By Cindy Schroeder
The Cincinnati Enquirer
For more than 20 years, it was the unofficial fitness center for dozens of Northern Kentuckians. Just about any day, walkers could be spotted in the near-vacant Crestview Hills Mall.
They came to swap the news of the day, recover from heart attacks and surgeries, and reward their good fitness habits with post-walk doughnut breaks. Many were on a first-name basis with their fellow walkers and mall manager Steve Berry.
But May 3, contractors closed off most of the mall for demolition. Except for Dillard's, the mall is being torn down. By the 2005 holiday shopping season, it will reopen as the Crestview Hills Town Center, an outdoor "lifestyle center'' similar to Rookwood Commons in Norwood.
Now the search is on for a new exercise venue for former mall walkers who continue to pace the perimeter of the parking lot.
"I feel like I've known some of them for years,'' Berry said. "They'd bring me pieces of cake or cookies when they saw me out in the mall. I still get hugs from a few walkers when I go out in the parking lot.''
These days, former Crestview Hills' Mall walkers can be found at the Silverlake Recreation Center in Erlanger, the Florence Mall and the indoor walking track at Erlanger Baptist Church.
"I met a lot of nice people walking in there,'' 15-year mall walker Jim Gilbert, 62, of Park Hills said last week.
"It was cool in the summer and warm in the winter when you walked in the mall,'' said Gilbert's walking companion, Jack O'Banion, 71, of Crescent Springs. "And it was so convenient.''
Jim Shumate, 65, of Villa Hills turned to mall walking 15 years ago after a heart attack. Now he walks with his brothers, Bob, 67, and Bill, 63.
"When we're walking, we solve all of the world's political problems,'' said Bob Shumate of Fort Mitchell.
For Mary Goetz, her daily walk at the mall with Peggy Fritz, 50, of Crestview Hills is about friendship as much as fitness.
"It's our time to talk,'' the 63-year-old Edgewood woman said. "We usually stop at Panera or McDonald's afterwards.''
"I'm thrilled that they're improving the mall,'' Fritz said. "We really need it in this area. But I miss walking inside and seeing all the people.''
Crestview Hills timetable
June 14: Construction of new Dillard's department store begins.
Dec. 1: Utility relocation and mass excavation is finished.
March 11, 2005: Dillard's vacates current store.
March 12, 2005: Phase II mall demolition begins.
May 1, 2005: Construction of other buildings begins.
Nov. 1, 2005: Grand opening
Source: City of Crestview Hills
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