Kirkwood Plaza Shopping Center, known today as Kirkwood Mall, is an enclosed regional shopping center in Bismarck that features more than 90 tenants, including six full-line anchors: Target, Scheels Sporting Goods, Herberger’s, JCPenney, I. Keating Furniture, and H&M. At approximately 850,000 square feet, Kirkwood Mall is the largest shopping center in central and western North Dakota, second in the state only to Fargo’s West Acres.
Upon opening in 1971, Kirkwood immediately grounded itself as the region’s primary commerce hub, a distinction it arguably maintains today.
Kirkwood Mall is named for Robert Kirkwood, who once served as Chairman and CEO of F.W. Woolworth Company. Mr. Kirkwood had previously served as store manager for the Bismarck Woolworth store from 1932-1939.
Kirkwood Plaza was conceived of and developed by Paul H. Wachter, who had been considering the idea for nearly a decade.
Ground was broken in November 1968. Its estimated cost of construction was $4 million. At 422,053 square feet, Kirkwood was the city’s single-largest development when it was completed in 1971 – a distinction it held until the opening of Pinehurst Square – and the largest shopping center in North Dakota until West Acres opened the following year. It was the city’s second enclosed, and third altogether, shopping center, following Arrowhead Plaza and Northbrook Mall.
Woolworth was the first section of Kirkwood to be completed, opening on March 18, 1970. At 72,900 square feet, it was the largest single-floor Woolworth at the time and the second-largest store nationwide in terms of display space.
Montgomery Ward was the second anchor to open, on September 23, 1970. Herbergers followed on March 23, 1971.
Supporting stores opened at a rapid pace leading up to the mall’s official April 1971 debut. A grand opening celebration was held the following month, with namesake Robert Kirkood in attendance. In addition to the aforementioned anchors, Osco Drug was also an original tenant as a junior anchor.
With the opening of Kirkwood, the surrounding area quickly replaced downtown Bismarck as the region’s main economic hub, showcasing a diverse mix that included retail, restaurants, banking, housing, hotels, and other commercial interests. With the exception of newcomer Herbergers, all of Kirkwood’s anchors previously maintained downtown locations. Woolworth and Osco did, however, continue to maintain a downtown presence for a short time following the opening of Kirkwood. Woolworth closed its downtown store in 1981 and Osco in 1979.
Herbergers is the only remaining original anchor.
In 1977, Kirkwood announced plans for a $15 million expansion project, penned “Kirkwood II.” When completed in 1980, Kirkwood doubled its original footprint, adding more than 40 new stores and two additional anchors: J.C. Penney and new-comer Target. Its movie theater also expanded to three screens, from two, at this time. The expansion also eliminated a portion of Arbor Avenue.
At the time of the announcement, it was expected that Kirkwood would become the largest shopping center between Minneapolis and the west coast, but Fargo’s West Acres also expanded at roughly the same time.
The new 106,000-square foot J.C. Penney store was roughly double that of its former downtown location.
At 80,000 square feet, the Target was slightly smaller than stores it already operated in Fargo and Grand Forks. Despite this, Dayton-Hudson anticipated its Bismarck store to surpass that of its other North Dakota stores. The space was originally intended to house a Dayton’s department store, but its parent company re-evaluated its decision in February 1979 and, instead, slated Target’s opening. A Dayton’s did ultimately open at Kirkwood, however, in 1985. Dayton-Hudson also operated a B. Dalton bookstore for years at Kirkwood.
Kirkwood’s existing three anchor spaces were also expanded during the project. Woolworth added 27,000 square feet and Wards 2,600. The expansion also necessitated Herberger’s vacating 23,000 square feet of its original footprint, in turn augmenting 30,000 other square feet for a net gain of 7,000 square feet.
Also in 1980, Woolworth’s converted its Kirkwood store into Woolco – the chain’s discount department store division. It was the only Woolco to ever operated in North Dakota.
In 1984, Scheels Sporting Goods was established as a 7,585-square foot junior anchor upon adding a second location to its Arrowhead Plaza store in 1984. It was the company’s first 16th total location and its first “All Sports” location with a focus exclusively on sporting goods. Scheels maintained both locations until 1988, when Scheels sold its Arrowhead store. Scheels witnessed ongoing expansion at Kirkwood up until encompassing most of the southwest wing by 2012.
Prudential Life Insurance acquired Kirkwood Mall in February 1981 for a reported $40 million, but the Wachters continued management and leasing of the center until 1984.
Kirkwood completed a million-dollar remodel in 1985. Plans for the upgrades were announced concurrently, in November 1984, with Dayton’s pending arrival. The improvements were largely cosmetic, including the palm tree poles still lining its atrium.
Northeast & Southwest Anchor Changes
Woolco – Kirkwood’s first store (as Woolworths) and whom’s namesake was former CEO – shuttered in 1983 when the entire 336-chain Woolco division was discontinued nationwide. The anchor space was replaced with Daytons in 1985, which went onto become Marshall Fields in 2001 prior to closing in 2005.
Soon after, the anchor space – the oldest completed section of the mall – was torn down to be replaced by a brand-new Target store. The new Target store, which opened October 2006, was 40,000 square feet larger than its preceding store. Initial rumors surface that it would be a 2-level Super Target, but this never materialized.
In June 2007, Scheels relocated into the adjacent 100,000-square foot former Target space, which was a significant increase from Scheels’ original 28,600 location within the mall.
Herbergers & Target Expansions
In late 1993, Target and Herbergers both commenced major additions. Target added 15,000 square feet to the north side of its store, while Herbergers extended its store 30,000 westward upon consolidating its two Bismarck locations, in turn closing at Gateway Mall.
Montgomery Ward Closure
Kirkwood saw its first – and longest – anchor vacancy in its northwest corner when Montgomery Ward closed in 1999, in response to the company’s bankruptcy re-organization. The space sat mostly empty until 2002, when I. Keating Furniture World occupied the space.
Plaza 3, the three-screen movie theater closed in 2001 and McDonalds departed in 2003. KB Toys and Wilson Leather have also since closed as a result of each company’s bankruptcy, leaving the once vibrant wing nearly void, but poised for an upcoming Scheels expansion.
CVS/pharmacy, an original tenant (as Osco Drug), relocated into a new freestanding store located directly northwest of Kirkwood Mall in January 2010. For a short time, its junior anchor space was occupied by the ND Department of Transportation while its main facility, located on the Capitol Grounds, was renovated. Later, the space hosted Hot Spring Spas and Pool Tables for a short time. Today, the space is home to Shoe Dept. Encore.
In 2012, Scheels greatly expanded its footprint, enveloping most of the southwest wing once home to Target, McDonald’s, Wilson’s Leather, and the original Scheels junior anchor. The result was the company’s largest single-floor location.
H&M & Other Recent Developments
Beginning in 2014 with Coldwater Creek, and continuing into 2015 with Radioshack and Deb Shops, corporate bankruptcies saw the departure of several mall tenants. Arby’s, too, departed in 2015 after maintaining a presence at the mall since 1981 (most of which was at a different location near Herbergers). It was the first Arby’s in Bismarck.
In 2016, major construction commenced to renovate an existing 22,000-square-foot section of the mall’s south side, between JCPenney and Scheels, to accommodate North Dakota’s first H&M store – a Swedish apparel retailer.
The outlots surrounding Kirkwood Mall have also seen several recent developments, including the opening of Bismarck’s first Panera Bread and Caribou Coffee locations. As well, there have been many recent improvements to signage and infrastructure.
>See also: Kirkwood Mall Directory Listings
Current Anchor Stores:
- Scheels Sporting Goods (1984-Present)
- Target (1980-Present)
- Herbergers (1971-Present)
- JCPenney (1980-Present)
- I. Keating Furniture (2002-Present)
- H&M (2016-Present)
- Shoe Dept Encore (Junior Anchor, 2014-Present)
Former Anchor Stores:
- F.W. Woolworth (1970-1980; 1980-1983 as Woolco) Note: Woolworth was the first store to open
- Montgomery Ward (1970-1998)
- Osco Drug (1971-2010; converted to CVS/pharmacy in 2006)
- Daytons (1985-2001; 2001-2005 as Marshall Fields)
Other Notable Former Tenants:
- Sbarro (1989-?)