Some spherical images of a dead mall…

6 minute read

February 12, 2024, 11:10 AM

Do you remember when Elyse and I visited Owings Mills Mall back in 2015?  I wrote about it in the second part of the “Everything Else” photo set, but what I didn’t show you, mainly because I lacked the capability to display it properly at the time, was that I also shot some spherical photos of the place.  I was glad that I did, too, because the management would close the interior of the mall less than two weeks after our visit, and the mall was demolished about a year later in preparation for redevelopment.  The property now contains an outdoor shopping center called Mill Station, and from everything that I can tell, the center is now thriving.  I suppose that tells you that the mall itself was the problem, and that the area is, in fact, a good location for retail – just not that retail, apparently.  It’s also spurred additional development beyond the old mall property, so clearly, things are going well there.

So as far as the spherical panorama images go, when we were exploring the mall, I used the Google camera app, which could shoot spherical panoramas, and took eight photo spheres of the place.  You start in one spot, and then it tells you how to move the camera in order to image the entire thing.  The result is essentially a single Google Street View image of wherever you are standing.  I first learned how to do this in August 2014, and I did it on and off for about a year.  I eventually lost interest in the photo spheres, after Google discontinued the Panoramio service and rolled it all into Google Maps.  As is typical when Google rolls an existing service into another, much functionality was lost, and Panoramio’s going into Maps was no exception.  The way that they wanted you to shoot photo spheres after that was with a separate Street View app, and it would more or less upload directly to Google Street View, and wouldn’t save as an image file of mine.  So that was a bit of a deal-breaker for me.  As far as this website goes, I couldn’t get the images to display properly on here natively, and really didn’t want to have any additional plugins for the site just to power a single Journal entry.  Then I recently discovered that Flickr will embed these things on third party websites, such as this one, and we were in business.

So here’s Owings Mills Mall, about two weeks before the interior of the mall closed its doors for good:

Interior of Owings Mills Mall [04]
Main corridor of Owings Mills Mall, lower level.  The former Suncoast and Disney Store spaces are closest to the camera on one side.

Interior of Owings Mills Mall [05]
Food court on the upper level, called the Conservatory.  I liked the food court space, because it was so sunny and bright, even if the architecture looked very dated by 2015.  I imagine that this was a nice area in its day, with tables all about and all of the spaces’ being full.

Interior of Owings Mills Mall [06]
This area, seen here on the upper level, was something of a crossroads along the main corridor.  If you go past the former Mrs. Field’s (the red and white store) to the right, you head towards the space that, at various times, housed Bamberger’s, Macy’s, and Boscov’s.  If you go past Mrs. Field’s to the left, you go towards the former Sears wing (the Sears building itself was demolished in the 2000s).

Interior of Owings Mills Mall [07]
Upper level of the mall’s JCPenney wing.  Note the Gymboree store, which was still operating at the time of our visit.  This was the only remaining in-line store on the upper level, and it would close when the interior of the mall shut down a few weeks later.

Interior of Owings Mills Mall [08]
The intersection between the main corridor of the mall and the JCPenney wing, across from the entrance to the food court, seen halfway down a set of stairs between the upper and lower levels.

Interior of Owings Mills Mall [09]
Main corridor on the upper level, near Macy’s and the former Lord & Taylor.  DTLR, visible on the lower level, remained open for business.

Interior of Owings Mills Mall [10]
Another stair-landing shot, this one taken from the stair nearest to Macy’s.

Interior of Owings Mills Mall [11]
Main corridor on the lower level, near Macy’s and the former Lord & Taylor.

Recall that at the time of our visit, the mall only had six stores remaining in total: Bath & Body WorksDTLRGymboreeJCPenneyMacy’s, and Victoria’s Secret.  Out of these, Bath & Body Works, DTLR, Gymboree, and Victoria’s Secret would close when the interior was shut down.  Macy’s and JCPenney, which had their own exterior entrances, remained open, though both would close within a year.  When we visited, all of the in-line stores were operating normally like nothing was going on, which made me wonder if the closure of the mall’s interior caught them all somewhat flat-footed.  My understanding is that the interior of the mall simply closed for the night one day and then never reopened.  How much notice the tenants were given about this, I do not know.  I certainly didn’t know in advance about the closure, as Elyse and I were planning a second visit to the mall with Aaron Stone, who had wanted to see it, and then we found out one day that the mall’s interior had closed.  If we had known, we would have expedited that second visit, like we did with Landmark Mall when it closed in 2017.

Looking back at these images in 2024, the mall looks the way that I remember it from my one visit there.  But now, I also have to remember that everything that appears in these photos is now gone.  But that’s progress for you: the mall has been demolished, and a new development has been built to replace it.  But even when recognizing that this is what happens, it’s still kind of weird to think about.

Meanwhile, as far as new spherical content goes, I recently discovered that my Air 3 drone is capable of shooting spherical panoramas.  It’s super easy, too.  All that you have to do is hover where you want to shoot, put it in panoramic mode, and the drone does the rest, creating very smooth panoramas – way smoother than I have ever managed to do by hand.  So you may see more spherical content from me in the future, at least for outdoor shots and such.  I don’t think that I could get away with flying the drone inside most buildings in order to do sphericals with it indoors, even just a few feet off of the ground.  But if I could, the results would be absolutely killer.  I mean, imagine a spherical panorama in a grocery store, taken just above the tops of the shelves.  That would be awesome, but I could never get away with doing it.  I also got a new photo sphere app for the phone, so perhaps I’ll be able to do better quality there as well.  Who knows.  Either way, it should be fun.