Monday, July 3, 2006

Savannah Mall: Savannah, GA

Savannah Mall exists to prove that karma does exist. Conviently moving into a city with only about 500,000 people, the mall opened in 1990 poised to just crush and unravel Oglethorpe Mall, which had been there since 1969 and was showing its age. Oglethorpe still had the prime spot, but Savannah Mall opened with a promising anchor line-up: J.B. White, Belk (also at Oglethorpe), Montgomery Ward and Parisian. Parisian was new to the market when the mall opened and J.B. White was expanding into the market with the new store. According to a contributor on, the mall was supposed to be even more upscale with Jordan Marsh as an anchor, but consolidation resulted in the Montgomery Ward.  If Jordan Marsh had anchored the mall, this would have spelled the end of Oglethorpe.

Savannah Mall is quite an attractive two-story mall with the typical late 80's design combined with coastal design features to make the mall modern and pleasant to look at. Problem was, three of the anchors at Savannah Mall were not doing well from the start, and Oglethorpe Mall was not about to lay down and die. At Oglethorpe, Rich's had opened on the site of a former Maas Brothers and the mall also had Belk, Sears and JCPenney.  The mall also undertook a costly and major renovation project in 1992 shortly after Savannah Mall opened in hopes of bringing a grand new style to a formerly simple mall.  Savannah Mall would have likely put Oglethorpe in the retail graveyard had they lured away any of Oglethorpe's other anchors such as Jordan Marsh, JCPenney or Sears but they chose instead to bring in three unfamiliar tenants while duplicating Belk, which already had two other locations.  Jordan Marsh was planned at the mall, but consolidation in 1990 into Burdine's put an end to those plans.  That leads us to Savannah Mall from 2003 to today.

The court between former Montgomery Ward and Dillard's.  Montgomery Ward (closed here) is straight ahead with Dillard's off to the right.  The first photo is looking at the elevator in the center court with the food court behind it.  All photos here were taken in late 2003.

A view from the second floor of the main mall.  It looked empty and definitely like a B-mall at this point.  Note the trees on the lower level were far larger than the 2009 photos.

In the late 1990's, Savannah Mall began to show signs of fatigue. Flagging Montgomery Ward left the mall early, closing there in 1998. By 2003, the mall was in trouble. Belk consolidated its glut of stores to Oglethorpe, eliminating a weak duplicate anchor at Savannah Mall as well as its original suburban location in Thunderbolt on Victory Drive. Parisian failed to enthrall the market and simply left Savannah. J.B. White also was bought out by Dillard's, effectively removing all the original anchors to the mall. Even before, the mall was leaching tenants. It was a similar scenario that later took down Century Plaza Mall in Birmingham, but the situations were different.  This was because later that summer, Bass Pro Shops moved into Parisian and Target announced that it would replace the Belk (tearing it down).  Steve & Barry's University Sportswear also took up the lower level of the old Montgomery Ward in 2004.

Dillard's mall entrance in 2003.  Nothing has changed since then.

Closed Belk mall entrance, now entrance to Burlington Coat Factory.

A look along the lower level.

While today the mall has all but one of its anchor spaces filled, it is definitely no longer the threat to Oglethorpe it was.  While I find it a bit disappointing to look at these days with many national chain stores gone and a sundry offering, I am glad it pulled through and seeing how it seems to be making it, I think it definitely deserves to be taken off of  However, I do think it would be nice if the mall could be renovated.  However, in all I wish that the original developers had not overstated the market and built such a large mall.  A smaller mall with anchors J.B. White and Parisian was much more sensible, and at that size it could have complemented instead of threatened Oglethorpe.  Of course, if that was done would Oglethorpe be what it is today?

Inside the vacant Montgomery Ward on the upper level.  It had been sitting empty for five years when this picture was taken.

Outside view of former Montgomery Ward.  The labelscar was still visible in this photo.

The front side of the vacant Belk Beery store.  This has since been demolished and is now the outside entrance to Target.

Outdoor World, then newly opened in the old Parisian.

Note: the original post had formatting errors, and the write-up needed some revision.  Some revision was made to the original text, but all photos from the original post are available here with a few additional.  All photos were from a 2003 visit.


  1. Oh, J.T., ye of little faith. :-)

    To start with, a small disclaimer: My wifely one, Seraphim, teaches Wilton Method cake decorating classes at the new A.C. MOORE craft store which opened a couple months ago in Savannah Mall.

    Target is doing VERY well, and ditto for Bass Pro Shops. Granted, its mission to dismantle Oglethorpe Mall fell flat .... Oglethorpe clearly IS the more popular of the two.

    Savannah Mall was this close to dead just three short years ago, but it's come a long way.

    Of course, what we lack here in good ol' Slow-vannah is a brand spankin' new lifestyle center. Somewhere along the I-95 corridor in West Chatham (most likely the Godley Station/Airport exit in Pooler) one will happen. It's a matter of time and reality. And when it does, THEN it'll be time for Savannah Mall to sweat, if not joined by Oglethorpe.

    Parisian -- based in my native Birmingham, Ala. -- was doomed to fail over here. There already was more than enough retailers in that genre.

    Oh, and I think Burlington Coat Factory is now underneath Target.

    Only gripe? Target doesn't have checkout lanes near the mall access.

    Here's hoping A.C. MOORE - and, ergo, Savannah Mall succeeds at least in the short haul. My wife's extracirrucular livelihood depends on it! ;-)


  2. I testify to you THIS day that miracles DEW happen! Now all yew have to do is jest BELIEEEEVE!!! Are YEW ready to testify???!!!


    And on a more sacriligious note, if it makes you feel better, I don't think Savannah Mall is going to be gone very soon. I think it'll stick around a few years. When it goes, the waff can put her store in the lifestyle center built in its place ;)

  3. J.T., by the time that happens -- at least if the "waff" (is that a spousal unit, or a TV station in Huntsville, Ala?) has her way -- she'll be teaching Wilton classes out of her own shop.

    Who knows what'll happen as soon as West Chatham gets Lifestyle Center Fever. Would Savannah support three major shopping venues? Maybe, if one repositions itself (by default, that'll have to be Savannah Mall).

    Montgomery, Ala. is an interesting case study of retail evolution. From Normandale - the city's original "major shopping venue" - to Montgomery Mall's bow in 1969 - to Eastdale Mall's opening in 1977, which killed off Normandale ... and now Shoppes at Eastchase, doing to Montgomery Mall what Eastdale did to Normandale 30 years ago. Crime and lax security mostly killed off Mgm. Mall, but the timing of Eastchase provided a handy excuse for stores to flee without appearing, ummmmm, "racist."

    The moral? Montgomery can handle just two shopping hubs. Savannah might make do with three, but not necessarily. I suppose we'll just have to see.


  4. Isn't it about time we just tore it down and put up something usefull?

  5. I would assume the anonymous blogger here is suggesting replacing Savannah Mall with a strip mall.

    I wouldn't be entirely against that, except it might make things not so easy for amigo here's waff (and yes that's mock-southern for wife) in her business.

  6. JT
    In 2001 (June 30; I remember hearing that Chet Atkins died) I visited Savannah Mall. It wasn't all that dead. Of course things can change and I probably got there before the mall entered its slack state.

    I thought for sure it'd kill Oglethorpe Mall but the reverse seems to have happened thanks to Oglethorpe's good marketing, tourists, and hard luck on Savannah Mall's part.

    Macon Mall renovated in 1985 just as plans to build a mall in North Bibb stalled (today a superstrip/power center is to arise in that area). The Galleria in Warner Robins/Centerville started dying after five years though it killed the old Houston Mall.

    If there is potential and if the demographics look good I think it is silly to rip down Savannah Mall.

  7. To tear down the Savannah Mall is a irrational response at this time. If the mall continues to reposition itself with non-traditional stores it will survive. As well national stores that Savannah lacks would do very well. Skateboarders are everywhere and for a market of 375,000 people (500,000 if you count Hilton Head/ Bluffton area) there are very few skateboarding shops. Those stores like Industrial Skateshop and No Fear would work well. As well urbanwear stores like Jimmy'z and Urban Behavior would attract much business, particularly in Savannah but lack a presence here. Also, if the mall renovated it would be better positioned. Take into account the newly renovated malls throughout America, they have neutral colours with polished marble floors and lounge areas with carpet, recliners and sofas. Many malls have built indoor, year-long ice-rinks in hot climate markets like Arlington, Texas at The Shoppes at Arlington Park. Another improvement would be the addition of Dick's Sporting Goods. Savannah lacks this store and/or a Sports Authority. One final note, the Savannah Mall probably would have done better if they had courted Rich's or Macy's when the mall was originally built. A second Belk four miles from an established Belk never made much since.

    1. I don't want Savannah Mall to tear down. When you said non-traditional stores, do you mean stores that have franchises?

  8. Savannah Mall is a mall that should have done better. As Adam stated, the developers should have tried to lure more unique tenants, Montgomery Ward and Parisian were the only two. Parisian brought nothing new that couldn't be found at the more familiar Belk and Rich's and Montgomery Ward was already dying, not well accepted in Georgia in previous attempts and offering nothing that Sears didn't do a better job in its offerings. I don't think skateboarding and urban gear would resonate well at this suburban location though. Savannah has long been classified as under-retailed,
    though Savannah Mall was a lot to absorb at once. Target represents the Savannah areas first store, and the market was largely abandoned by KMart during the bankruptcy. Publix chose a location across from Savannah Mall for its first Georgia store, a flagship prototype in 1991 when it opened, testimony to the areas demographics. The only other Chatham Publix is on Wilmington Island.

  9. A little note on the area.Homegoods remodeled the bldg just west of the mall and now have the number #1 location in the chain. Who would think Savannah Ga would be one of their best stores.

  10. Mall Wars... FYI Oglethorpe is closing

  11. Do you have any more pics of this Belk?

  12. We moved here in 2013, have visited both malls & absolutely CAN NOT STAND Ogelthorpe Mall. The Savannah Mall is much nicer even though it lacks some "stores" that one would expect to see. On a whole here in Savannah, its horrible. They cannot even do roads correctly. If they want to impress others with a smaller quaint welcome they need to incorporate more mon~pop stores.