Monday, July 10, 2006
Columbia/Avondale Mall: Decatur, GA
Georgia Retail Memories was the second site to bring you detailed online information about the then-abandoned Columbia Mall, known in later years as Avondale Mall as well as a few interesting pics not available previously. After my post, a few other people took pics after I did. One person actually managed to get inside to get a few angles I couldn't. Perhaps I should have tipped the security guard that day to get an "inside" tour that had been free only a couple years before I got those pics. "Discovered" abandoned malls tend to become viral on the web these days.
A short version of the history of that center was that the mall was opened in 1964 soon after its anchors were opened. Story is that the anchors were built with just an open area of dirt inbetween which was later filled by the one-story center with only one entrance. The original anchors to the mall were Davison's and Sears and it was the first enclosed mall in Georgia. General decline of the area enhanced by white flight and competition from other malls killed the center and it started faltering in the late 1970's. Sears first left in 1984 with the store serving as a Sears Budget Store for a short while after. Davison's also operated a clearance center in the mall in that time.
In 1985, Columbia Mall was renovated. Following this, the mall was given its new name it would have the remainder of its life: Avondale Mall. Unfortunately, the renovation did absolutely nothing to save the mall. The problem with Columbia Mall was not as much the neighborhood as it was just too close to the other malls and too far from the interstates. Columbia had never fully recovered from the opening of Northlake Mall, and Rich's across the street left Belvedere Plaza on January 15th of the following year as the neighborhood declined just enough to remove justification of having three Rich's stores that close together. Later on, Davison's closed there as a Macy's Clearance store in early 1992. By that time, the mall struggled, reinvented itself and languished until it finally died quietly in December 2001.
With no anchors, the mall struggled the best it could. A 16 screen movie theater was added into the old Davison's. The mall itself was expanded into the old Sears, including a short-lived Goody's. The mall's outside entrances of all of its front facing stores kept the mall viable as a semi-strip mall until the end. Then it sat vacant: until Wal-Mart was interested in the site. Wal-Mart had bought and planned demolition as early as 2004, but the project was delayed due to community opposition being planned on the site of the mall. Local residents saw better uses for the place then another smiley-faced monstrocity that in time would leave something much more unsightly vacant than an empty mall standing as a curious monument to 1960's architecture combined with some 90's uglification.
In spring of 2007, Columbia/Avondale Mall was torn apart with cranes and wrecking balls to be replaced with a forgettable box. County leaders hailed the project as a success, because no community wants to be stuck with a rotting, abandoned mall. While the Wal-Mart was good for the short term revitalization efforts of the area, a discount store is hardly a realistic tool for neighborhood revitalization. Nevertheless, the store was badly needed as the neighborhood had a huge shortage of discount stores as well as other retail. It is hoped that at least the store will have a positive effect on Belvedere Plaza.
The photos here feature the inside of the main mall entrance, Avondale Cinema sign (which opened in the old Davison's), looking inside the old Sears (part of the mall later), overall view with Davison's in the background and lastly the old Sears.