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Mall of Memories

Memphian keeps former mall alive on the Web.

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It's been three years since the Mall of Memphis was demolished. Since then, the once-bustling site of the sprawling shopping center has been largely forgotten, except when dead bodies are found on the now-vacant property.

But Memphian Doug Force remembers. In 2004, shortly after the mall's demise, the FedEx program manager adviser founded www.MallofMemphis.org, a Web site dedicated to the extinct Mall of Memphis.

After high school, Force worked at the mall's Video Concept store, selling VCRs and big-screen TVs. When he heard that the mall was about to be demolished, he decided to do something in honor of the place.

"I started this out of curiosity, seeing if MallofMemphis.com was available, but it had been purchased by Amazon," he says. "It's telling. [Amazon is] kind of like the new mall, the online mall. But MallofMemphis.org was available, so I bought it."

The Web site has changed since its melancholy beginning in 2004 when it consisted of a picture and "RIP." Now it includes about 600 pages of information and memories of the mall.

"All the pictures from today — when it was being built, when it was being torn down — were taken by other people. I've got pictures, video, articles, you name it. It's a constant surprise to me how huge this is," Force says.

MallofMemphis.org isn't the first Web site dedicated to an abandoned mall. Deadmalls.com, a directory of extinct or dying malls and shopping centers, is credited with starting the trend.

Force has his own opinion on why the Mall of Memphis ended up being the largest enclosed shopping mall in the country to fail.

"It had a reputation — The Mall of Murder. I assumed what everyone else did, that it was a dangerous place," Force says.

MallofMemphis.org includes a Rhodes College student's thesis on the mall's closure. The thesis, written for the Urban Studies program, documents the surrounding neighborhood's shifting demographics and crime rates as well as the loss of anchor department stores Dillard's, Service Merchandise, and JCPenney.

The study concludes that all these things were factors in the mall's demise and that the Mall of Memphis was safer than Oak Court, Southland, and Hickory Ridge malls.

"The perception was treated as a fact," Force says. "It was a good headline or tagline or audio blurb to say 'Mall of Murder.'"

Force continues to update and maintain the site and remains optimistic about its future. "People have a lot of memories about a building. It's the letting go of good memories that's so difficult."

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