After reminiscing with a group of friends on Facebook about the Brookdale Mall, Holly Harwig who grew up nearby, came up with the quirky idea to have a "funeral" for her old hangout.

In July, demolition began on the 1962 mall that had declined over the years. The Tennessee-based Gatlin Development Co. plans to turn it around with an open-style "town center" commercial development called Shingle Creek Crossing. Wal-Mart will be its anchor.

Harwig, who lives in Grand Marais, thought a "funeral" for the mall would be a fun excuse to reconnect with old friends, some of whom she hadn't seen since she moved away 27 years ago.

In response to the event she set up online, a crowd of about 30 people gathered in a parking lot at Brookdale on the rainy evening of Aug. 30. Many wore black.

A flower pot and a handful of relics from bygone businesses, such as a jug from the A&W drive-in, were laid out on a table while a parked car was decorated with black star-shaped balloons.

The ceremony started with a trumpeter playing taps. Then came a flood of memories.

"My best friend, Sandy, and I rode our bikes to the mall and hung out. It was a fun place," Harwig said.

Once they stuffed Dayton's shopping bags full of cotton to make it look as if they were buying a lot of stuff. Harwig and her brother Steve also released their pet chameleons into the wild of the mall.

The Edling family potato farm predated the mall on the site, and Lisa Edling Wert said that her grandparents were instrumental in bringing the mall to fruition.

While it was once a thriving center, she watched as "one by one the anchors began pulling out," she said. "It's so sad to see it die."

Beth Bailey talked about fainting at Donaldson's after getting her ears pierced, as well as posing with Santa and shopping for clothes for the first day of school.

"No one had any money, but we tried everything on," she said.

For David Canfield, the mall triggered memories of Woolworth's hot fudge sundaes, buying Hot Wheels, a dinosaur exhibit and a coin-filled fish pond.

Often he helped his brother, who worked at the Piccadilly Circus, clean up the machines. "I did half his job while he did nothing," he said.

Todd Paulsen, who was the mayor of Brooklyn Center in the early 1990s, landed his first job at J.C. Penney in the mid-1970s.

Demolition underway

Already, the old J.C. Penney and Macy's stores have been knocked down to make way for the new Shingle Creek Crossing.

Gary Eitel, who is Brooklyn Center's economic development director, said that the first round of improvements involves "site preparation and de-watering that occurs before excavation and soil corrections for these foundations," he said.

Sears, which has remained open all along, will become a standalone shop.

The decade-old food court section also will stay intact as a freestanding building that will house multiple retail tenants.

The Kohl's and Applebee's nearby will stay open. Altogether, the complex will have 19 buildings that will share parking.

"It's intended to be a high-profile commercial town square, with a lot of pedestrian-friendly movement, landscaping and lighting," Eitel said.

Demolition should wrap up in October, said Loren Van Der Slik, president of Gatlin. "It's been going faster than we had scheduled," he said.

He couldn't share any specifics about what companies will fill the complex. "We're in negotiations with quite a few retailers," he said, adding, "We do have strong interest."

A groundbreaking for Shingle Creek Crossing is planned for Sept. 22.

Anna Pratt is a Minneapolis freelance writer.