Few cities in America were impacted by the rise of suburban shopping malls as significantly as Jacksonville.
The city had already built up a reputation as a shopping mecca through its decades of thriving downtown department stores. It therefore came as no surprise that, when shopping malls boomed in popularity in the 1960s, mall developers set their sights on the Bold City.
Five enclosed shopping malls debuted in Jacksonville during the ‘60s, and another three were built in the decades since. Only two are still in operation as malls, with the rest having been either redeveloped for a new purpose or demolished.
We’ve put together a brief history of each of Jacksonville’s eight indoor shopping malls, as a reminder of how the city was once among the country’s finest shopping destinations.
Jacksonville’s first enclosed suburban shopping mall was located at the corner of Emerson Street and Philips Highway.
The appropriately-named Philips Highway Plaza opened in 1960, anchored by Montgomery Ward and Food Fair. Junior anchors included S.H. Kress and Woolworth’s; the rest of the mall was rounded out by a mix of local and national tenants, as well as a movie theater.
Renovations in the early ‘70s brought about a rebrand as Philips Mall. J.M. Fields replaced Kress, and Food Fair rebranded as Pantry Pride.
By the ‘80s, however, the mall had already entered a decline as Philips Highway’s “Miracle Mile” era had more-or-less come to an end. It was once again rebranded, this time as an outlet center named Market Square Mall; a new Sam’s Club building was constructed behind the mall, facing I-95.
The outlet rebranding, unfortunately, never quite caught on. A sizable chunk of the mall was decommissioned in the early ‘90s, and by the mid-‘90s it was vacant. The majority of the mall was purchased around the turn of the century and converted into an office park, now known as San Marco East Plaza. The Sam’s Club building was purchased separately and converted into a Skate World location; it is now home to Jacksonville Ice & Sportsplex.