider

And fast-fashion favorite Forever 21 remained devoid of fans despite a flurry of pink signs heralding massive markdowns.

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Irene Jiang / Business Insider

Macy’s has been the anchor store at Northgate since 1950, when it was still the Bon Marché.

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Irene Jiang / Business Insider

Source: Seattle Pi


Now, Macy’s plans to close its Northgate store this month, as soon as its lease expires.

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Irene Jiang / Business Insider

Source: The Seattle Times


The store was in the process of purging all its contents.

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Irene Jiang / Business Insider

The jewelry section was a a ghost town.

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Irene Jiang / Business Insider

Signs everywhere advertised that the entire store was on sale, and staff members were nowhere to be seen.

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Irene Jiang / Business Insider

The shoe section’s racks had been cleared, and the remaining shoes were organized by size on display tables.

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Irene Jiang / Business Insider

What was left of Macy’s Home was on steep, steep discount.

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Irene Jiang / Business Insider

But there wasn’t much left.

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Irene Jiang / Business Insider

Deeper into the store, the scenery was even more desolate.

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Irene Jiang / Business Insider

Entire sections had been cleared out, and nothing remained except for the signs advertising the closing sales.

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Irene Jiang / Business Insider

Read more: A filmmaker who’s traveled to more than 70 dead malls across America reveals the craziest things he’s seen, from an eerily foggy food court to a rainstorm indoors


Walking through this Macy’s felt like watching the final scene of “Friends,” when the apartment we’d become so attached to over the years is emptied out, signaling the end of an era.

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Irene Jiang / Business Insider

Across the way, Nordstrom was much more full of life. Nordstrom will transfer employees and merchandise to other area stores after this one closes.

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Irene Jiang / Business Insider

Business was largely as usual as the store commenced its bi-yearly anniversary sale.

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Irene Jiang / Business Insider

There was yellow tape signaling great deals — for Nordstrom club members only, of course.

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Irene Jiang / Business Insider

The store’s colorful displays were in full bloom.

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Irene Jiang / Business Insider

And even though Topshop has officially left the US, it lives on forever (or at least for now) in the Nordstroms of our malls.

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Irene Jiang / Business Insider

Even though Nordstrom plans to close the store in August, the cosmetics department will still go through with its bi-yearly beauty festival.

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Irene Jiang / Business Insider

However, Nordstrom was definitely an exception.

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Irene Jiang / Business Insider

Spencer’s, once a temple for the edgy teen, has also jumped on the bandwagon of Northgate store closures.

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Irene Jiang / Business Insider

A tip of the hat to whoever can guess what store this used to be.

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Irene Jiang / Business Insider

Read more: More than 7,500 stores are closing in 2019 as the retail apocalypse drags on – here’s the full list


Tween girl accessory hawker Claire’s was still blindingly colorful and unnervingly peppy, much like the buy-three-get-three jewelry inside.

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Irene Jiang / Business Insider

It looked like the photo booth hadn’t seen any love since the ’80s.

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Irene Jiang / Business Insider

A Sarku’s employee waited for stray passersby, holding a plastic tray of teriyaki chicken samples getting colder by the minute.

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Irene Jiang / Business Insider

Although mostly empty, the food court was the most populated section of the mall.

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Irene Jiang / Business Insider

There was a lot of competition for very few customers, but this was a Battle Royale with no winners.

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Irene Jiang / Business Insider

Northgate Mall has served the middle class of north Seattle for over half a century. Soon, its doors will be closing forever.

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Irene Jiang / Business Insider

Over the years, the mall has had to reinvent itself time and again to keep up with changing consumer trends and demographics. Will its new life as a mixed-use complex restore its profitability, or is it too late for the first mall in America?

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Irene Jiang / Business Insider