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.
Constructed in 1961, Roosevelt Mall lined the busy Roosevelt Boulevard just a short distance from both the affluent Ortega neighborhood and the area surrounding NAS Jax, which was growing rapidly at the time.
The mall was an initial success, but the construction of nearby Normandy Mall, as well as regional superpower Regency Square Mall, put pressure on it to retain its tenants. Cracks began to show during the ‘80s; Food Fair, Furchgott’s, and May-Cohens all went out of business during the decade, and Rosenblums would soon set its eyes on a move to Lakewood. Maison Blanche took over May-Cohens’ anchor space, but it didn’t last long before being replaced by Ivey’s and later Gayfer’s.
When the mall was purchased by Dewberry Capital in 1997, it wasn’t vacant but had entered significant decline. Gayfer’s, Stein Mart, Publix, and Beall’s Outlet were its remaining anchor tenants; Beall’s left by the end of the year.
Dewberry initiated efforts to convert the mall into an open-air shopping center. Publix was given a new building, while its old location was taken over by Stein Mart. The Gayfer’s anchor unit became a standalone building and was rebranded as a Belk.
Belk closed in 2017 and was demolished; Stein Mart went out of business earlier this year.
In recent years, the center has been undergoing another major redevelopment by Dewberry; this time, it’s adding a residential component and reconfiguring existing buildings, rebranding the center as Ortega Park.