La Fiesta Mall: The glory that was

laF6 DSC_4380SAIPAN—The yawning emptiness of the ruins of La Fiesta Mall in San Roque village remains a constant attraction to locals and tourists who pass by.

The halls that once reverberated with music, laughter and activities now stretches emptily, dumped with piles of broken glass, steel bars and a hundred other debris—remnants of what was once a flourishing mall that teemed with life and economic activity.

laF5 DSC_4460Pick your way among the debris-filled hallways and find traces of the once-largest shopping and entertainment center in the Marianas—peeling paint, shards of broken glass from the shattered windows, dangling plywood from the cracked ceilings, protruding electrical wires from the walls and relics of the past.

Cloaked under the shadows when darkness falls, the abandoned buildings take on a different stance and everything starts to spell ‘creepy.’laF2 DSC_4466

Somehow, in the deepening darkness and deafening silence, it was hard to imagine that just a few years back the place bustled and throbbed with life.

Glorious past

La Fiesta Mall opened in April 26, 1993 and became home to over 40 designers boutiques, stores, movie theaters, restaurants and concert hall occupying three floors. It was the biggest mall in the Marianas during its time and was a popular destination for everyone especially during weekends where various activities were held to draw more locals and tourists. The Mall was the venue for Halloween events, Easter egg hunts, concerts, art shows, dance competitions—name it and it was there.

IMG_4758_peJapan Air Lines which owns Nikko Hotel sold the Mall it to a Japanese firm based on Guam in 2002. Northern Marianas College bought a portion of the mall in 2003 with plans to expand but NMC cancelled due to the CNMI’s economic instability.

When JAL pulled out of Saipan in 2005, tourism which is the island’s prime economic engine plummeted and never recovered.

Store began closing one after another for lack of customers, bringing significant financial loses despite efforts like marking down a lot of their items. Restaurants followed suit, downsizing operations and reducing working hours at first until they were left with no option but close shop. La Fiesta finally closed its doors in May 2004.

The Mall’s ruins now never fails to attract locals and tourists to explore the ruins, until late in January 2012 when a missing female bartender’s body was found at one of the buildings but still, every now and then, a few brave souls would still venture out but rarely at night.

On Sundays, a part of the mall is used by the Saipan Tactical Airsoft group for their shooting exercises.

laF3 DSC_4323Today, La Fiesta Mall is owned by the CNMI government and remains abandoned. Plans have been made and proposals have been presented to turn the mall into an entertainment district, government offices and a string of other possibilities but plans remain just that, plans. No action has been made yet.

Unless some investor steps forward, or the government tears the whole place down, the ruins of La Fiesta Mall will continue to be a silent testimony of Saipan’s heydays. If the walls could talk, imagine the stories they have to tell!

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