Don’t you dare call it the Janesville Mall.
The shopping mall at 2500 Milton Ave. has been renamed. Its new moniker?
On Wednesday afternoon, the shopping mall and its ownership, RockStep Capital, announced the mall will no longer will be called the mall.
RockStep and the mall’s management say the name change is being applied to all of RockStep’s shopping malls.
It’s an overt attempt by the owner to depart from the classic concept of shopping malls in the face of the dramatic pressures the COVID-19 pandemic and online retail competition have placed on brick and mortar retail, especially malls.
RockStep CEO Andy Weiner wrote in an open letter that the word “mall” no longer is apropos to how RockStep seeks to transform its shopping centers.
RockStep has said its strategy is to balance traditional retail use with multiple other non-retail uses. COVID-19 has just “accelerated” that process and brought about the necessity of a name change that eschews the term “mall,” which Weiner wrote “no longer reflects what is happening at these properties.”
In addition to the name change, Weiner wrote, Uptown Janesville is launching a new website and investor portal. People are familiar with downtown revitalization, and the new name is a play on that concept as applied to “uptown” commerce centers.
With the exception of a few stores, most retailers in the mall have reopened since the 600,000-square-foot shopping center emerged from a two-month COVID-19 lockdown.
Local management confirmed one tenant, Victoria’s Secret, is closed under a massive restructuring move by the parent company that is fighting out of bankruptcy.
On Wednesday, about an hour after the name change was announced, a secretary at the mall’s management office answered the phone by saying: “Uptown Janesville, how can I help you?”
Julie Cubbage, the mall’s manager, said she was still delivering news of the name change to Uptown Janesville’s retail tenants. She said as of Wednesday afternoon, she hadn’t heard much feedback from store operators.
It could be the end of the year until full rebranding occurs, including new signs, Cubbage indicated.
Other area malls have dropped or omitted the term “mall” from their names. Take Brookfield Square in Brookfield and Hilldale, the open air shopping mall in Madison.
Still, Cubbage explained, it might take a while for people to warm up to a name change of a shopping center that’s been called the Janesville Mall since the 1970s.
Cubbage compared the situation to when the Dane County Coliseum changed over to the Alliant Energy Center.
“People didn’t like it at first, and it took a long time because people still called it the Coliseum. I think it just takes time for people to get to absorb a name,” Cubbage said. “There’s a whole generation that grew up with the Janesville Mall, but now that generation is older, and there’s new, younger people coming. So, if we change the name to Uptown Janesville, as the younger people grow up, they’ll realize: It’s not the mall, anymore.”
UPDATE: A previous version of this story published on July 22 reported that Uptown Janesville's anchor eatery, Chuck E. Cheese, remained closed during the COVID-19 pandemic. However, a local manager said the mall's Chuck E. Cheese has since reopened.
The manager said the restaurant as of August has resumed operating seven days a week, and it will resume offering party packages this month. Its operations, including the in-restaurant arcade games, are still subject to COVID-19 social distancing policies instituted under Chuck E. Cheese corporate policy.