In the 20 years since a fire destroyed much of the Lake Center Mall in Centerville, it was never fully rebuilt.
The fire, which began late on a Wednesday morning, May 19, 1999. Several million in damage was caused. The fire was soon after declared arson.
Fire departments from all of Appanoose County and other surrounding towns were dispatched, with several firefighters treated for heat exhaustion.
On May 24, 1999, police arrested Tammy Sue Barker and charged her with first-degree arson. Investigators said the fire began in the Dollar General Store, where Barker was employed at the time. She was ultimately convicted of the charge and sentenced to 25 years in prison.
She was ordered to pay $558,108.69 in restitution. Only court records show she’s paid $2,832.03 of that. In all, over $700,000 is still owed in the case.
Barker pled guilty to the mall fire and another fire in town after spending more than a year in jail, despite her attorney’s efforts to have her found incompetent to stand trial.
The Lake Center Mall at the time held storefronts and restaurants for Stage, Pizza Ranch, the Lake Center Twin Theatres, Video Warehouse, Dollar General and One Cue. Offices for the Annuity Shop, Iowa Department of Transportation, L&W Quarries and Iowa Trust and Savings Bank were also located there.
Over the years, a video rental place returned to the mall. But, as Internet streaming replaced VHS and DVD rentals it closed. Dollar General relocated across the street after the fire. The Annuity Shop relocated across town. Pizza Ranch re-opened in 2006 at the Lake Center Mall, but has since closed.
The mall area now has four theatres, run by Fridley Theatres. Otherwise, it’s occupied by La Fiesta Mexican Restaurant, Subway, River Hills Medical Center and Kinetic Physical Therapy.