Greenbelt's 1937 Roosevelt Center Mall is one of the first planned shopping areas in the country—a precursor to the modern shopping mall. Greenbelt's planners positioned the mall to be within easy and safe walking distance from all the town's homes. Immediately behind you is one of the town's unique pedestrian underpasses which enabled residents to walk to the center without crossing a major street.
Originally, Greenbelt residents owned all of the center's commercial businesses cooperatively. These member-owned businesses distributed all profits to their members. Boston merchant and philanthropist Edward Filene loaned the residents start up funds. The center's cooperative businesses included a grocery store, a gas station, a drug store, a barber hop, a movie theater, a valet shop, a beauty parlor, a variety store, and a tobacco shop. The movie theater located to your right opened in September 1938. It was the first and perhaps the only cooperative theater in the country. Residents decided upon the films and ticket prices.
In 1954 the U.S. government sold the center buildings to a private real estate firm, and in 1956 the cooperative stores vacated. The first stand-alone Co-op Grocery Store building, constructed in 1948, burned down and was rebuilt in 1962 on the current site to the right of the Mother and Child statue. Surviving Greenbelt cooperative ventures include the Co-op Grocery Store, the Greenbelt Nursery School, and the Greenbelt News Review newspaper.
The Roosevelt Center buildings exemplify a modern streamlined style associated with International Style architecture which originated in Europe after World War I. Notice the rounded corners, the flat roof lines, and the recently renovated Art Deco style theater sign.
In 1982 the City named the mall after President Franklin D. Roosevelt to commemorate both the 100th anniversary of his birth and his key role in founding Greenbelt.