Black Friday Eve shooting the likely death knell for Hoover’s Riverchase Galleria
It was February 1986. Whitney Houston’s “How Will I Know” was at the top of the charts. “Down and Out in Beverly Hills” was the current big hit at the box office.
And the Riverchase Galleria, seen by some as the eighth wonder of the world, opened.
As the brainchild of developer Jim Wilson, Hoover’s Galleria at the recently completed intersection of I-459 and U.S. 31 was a quarter of a mile long and had at the time the nation’s largest skylight: 120,000 square feet of glass suspended ten stories above the mall according to reports at the time.
For the next three decades, it would serve as the heart of the city of Hoover and be the centerpiece of the city’s retail-driven economy. People would come from all around the state of Alabama and beyond to shop at the Galleria.
It was even a stop for President George H.W. Bush in his failed 1992 re-election bid against Bill Clinton.
As they always do, things changed. Brick-and-mortar retail has given way to online shopping. And little by little, the once bustling Riverchase Galleria has been in a consistent and steady decline.
It wasn’t without trying. The Galleria has undergone additions, renovations and added retail on the western side of its property. It even got its own exit off of I-459
But like most indoor shopping malls in America, the Galleria’s days seem numbered, especially after last week’s deadly shooting and the chaos that has since ensued.
Months earlier, one long-time Galleria independent business owner told me that he was just barely hanging on and that his sales were a fraction of what they were in the 1990s and early 2000s.
This year, the mall’s Christmas tree lighting ceremony, once one of the signature holiday events of the area, hardly drew anyone.
People were already reluctant to go to the Galleria and were opting to shop online or to head for U.S. 280’s The Summit. The threat of gun violence in broad daylight will shrink the already dwindling customer base. It’s difficult to see how ownership can alter that perception.
To their credit, Hoover city officials saw this coming. Earlier this year, the city raised its sales, property and lodging taxes, recognizing that sales tax revenue was on the decline given the decrease brick-and-mortar retail sales.
Even with the demise of the Riverchase Galleria, Hoover should remain one of Alabama’s premier communities. Despite being looked upon by its northern neighbors Vestavia Hills and Mountain Brook as nouveau riche, the city of Hoover maintains a strategic advantage geographically and is bolstered by a successful public school system.
With or without the Riverchase Galleria, Hoover will survive. The question is, what’s the next big thing for the southern Jefferson County suburb?