Since 1980, Valley View Mall has been a fixture of retail commerce in La Crosse County.

Anchored by JC Penney, Herberger's and Sears, the 255,000-square-foot shopping center is home to 90 retail spaces and employs nearly 1,300 people, mall marketing director Laurie Cafe said.

Leased and managed by the Pennsylvania-based company PREIT, the Valley View Mall property includes Texas Roadhouse, Chuck E. Cheese's, Play It Again Sports and the new Dick's Sporting Goods. Total property size is about 606,000-square-feet and includes more than 3,500 parking spaces.

Initially proposed in the 1970s for an 11-acre parcel along once-blighted downtown Mississippi waterfront, a "three-year war of court battles" ended with the annexation of an 80-acre piece of land from the town of Medary into the city of La Crosse, according to "A History of La Crosse, Wisconsin in the Twentieth Century" by Susan T. Hessel and Gayda Hollnagel.

Herberger's and Doerflinger's department stores, formerly the anchors of the downtown retail district, moved to the mall when it opened. The relocation was a harbinger of downtown economic struggles to come, but the mall continued to thrive.

The mall's construction drew a number of "big box" retailers to the Hwy. 16 corridor, including Best Buy, Office Depot, Wal-Mart, Shopko, TJ Maxx, Old Navy, Kohl's and Target.

In 2001, the mall underwent a major expansion that added a 4,079-square-foot food court. The improvements continued in 2006 with the addition of a 30,000-square-foot Barnes & Noble.

And even with the rise of online shopping and competition from sites like Amazon, people still come to the mall. The mall serves more than 1 million customers per year and about 10,000 shoppers per day, but at number will increase to about 16,000 per day during the holiday season, Cafe said.

"People like the opportunity to touch (merchandise) and feel it before they buy," she said.

Click here for a link to photos from the early years of Valley View Mall.

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