WHITE PLAINS, New York (WABC) -- A mall in White Plains was once the quintessential model for an urban mall, a place alive with excitement and a setting for people to hang out, but after more than 40 years, it has finally closed.
Mall employees took a final trip on an escalator that leads to nowhere. The upper floors of the Galleria at White Plains are a ghost town. The last store standing was Westchester Toys, Trains and Hobbies.
"It's sad, it's a nice mall I would've loved to see get rebuilt, I think it's a lot of waste of concrete to knock it down," store owner Michael Petagine said.
After 43 years the Galleria is now closed permanently. It's opening in 1980 was the cornerstone of an urban renewal plan.
"I remember when this opened and it was a beautiful mall, it was the only mall around, it was great," shopper Charlie Lowenfeld said.
But with economic development came other issues. The 20-acre mall and garage replaced small buildings and storefront retail with a mega block structure smack dab in the heart of downtown.
"You would not do this in planning today, they basically dropped it down from the sky, it cuts off two parts of the city from each other," White Plains Mayor Thomas Roach said. "You have to walk through a tunnel to come down Martin Luther King Boulevard which pedestrians don't like, I've spoken often about the Great Wall of Galleria."
So what comes next? The mayor says he wants any redevelopment to include a village square-type setting with green space, but it will undoubtedly feature housing. Some fear there will be too many luxury apartments and not enough affordable ones.
"I think it's nice to have nice things and we all want to have nice things, but we don't want to be displaced in order to have those nice things," said Jody Borhani-D'Amico with Coalition for Addition Without Subtraction. "So I think having some amount of luxury is fine, but having it be 88% is too high."
She's referring to the city's requirement that sets aside 12% of new construction for affordable housing. The city is in the midst of a building boom. She smaller White Plains Mall was recently torn down.
"There's no housing here right now, but whatever housing is built is new to the area which goes to all our other buildings," Roach said.
It's the end of an era and the start of a new one.