Like an old house, an old mall shows its age mainly where you can’t see.
It’s not that Platte River Mall isn’t safe or lacks for attractive spaces, says Alan Karre, who knows its gems and its warts as the mall’s maintenance director for two-thirds of its 49-year life.
But he and new mall co-owner Mike Works say the mall has an expensive list of needs that’s already long and growing longer.
For the most part, “the things that need to be fixed are things you’re never going to see,” said Works, partner in Rev Development LLC with fellow Lincolnite Justin Hernandez
Karre led two Telegraph reporters through the mall’s innards and atop its roof last week, in advance of critical City Council votes Tuesday on Rev’s requests for city help with its $74.95 million redevelopment plan.
Karre, now the mall’s director of engineering under Rev, joined the mall staff on April 25, 1988.
That’s just over 16 years after Idaho developer Harry M. Daum cut the ribbon on a 241,000-square-foot shopping center five years in the making.
A succession of out-of-state owners owned what was simply called “The Mall” until Works and Hernandez became its first Nebraska owners last November. Both have west central Nebraska ties.
The previous owner’s mall manager, DP Management LLC of Omaha, gave way at year’s end to Terrahawk Group of Omaha. DP is building a mixed-use apartment-commercial project at West A Street and Lakeview Boulevard.
Though the main mall’s interior remains well-kept, west central Nebraska old-timers — and natives who visit or move back — know little has changed since Daum opened it on April 12, 1972.
With a couple of exceptions, every store on the west side has its back turned to shoppers arriving in the mall’s cavernous parking lot.
The mall entrance and indoor promenade remain straight, with no built-in curves or internal greenscaping like at Scottsbluff’s mid-1980s Monument Mall.
People who remember the original tenant lineup — places like Orange Julius, The Swiss Colony, North Platte Saddlery and Skaggs Drug Center — still can point to where those businesses once operated.
Some things have changed. The Skaggs spot, later Osco Drug, was rebuilt in 2005 into the multiplex movie theater that Golden Ticket Cinemas will take over and reopen by fall.
The promenade’s carpet was replaced with porcelain tile about then, Karre said. And 2005 was when the last out-of-state owner built the current main entrance, redid the roof and gave the mall its present name.
But “we haven’t really had anything (done) after that date,” he said.
It’s been even longer than that when it comes to that 1,400-stall parking lot.
Karre said the last repaving of any kind was done on a small portion in 1994, three years before the mall’s purchase by the New York owner who recently sold it to Works and Hernandez.
Patches, cracks and breakups are common on all sides of the mall, and the front sidewalk and curbs leading through the parking lot from South Dewey Street are still original from 1972.
“Our front parking lot, it’s just worn out,” he said. “I keep patching it as good as I can,” but patches “can only do so much.”
Water and sewer lines below the parking lot to the main mall and existing outbuildings likewise would date to the mall’s opening, Karre said.
A climb on a steep wooden staircase to the roof reveals more signs and unintended monuments to the mall’s age.
The AWAPLAN roofing membrane installed in 2005 has held up so far, Karre said. But its warranty has expired, and a portion of its asphalt-treated polyester needs to be replaced above the Ashley HomeStore entrance.
“That’s $50,000 just by itself,” he said.
A small number of the original 1972 air conditioning units are still in use, Karre said. The rest are still there, left where they sat as newer units were installed.
But the east anchor space once occupied by J.C. Penney — the mall’s last original anchor when it closed in 2017 — needs a complete HVAC overhaul that would cost $250,000 alone, Karre said.
The old Penney’s space still has its 1972 air conditioning, as does about half of the vacant north anchor space that has had just two tenants, he said.
Herberger’s, which replaced J.M. McDonald there in the 1980s, shut down in 2018 due to its parent company’s bankruptcy.
Also invisible from ground level are rusting areas along the roof edges and countless pipes held up above the surface by concrete blocks and small piles of wood.
One has to go into back rooms inside the mall to spot cracked floors, broken drop-down ceiling tiles and service doors that don’t close well from rust and corrosion.
Public bathrooms are well-kept but haven’t been updated to the standards of the 1990 Americans With Disabilities Act, Karre said.
Problems like those would be dealt with as Rev gradually guts most of the main mall and turns it into an outward-facing strip mall over the next few years.
It’s that long deferred-maintenance list, though, that accounts for virtually all of the $16.63 million in city help Rev hopes the council will approve.
It’s all needed “if we’re going to upgrade everything like we want to do to make the mall what it should be,” Works said.
More by Todd von Kampen
5 enticing looks at North Platte's history
2020 was a year that will make history, but it was also a year for us to reflect on our own local history. Special projects reporter Todd von Kampen shares some of his favorite stories from this year that highlight our past.
It was an honor to write about Ira L. Bare’s legacy in the centennial year of his two-volume 1920 history of Lincoln County.
This story looks at the homes the Codys owned during their years here and gave readers a look inside the 1930 home on the second Welcome Wigwam site.
The Telegraph offered extended looks at major museums and communities preserving the legacy of William F. “Buffalo Bill” Cody.
We connected Mark Schults of North Platte with the family of the World War II serviceman whose 1944 letter was found on the back of a framed card.