The Demalling of Macon Mall: Closures continue as national retailers dry up

J.C. Penney announced Friday that it's closing in Macon Mall, the latest in a stretch of tough years for many U.S. malls.

Macon Mall once boasted being the largest mall in Georgia.

Built in 1975, the mall was constructed during a period retail experts call the “golden age” of mall building.

For the better part of the last two decades, however, many of those malls have disappeared, or in the case of Macon Mall, continued shrinking as national retailers close stores around the country.

The most recent blow came Friday when J.C. Penney released a list of 138 stores the retailer plans to close. Macon Mall made that list, along with stores in Dublin, Milledgeville and Tifton.

Company officials say the closings will result in the loss of 5,000 jobs nationwide. Most stores will start liquidation sales in mid-April with closings slated to begin in June.

Macy’s said last year it was closing 100 stores nationwide.

Macon Mall didn’t make that list, making its Macy’s the mall’s last surviving traditional anchor store.

Macon Mall has not only suffered at the hands of major national retailers folding, but also flight as new shopping centers open.

Such was the case in 2001 when Eisenhower Crossing opened a big box shopping center a couple miles away from Macon Mall.

The flight was more pronounced nine years ago with the opening of The Shoppes at River Crossing. A wave of stores left Macon Mall for the new 750,000-square-foot “lifestyle center” in north Macon.

Many refer to it as “the new mall,” calling Macon Mall “the old mall.”

The biggest blows came when anchor stores Belk and Dillard’s jumped ship leaving Macon Mall for The Shoppes at River Crossing.

Augusta-based Hull Storey Gibson Cos. Purchased Macon Mall in 2010. The company develops retail properties and is also known for acquiring challenged retail properties and turning them around and helping them weather the volatile retailer atmosphere.

As part of Hull Storey Gibson’s transformation of the mall, the new owners demolished the entire east wing, which was added in 1997.

Much of that wing was already empty - dotted with empty store fronts.

The mall owners have also successfully lobbied Macon-Bibb County government to pass a tax hike on commercial property owners in the Eisenhower Parkway corridor as a means to generate funds for improving the area.

While empty stores are still aplenty in Macon Mall, gone are all the empty store fronts. Those facades are now covered with many portraits and enlarged photographs of Macon’s historic past.

Macon Mall remains home to nearly 40 national and local retailers.

 

Macon Mall 360 - Spherical Image - RICOH THETA

 

Macon Mall History

  • 1975, The Beginning: Macon Mall opens. It’s 1.08 million square feet costing about $30 million.
  • 1997, Expansion: A $50 million east wing is built and anchored by department stores Dillard’s and Parisian. The 423,000-square-foot expansion makes Macon Mall 1.4 million square feet. It’s touted as the largest mall in Georgia.
  • 2001, Competition: Eisenhower Crossing, a big box shopping center, opens a few miles away from Macon Mall. The center includes 32 stores offering shoppers more retail options.
  • 2005, New Owners: New Jersey-based The Lighthouse Group buys Macon Mall and uses it and a North Carolina mall as collateral for a $141 million loan. Foreclosure proceedings start in 2008 against Lighthouse for nonpayment.
  • 2007, Major Anchor Closes: Parisian department stores are bought by Belk Inc. in 2006. The company closes all of its Parisian stores leaving Macon Mall with an empty 104,000-square-foot space.
  • 2008, The Shoppes at River Crossing; More Competition. The 750,000-square-foot “lifestyle” center opens in north Macon. It features 44 stores and restaurants.
  • 2008, Dillard’s closes its Macon Mall store and opens a new one in the Shoppes at River Crossing.
  • 2010, Hull Storey Gibson Companies purchase Macon Mall. As part of its transformation of the mall, the new owners demolish the entire east wing, which was added in 1997.
  • 2012: Smokin’ Pig barbecue restaurant and retailers Dry Falls Outfitters and B. Turner’s opens. Smokin’ Pig was changed to Ole Times Country Buffet in Feb. 2017.
  • 2015: Burlington Coat Factory relocates to Macon Mall. The store moves from the long abandoned Westgate Mall about two miles down the road from the Macon Mall.
  • 2017: J.C. Penney announces that it's closing 138 stores around the country, including its Macon Mall store.

Compiled by Harold Goodridge, 13WMAZ Digital Content Manager

The Top Five Largest Malls in the U.S.

Mall of America

Mall of America (mallofamerica.com) in Bloomington, Minnesota, is the largest shopping mall in the United States. Open since 1992, it features over 500 high-end and chain stores, a variety of quick serve and sit-down restaurants, and memorable tourist attractions. Perhaps the mall’s most notable attraction is seven-acre Nickelodeon Universe amusement park, complete with roller coasters. Approximately 40 million people visit the mall annually to shop, enjoy the attractions and take part in over 400 events each year.

King of Prussia Mall

Opened in 1963, Pennsylvania’s King of Prussia Mall (simon.com) contains more dedicated retail space than any other shopping mall in the United States. The East Coast’s largest mall includes eight department stores, almost 400 boutiques and specialty shops and more than 40 restaurants. King of Prussia Mall is divided into three sections: the Plaza, the Court and the Pavilion. The mall is a popular tourist attraction in the Philadelphia area, and tourists make up 20 percent of its visitors.

South Coast Plaza

South Coast Plaza (southcoastplaza.com) in Orange County, California, is the state’s largest and most luxurious shopping center. The 250 boutiques housed in the mall include some of the world’s premier brand names in fashion, jewelry and home decor, such as Christian Dior, Tiffany & Co. and Lalique. This sense of luxury is infused in every aspect of the shopping experience, including personal shoppers and award-winning restaurants. South Coast Plaza also houses four performing arts venues and a sculpture garden.

Millcreek Mall

Millcreek Mall (millcreekmall.net) in Erie, Pennsylvania, is the fourth largest in the country in terms of retail space. The mall contains nearly 200 shops, five department stores and a variety of quick-serve chains and restaurants on a single-floor layout. Pennsylvania’s lack of sales tax on clothing draws shoppers from surrounding states and even as far away as Canada. An interactive mall map on Millcreek’s website allows shoppers to plan their trip before leaving home.

Aventura Mall

Florida’s Aventura Mall (aventuramall.com) opened in 1983 and was expanded to house its 300 shops and six department stores in 2008. Approximately 28 million shoppers visit the Miami-Dade County mall each year, making it the fifth highest grossing mall in the United States when measured by sales per square foot. As a part of a cultural initiative created by the mall’s owners, art installations by international and South Florida artists are scattered throughout the shopping center.

Compiled by USA Today

© 2017 WMAZ-TV


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