Alderwood Mall opens in Lynnwood on October 4, 1979.

  • By Phil Dougherty
  • Posted 2/19/2008
  • Essay 8497

On October 4, 1979, Alderwood Mall in Lynnwood (Snohomish County) opens.  Developed by mall mogul Edward DeBartolo  Sr., it becomes an instant hit both for shoppers and walkers who enjoy strolling the mall's roughly one-mile inner perimeter.  Between 2002 and 2004 the mall will undergo a major renovation, adding upscale stores and nearly 200,000 additional square feet of space, which will increase its revenues by nearly 50 percent in just three years.  The mall will also be rebranded with a new name:  Alderwood.  In 2008, the nearly 1.4-million-square-foot mall is one of the largest malls in Washington state, and the second largest employer in Snohomish County, employing 4,000 workers in administrative offices and 175 stores.

Birth Of A Mall

Alderwood Mall was a 10-year project in the making, one that for a few years seemed like it might not happen. Plans for the mall in Lynnwood, in southern Snohomish County, were announced in 1969 by Allied Stores, then the owner of Bon Marche. Allied bought 110 acres just west of the interchange of I-5 and I-405 north of Seattle and cleared the land, but tight money and a sluggish economy stalled the project. By the mid-1970s the future mall site was just a large, weed-strewn lot. Finally, Allied sold to developer Edward DeBartolo Sr., one of the biggest mall developers in the United States during the final decades of the twentieth century. DeBartolo was known for moving quickly. Construction of the mall began in 1977 and by August 1979 was completed to the point that employees began stocking shelves in the mall’s Bon Marche store.

Construction moved so fast that as opening day approached on Thursday, October 4, 1979, only about 70 of the mall’s planned 136 stores were open for business. And even then, not all of those stores were fully prepared -- a tuxedo shop opened but had no counters, no clothes racks, virtually nothing except a few half-mannequins scattered on the floor, tastefully tailored in tuxes. It would be well into 1980 before all 136 stores in the mall were open.

But no matter. At 9:30 a.m. on opening day DeBartolo and Lynnwood Mayor M. J. Hrdlicka cut the ceremonial ribbon to open the mall, and the rush was on. A wave of 30,000 shoppers surged through Alderwood Mall’s doors during the day and happily meandered through the nearly 1.2 million square foot mall. “This place is beautiful,” gushed one thrilled patron to an Everett Herald reporter. The reporter elaborated: “The mall is characterized by clean lines, functional surfaces ... [and] is done in earthtones” (Everett Herald, October 5, 1979, p. 3-A).

Alderwood Today

The mall retained its vintage-1970s look for the rest of the twentieth century. Aside from some minor renovations and the addition of a food court in the mid-1990s, the mall remained unchanged. It continued to be a popular draw, and also became a favorite for walkers, who enjoyed walking the mall’s roughly one-mile inner perimeter in climate-controlled comfort. But by the beginning of the twenty-first century the mall was looking a bit dated, and was ripe for a major renovation and expansion.

This began in May 2002. The hardwood floors, high ceilings and “functional surfaces” (plain benches) were replaced with carpeting, lower ceilings, couches, and fireplaces. The mall added an additional 185,000 square feet of space, including an addition named The Village, an upscale outdoor mall, built to attract residents with a higher spending income. By the time the $110-million overhaul was finished in November 2004, the total area of the mall had expanded to nearly 1.4 million square feet, making it one of the largest malls in the state. In a final touch, mall managers shortened the mall’s name to Alderwood, stressing that it is no longer a mere mall -- it is a “lifestyle center.”

In 2008 Alderwood employs 4,000 workers in administrative offices and 175 stores, making it Snohomish County’s second-largest employer. In 2006, the mall generated about $4 million in sales-tax revenue to the City of Lynnwood, a 48 percent increase from 2003, and directly attributable to its 2002-2004 expansion. Alderwood has been owned since 1999 by General Growth Properties, a Chicago-based real-estate investment trust.

Sources: John Wolcott, “Thousands Of Jobs Created By Building New Mall,” Everett Herald, October 3, 1979, p. 10-D;  Mark Funk and Michael Hallinan, “The Mall Moguls,” Ibid., October 4, 1979, pp. 8-F, 9-F;  Mark Funk, “Rave Reviews,” Ibid., October 5, 1979, p. 3-A;  Jane Cartwright, “Alderwood Mall Opening Thronged,” The Seattle Times, October 5, 1979, p. A-18;  Jane Hodges, “Softer Look For Alderwood Mall,” Ibid., October 9, 2002; Leslie Moriarty, “Take A Walk On The Mild Side,” Ibid., December 10, 2003,  Diane Brooks and Michael Burnham, “Alderwood Expansion Aims To Lure The Village People,” Ibid., November 3, 2004;  Kirsten Orsini-Meinhard, “Retail Boom Puts Cities In The Money,” Ibid., August 1, 2007 (

Licensing: This essay is licensed under a Creative Commons license that encourages reproduction with attribution. Credit should be given to both and to the author, and sources must be included with any reproduction. Click the icon for more info. Please note that this Creative Commons license applies to text only, and not to images. For more information regarding individual photos or images, please contact the source noted in the image credit.
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License
Major Support for Provided By: The State of Washington | Patsy Bullitt Collins | Paul G. Allen Family Foundation | Museum Of History & Industry | 4Culture (King County Lodging Tax Revenue) | City of Seattle | City of Bellevue | City of Tacoma | King County | The Peach Foundation | Microsoft Corporation, Other Public and Private Sponsors and Visitors Like You