Saturday, March 10, 2007

Century Plaza Mall: Birmingham, AL


My first post about Birmingham retail is Century Plaza Mall, a mall that is getting a lot of attention these days for what's happening to it. Here I will have quite a bit to say about it, though it's not all that I plan to cover in the city by far. It is even now one of the most interesting retail stories of the South, especially with its adaptation of Atlanta stores combined with homegrown favorites.


The Birmingham retail scene is a fascinating one, and a friend of mine who hosts the Eastwood Mall tribute has educated me much on this town that hopes to one day rival Atlanta, but is still trying to overcome the stigma of the surrounding state as well as the fact Birmingham has as a fairly high amount of urban decay due to its industrial history, a continuing cloud of racism and sluggish growth. The unfortunate product of this is that the city became overretailed and basically everything on the west side of Red Mountain is having trouble these days.



The story of Century Plaza is pretty much the same as its deceased neighbor Eastwood Mall (different link). It was a mall that opened in an older suburb that became more blue collar in a city with better malls closer to the wealthier areas. It is still alive, but the area around it as well as the sudden exodus of three out of four anchors has this classic 1975 mall very much in jeopardy.



Century Plaza Mall from the outside is far from pretty. It is very plain and somewhat depressing 70's modern design with dark glass, red brick and simple lines that make it hardly inviting. It is a trip back in time to see it: reminding me somewhat of Cumberland Mall prior to the first renovation. While it was a perfectly normal design for the 70's and 80's, today it looks horribly dated considering that it has never had a single exterior renovation since it opened over 30 years ago. While this maintains balance with the structure, it was never an attractive enough design to make it worth it. The interior, however, was updated in the early 90's typical of most 70's malls shaking off earthtones and disco fever.




Inside, the mall is a typical two-level four-anchor super-regional center that was meant to attract large crowds, and it seemed it would have caused the death of Eastwood Mall, but Birmingham was unique in that it had an unusually high amount of department stores for a city its size. Also significant was the fact that Eastwood Mall originally had no had anchors, and Eastwood had survived more on its novelty and location with anchors coming later.


When Century Plaza opened, its four anchors were Loveman's, Rich's, JCPenney and Sears. Loveman's was a major chain in Birmingham that was also in Chattanooga, though it is not known if they were exactly the same store. When Loveman's closed at the mall, Pizitz left Eastwood forming the eastern anchor of the mall. Pizitz itself was added to Eastwood in 1969. Pizitz did not last long, though. It was then quickly replaced by the McRae's nameplate when the Pizitz family sold their 13 store chain to what was eventually Proffitt's/Saks in 1986. Other than this, the mall saw no anchor changes for almost 30 years and existed well among a city with six other malls.

Also, Century Plaza proved to be very durable considering the competition of Riverchase Galleria in Hoover. A mall of the size and offerings of Riverchase was near impossible to compete with, and Century Plaza looked small and dumpy by comparison. Nevertheless, Crestwood Boulevard (U.S. 78) remained a strong avenue for retail, and the complimentary Eastwood Mall with its Parisian and Service Merchandise (former Yeilding's) kept the area viable even when the surrounding neighborhood was showing signs of wear and tear. The problem was, Eastwood Mall could not hold up to the ever expanding glut of malls for a city hardly large enough to support them, it began emptying out in the early 00's with Parisian closing in 2005 and the few remaining stores vacating by the end of that year. Much of the blame is probably due to the opening of The Summit in 1998.

While it might seem odd to point out a competing mall's fall, Eastwood's blight hurt Century Plaza. Eastwood was not competition. Century Plaza NEEDED Eastwood to survive, because this gave an adequate shopping area to compete with the I-459 complex (Riverchase, Summit). This was painfully obvious when Rich's closed at Century Plaza in 2004. It should be noted that when Rich's (now Macy's) closed at a mall, it was typically a death knell because Rich's stores were rarely closed in their 167 year history and these were typically very popular large traffic generators at malls in both Georgia as well as their Alabama locations.





(Rich's photos of the various lower level entrances. Note these were not sealed off. Also note the angled black glass on the wall next to the side entrance that apparently made it possible to see the mall from the escalator.)

Rich's at Century Plaza was a very fascinating store. It was literally built into the mall instead of external from the mall. Two mall entrances graced each side of the store, one faced the center court and one was on the outside, meaning that three first-level entrances were on the inside, and these all took up a lot of mall space. The upper level expanded east along the mall and presented two entrances. Rich's at Century was also one of the smallest locations, and did not carry a full line of merchandise...undoubtably a factor in why it ultimately closed. Brookwood and Riverchase were full-line Rich's stores. Century was not. In terms of the bizarre layout of Rich's, I will attempt to show some of this in the photos here.



(These photos of the JCPenney mall entrance were absolute 1970's. It is the typical sinister beauty that is still today how I picture that a mall is supposed to have.)

Of the other anchors to close, Belk followed suit after Rich's. Belk came there only as a result of the buyout of the McRae's stores in 2005 and departed quickly much in the way Pizitz had previously. When they opened there at the end of 2005, they only remained a couple months before quickly closing. Their entry resulted in the east anchor being four different department stores before finally closing for good. JCPenney started vacating their store throughout mid-2006, having their final liquidation September 30, 2006. The wave of departing department stores was an absolute blitz and those mall entrances all remain open to full view with exception to the upper level of the Rich's. The lights even remained on in the Belk.




(Belk, formerly Loveman's, Pizitz and McRae's is still open to view. You can look, but you can't touch what's left.)

The mall has made no attempt to hide these stores, suggesting that quite possibly the owners see the writing on the wall and have either given up or they have other plans. Sears is the only remaining anchor and they are also rumored to split soon. It seems to have all happened so fast even the tenants haven't caught up. Despite high vacancies, at least 50% of the stores are still occupied in the mall, most surprisingly still major chain stores as well. When I visited, the mall was still moderately busy even on a Thursday afternoon. The only obvious logic behind this is that the neighborhood has become a largely minority neighborhood and less wealthy. While this would not be enough to kill a mall overnight in Atlanta, we must remember that Birmingham is no Atlanta.


(Here are exterior shots of the Sears...the sole remaining anchor. I found it rather hard on the eyes.)

The mall itself is hardly to blame for this sudden turn of sour luck. When driving on Crestwood Boulevard, businesses are closed all over the place. Office Max recently closed. Several fast food places sit empty. It seems chain stores are fleeing from Irondale, though hope resides in the construction of a new Super Wal-Mart on the footprint of the South's second oldest enclosed mall. Other malls in Century Plaza's position have managed to survive a mass exodus of anchors such as Savannah Mall, but I fear it is instead Alabama's own version of Augusta, Georgia's massive Regency Mall.

The good news is that the mall is still owned by a strong mall company, General Growth Properties, which saved Cumberland Mall from similar extinction with a radical and, at least at the moment, wildly successful redevelopment of a struggling mall. Perhaps this is no accident and maybe such a plan is in the works for the Rich's to be replaced with a big lifestyle portion and the Loveman's/Pizitz/McRae's/Belk to be demolished for a Costco...or not. Time will tell.

UPDATE May 29, 2009

Century Plaza is on total death watch now. Two days from now, Sears plans to depart the mall after hanging on as the last anchor. The store will close for good on May 31st, 2009 leaving the mall without any anchors. Worse than that, the owner of the mall General Growth Properties is bankrupt (something not expected in 2007). The prognosis for this mall is not good. The mall is emptying out and will most likely close for good before the end of the year. The property will likely also be sold as part of GGP restructuring. Unless the city assumes the property for government offices, the mall will most likely sit vacant like Regency or be demolished. The best case scenario is a Target shopping center is built on the site (to compete with Wal-Mart) similar to what happened with Clearwater Mall in Clearwater, FL.

UPDATE May 31, 2009

Century Plaza was closed permanently to the public and thus abandoned upon the completion of Sears closing its location at the mall.  After 24 years of service, Birmingham's last mall on the Crestwood Blvd corridor shuts its doors.

36 comments:

  1. Talk about a place being quickly abandoned! Century Plaza doesn't look to be in bad shape, but there's not much pulling people there either.

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  2. I've always been fascinated with this place, mainly because of the Rich's. I remember pulling up the leasing plan of the mall and noticing the odd placement of the store. JT described it perfectly. I'm sure the leasing plan is still floating around the GGP website -- it's worth a look.

    It's also worth noting that this Rich's was very very small. If I recall correctly, it was only 75k square feet or so. Even if I botched the number, it still was well below your typical Rich's, and as such, all of the advertisements said "not available at Century" for half of the items. I seem to remember that the store didn't have housewares or china/crystal/silver, but I may be wrong about that.

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  3. Howdy!
    I'm still here and decided to drop in. I've had to pare down my interests to one or two as my dad is badly sick. But I'm still with you.

    I think we have a submission to deadmalls.com. This is too uncannily similar to Macon Mall here in the midstate of GA. Believe me when the North Bibb power-center opens up we might get to use our mall as the new courthouse instead of building one!

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  4. What is it about the Southeast and overmalling? Atlanta's economy is in good shape, yet it has more dead/dying malls than metro areas of equivalent size (e.g., DC, Boston). Perhaps the high cost of land in other places has discouraged people from building so many cannibal malls in other places. Despite its growth, the DC area hasn't had new malls since the 80s. And 6-7 malls in Birmingham? What kind of political climate and idiot developers let this happen?

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  5. I worked at Century Plaza in the 80's. Kind of sad to see it go, but it isn't racism that drove that mall out of business. It was crime. People are afraid to go there because of the urban blight.

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  6. They did have silver because I bought some there for a friends bridal shower.

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  7. You know those bad dreams you have when nothing makes sense, everyone is acting on bad reasoning, with no logic at all? Well, that pretty much sums up Birmingham. Our public schools consistently operate on a deficit, crime is through the roof (#6 most dangerous city!), homelessness is going up - but what do they care about? Getting a domed stadium. Sheesh.

    But I don't see Century being saved. There's a few different proposals out there, but none of them change the fact that it's just not safe in East Birmingham anymore. To the north of CP are the Gate City, Woodlawn and East Lake neighborhoods, all are pretty bad. In fact, there was a shooting there last weekend!

    The other bordering neighborhoods, Crestwood, Eastwood, and Crestline, along with the city of Irondale, aren't enough to draw any developers back. Everyone shops in Hoover or off US 280 anyways. I don't really think that the Super Wal Mart across the street was a good business decision either. I'll keep my fingers crossed, but I'm not optimistic...

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  8. It's a pretty mall, but its roofline is low. Reminds me of NewPark Mall in Newark, CA. Even with skylights and the large center court, the overhands seem low and claustrophobic on both levels. Bad Feng Shui or something, but it seems to have an effect. I hope the mall can turn around.
    Scott

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  9. I lived in the Crestwood area of Bham from 1961 until 1977, visiting family regularly even after I left. I always thought Century Plaza, even at its inception in 1976 was a mistake. At that time, the Eastwood Mall was still going strong and the demographics of the area--Gate City out to Eastlake, Woodlawn, and Roebuck just were not sufficient in terms of spending power to justify two major malls essentially side-by-side. The more upscale Brookwood Mall in Mt. Brook made more sense demographically, but for some reason it struggled as well soon after its inception about the same time--apparently too much malls for too little population. The Galleria in the '80s certainly sealed the fate of the Eastwood Mall and CP. In reprospect, it's amazing both held on for as long as they did. The changing demographics represent the final blow to Century Plaza. As another poster pointed out, its not racism, but the fear of violence that keeps shoppers away. Once a public space gets a reputattion as being unsafe, it's all over for it. tfrielin@uga.edu

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  10. I'm going to admit a slight Atlanta bias in my views of how malls operate...noting the still successful (depending on who you talk to) Southlake Mall and the everliving old Rich's-anchored malls in DeKalb County.

    The Rich's expansion to Birmingham is why we ultimately lost Rich's to the conglomerates way back in the 70's, and it hurt your retail in the long run IMO. Rich's definitely overestimated a market totally saturated with local department stores over a market that was always hotfooting it here every time they got a chance. I think that is the big reason you have too many malls. You had Pizitz, Loveman's and Parisian...why didn't Rich's just wait and take over the Loveman's locations when they closed in the 80's? At that, you would have been better off bringing in Davison's since both became Macy's anyway and Davison's had more capital backing it. Was Birmingham more populous before? How could a city that small have that much retail? Has it always been just desperate to be Atlanta? I noted that Columbia, SC did the same thing. I'm guessing Birmingham was like much in the country in the 60's and 70's betting prosperity and growth were inevitable.

    I will admit I don't know enough about the area to make very broad assessments, but I was struck and saddened by the horrible condition of so much of Birmingham. It is a city with so much potential to be beautiful and modern like those in Georgia and the Carolinas, but 2/3 of it was basically a huge ghetto, including pretty much everything northwest of Red Mountain. It undoubtably does not help that a huge river does not traverse the center city either.

    I definitely sensed the economic despair of that area around CP when I was there. I found it very depressing, and much worse than I expected. The whole place made me feel like I was seeing a ghost of the mid-1980's, but it was interesting picking out the places from the Eastwood tribute like the old Zayre.

    I originally just thought they were just two malls troubled by too much competition which is why I tended to make the racial assumption that it was just a blue collar neighborhood. However, I noted that Birmingham is getting the dubious distinction these days as one of the biggest crime cities. I hardly felt safe in most of the city...it felt like Pittsburgh's country cousin instead of a prospering southern city.

    Finally, this is a note to RW of Birmingham Rewound...what happened to that Eastwood tribute???? That was one of the best sites of that kind I've seen and remember that it was my idea in the first place.

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  11. j.t.'s analysis of Rich's entry into the Birmingham market and its efffects on the subsequent saturation of department store market share is interesting.

    A parallel question is why traditional Birmingham department stores like Loveman's and Pizitz disappeared about the same time? Century Plaza was Loveman's first foray into the suburbs in 1976, as the downtown shopping district was fast on the wane by then. Pizitz had long since made the transition to the 'burbs with the venerable anchor store at Eastwood Mall beginning in 1966 and out there in Five Points West a little later.

    Loveman's got a late start, but whether it contributed to its demise, I don't know. I also don't know why Pizits disappeared--was it a family decision to sell out as the next generation of the Pizitz family was not interested in keeping the family business and took the opportunity for a buyout? If someone can enlighten me, that would be welcomed.

    Is Birmingham desperate to be Atlanta, j.t. asks--well, in my years there, I'd say there was a definite Atlanta envy and Rich's entry into the Bham market would have been eagerly welcomed in the '70s--an indication the city was "making it". But I'd guess if the shoppers of Bham were told that Rich's would sow the seeds of Pizitz's and Loveman's demise, they would have been less enthusiastic. Bham took a lot of pride not only in these venerable stores but also in the Eastwood Mall itself. The Mall's demise, along with Pizitz, Loveman's, Blachs is a sad barometer of the City's decline. White Flight, as opposed to literal racism, is a lot of the reason. By that I mean, the worry about declining property values, the worry about high crime, the state of public education, rightly or wrongly, fueled the demographic changes that initially doomed Downtown as the primary shopping district, then some years later did the same for the Eastwood/Century Plaza area of town. No matter what you think of it, that's the prime driver here--the middle classes (both White and Black) are moving outward to away from blighted areas of the city.

    Atlanta has/is seeing a similar demographic shift with the ever expanding rings of suburbs that drive the deplorable Atlanta sprawl. And for the same reasons.

    So the Eastwood Mall is gone and Super WalMart is going up in its place. I expect Century Plaza is also on the terminal countdown to final closing and demolition. That makes me sad, but that part of town as I knew it as a kid is long gone

    It's my understanding that the city has studied a major rezitalization project for that depressed area but, having read of similar projects in other cities over the last nearly thirty years or so (see Tallahassee's checkered efforts to revitalize the Frenchtown area of that city) I have my doubts as to its ultimate success.

    Thanks for an interesting discussion.

    tfrielin@uga.edu

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  12. you may already know this, but the B'ham Rewound guy said that they're changing ISP's and he's moving the eastwood tribute page to a new server. Don't know when it'll be back up.

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  13. Last time I was in Century Plaza a couple of years ago, I noticed that it was only a shadow of what it once was. It was all torn up for the remodeling first time I went in (1988 or 1989?) but it was full. I never saw it in its original form, but after the remodeling, I remember it being a nice place. Around 1991, Eastwood had been redone and looked nice and for a few years, it became more upscale than Century Plaza. I always thought the Rich's in Century Plaza was way too small and wasn't surprised when it closed. In the late 90s and early 2000s, I was noticing how dated some of the stores looked (some hadn't been remodeled or updated in years). More and more stores became empty, or were replaced with lower-end stores. Ir became a depressing place, so I rarely visited it any more, except out of morbid curiosity. Eastwood's demise removed any reason to visit that area of town.

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  14. I went in Century Plaza two days ago (September 15, 2007) and was surprised that although Sears is the only remaining anchor store, there are quite a few stores still remaining in the mall's interior. When I saw how many cars were parked near the mall entrances, I was surprised. Inside, there was quite a bit of traffic. There are quite a few "urban clothing" stores that tend to thrive in this type of mall environment and I was surprised to see a very large "fye" still in business. The deadest part of the mall was the upper level on the east end (McRaes end). The lower level near Sears seemed to be alive with the most stores.

    It's very sad to see this mall dying. It looks so strange to see the dark red brick exterior with no department store names attached, except for Sears.

    I know what one person meant when they felt that the US 78 area near there seems like a "snapshot of the 80s". I'll bet that area reached its maximum potential around 1985 before the Galleria came along, and I can imagine in the late 70s and early 80s, that stretch being "the place to be". There's an old Golbro near this mall on US 78, and I thought all those had gone out of business around 10 years ago!

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  15. It's sad to see that Eastwood Mall has been no more for the last few years, and that Century Plaza is all but dead.

    It's too bad that from reviewing the other comments about this mall, that the fear of crime(like what the anonymous poster wrote on 5/7/07) seems to be what's keeping this mall from rebounding from its ongoing decline. Especially since in other cities, such as Atlanta and Chicago, there are examples of successful malls in predominately-black areas(i.e. Northlake Mall in the east Atlanta suburbs, and River Oaks Center in the south suburban Chicago area, to name a few). I guess Southlake Mall in the south suburban Atlanta area may technically count too, since the suburbs to the north and west of there are predominately black.

    Great blog about Georgia retail, btw. I know a lot about the Atlanta area, since almost all my dad's relatives still live in the state of Georgia to this day(and either in the Atlanta area, or in areas not too far from Atlanta, i.e. Athens, Gainesville, etc.).

    -Allan

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  16. You are quite wrong in your statement about Century Plaza being a poor people's mall that was far away from the wealthy. In its day, it was Birmingham's most popular. The only other mall I can imagine you are talking about is Brookwood Mall which is on its way to the same fate. The neighborhood Century Plaza is in wasn't a poor area . . . it is just over the hill from Mountain Brook and downtown. The neighborhood has been in decline over the past decade due to a large influx of "bad element" and a corrupt mayor and lazy Police Dept. I am afraid that even Langford at the helm cannot save The Magic City from her fate. The stores that used to populate the mall and surrounding have simply moved to Trussville to escape the crime. Why did a once busy and popular Bham shopping area suddenly close and crumble in a mere span of 10 years? We all know the answer. Incidentally, the new Wal-Mart that was built in Eastwood's old location has already expereienced its first spree of purse snatchings and gang fights.

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  17. Birmingham and Atlanta were very close population wise at the endo of WWII. The 1950 pop of the ATL was 331k to B'ham's 326k. Jefferson County, Alabama remained more populous than Fulton until the late 80's. But Atlanta did not rely on "smokestack industry", as Atlantic Steel(site of Atlantic Station), but instead diversified-Ford in Hapeville, GM at Doraville and Lakewood, and Lockheed in Marietta. Reconstruction had resulted in Altanta being the Southeastern center for federal government operations and many corporations followed suit placing their SE divisions in Atlanta, taking advantage of Atlanta's transportation hub of railroads and highways and later Hartsfield Airport. The airport is another advantage the ATL had, Hartsfield was further from the city, enabling enlargement, the Birmingham airport's closeness to donwtown has been a limitation to the height of downtown buildings, thus the Atlanta skyline became more prominent. Lastly, Birmingham and Alabama handled the Civil Rights movement horribly during the 60's while Atlanta became "the City too Busy to Hate." Davison's had come under Macy's ownership in the 1920's, which is largely the reason Davison's expanded more beyond Atlanta. Federated didn't acquire Rich's until the mid-70's and Macy's was acquired in the mid-90's, a full decade after Davison's became Macy's. Rich's had launched Richway and was eager to expand beyond Atlanta-Birmingham and Augusta were among the first expansions for Rich's, after a fail entry to Knoxville in the 50's.

    Century Plaza could be described as Birmingham's Cumberland Mall. Unfortunately, too many malls were too close together, too many department stores were chasing the same customers and the population growth stalled during the decline of the steel industry in the 70's.
    Only now is Birmingham seeing increased growth rates, and suburban sprawl is transforming Shelby County to the south into an Alabama version of Gwinnett.

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  18. The Birmingham situation does seem like a loss in the battle of wits between the two cities...now Birmingham is shortchanged water as well so no big growth for them.

    Your assessment of Rich's and Davison's seems pretty on target. No native Atlantan doesn't miss Rich's and Richway that remembers it, but I don't think anybody much cared when Davison's changed to Macy's, though I've at least heard Davison's was a step above Macy's (local management?).

    I totally saw that Century Plaza was exactly Birmingham's Cumberland...similar in many ways and I'm suspecting built by the exact same developer. Cumberland was more spectacular, but I do admit that I was impressed with Century Plaza even seeing it in its fading state. I would have loved to have seen that Rich's when it was open...that was very interesting how it was laid out. It looks like it even had a back entrance into the second level of the mall!

    No joke that B'ham is overmalled. The optomism there in the 80's and 90's must have been unquenchable for them to build the South's largest mall (at the time) as well as a new lifestyle center down the street. I don't know why they had more department stores than Atlanta, but apparently it must have been a tough market. I do know that the Belk-Parisian sales staff are still smarting over the conversion. I think it demoralized them, because rest assured that's the best customer service I've ever gotten in a Belk LOL.

    Shelby County reminded me of a mix of North Fulton and Gwinnett, but sleepier. You could still drive a short ways from suburbia and be on a dirt road in the woods up to an old closed truss over Cahaba River...less likely in Atlanta.

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  19. The suburbia to rural transition is precisely why I chose Gwinnett as the comparison point, but you would have to have seen Gwinnett when the boom began in mid to late 70's. Massive development abrutly ending and dirt roads, actually red Georgia clay roads, fields and forests and a Buford that still was bemoaning the loss of Bona Allen Shoe Company, as its largest employer in an other development happy county. I don't Shelby County has a mall yet, signalling the level of growth and development that Gwinnett Place signaled back in 1984.

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  20. You people are nuts. You don't have the slightest clue about the Birmingham area. There are so many erroneous facts and off based assumptions contained here.
    Try researching history...looking up records and the like and you will see that Birmingham was not an is not over-retailed.

    The mall(s) closing is not a contraction of the Birmingham market but a reorientation. For example, Belk and JCPenney did not actually close out those stores...they simply moved to a new lifestyle center that was constructed in Trussville to the east of CP. In fact, since that JC Penney and Belk have both open (or have under construction) two additional locations in the Birmingham market.

    Another example on Birmingham not being over retailed...The national chains who have stores at the Riverchase Galleria typically report some of the highest (if not the highest) sales in their respective chains. (yes this fact did hold for Rich's, as well; which was wildly successful in Birmingham) The Summit (located 10 miles east) show similar results with many of those stores coming in just behind their Riverchase counterparts. Another interesting fact...the Riverchase Galleria is at the top of enclosed malls in the crucial Sales/per sf category. Higher than any mall in your precious Atlanta.

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  21. To anonymous, I appreciate your comments but I ask if you would cool down the rhetoric. This is not a competition to discredit any place, any city or any person. If you were referring to my blog post, I am not from Birmingham and do not know the area that well. Everybody here has a right to their opinion, and the facts are obvious that CP is dying and that the area around it is going down with it. My observation about Birmingham being over-retailed was that a city with only 1/10th of the population of Atlanta had a very large amount of malls as well as department stores with quite a few dying. Riverchase Galleria's sales are probably in part because of the death of so many malls in that area.

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  22. I drove around it the other day just for giggles and it was SPOOKY. I do need to go in and take some pics inside and out before it becomes Alabama's "Dixie Square".

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  23. I went there yesterday! I am from Trussville and I just happened to be in the CP area. I decided to walk in (with a friend) and it was spooky for sure. There is only 1 restaurant open. I saw a bus full of 15 kids who walked in, looked puzzled, and then immediately left. To me, it was obvious that it was a dead mall from the outside.

    The fountains were not on (at least no on the ends). Some store fronts were completely covered with Pepsi signs and a Pepsi machine. Also, there were only about 2 or 3 chain stores. I remember Kay Jewelers, Spencers, Foot Locker, and Champs. There might have been a Radio Shack.

    There might have been 5 shoppers in this entire 750,000 sf mall. The employees (usually 1 per store) just sat there bored out of their minds.

    This mall is dead.

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  24. Just FYI on one of your comments about the future of CP - "Perhaps [...] a plan is in the works for the Rich's to be [...] demolished for a Costco...or not. Time will tell."

    Plans were announced earlier this year for a Costco to be built on Gasden Highway between Roebuck and Trussville. We have friends whose properties have already been contracted to be bought out by the developer, and I believe construction is slated to begin early next year.

    Love the blog - I visited many of these malls in both B'ham and ATL as a child, and it brings back lots of memories.

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  25. Thought you might be interested to know about the site of Century Plaza as a temporary art venue this Dec 20 / 2008- January 3/ 2009 for "Everything Must Go."

    http://www.rachelhiggins.com/projects/mall/everythingmustgo/cpimg.html

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  26. That's a beautiful Sears, with a SouthPark-esque quality to it. So sad that it, along with Sears at Charlotte's Eastland Mall, are closing leaving 2 malls without their final true anchor stores.

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  27. Strange, but Aldi, the german chain grocery store, is BUILDING a new store just to the left of the Century Plaza Sears (on the other side of the Sears Auto Center).

    Did they not realize there is space available?

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  28. The Sears is closing on May 30th, 2009. The mall is even emptier than it was when you took your pictures. I was talking to some of the mall merchants and they tell me the mall management has said NOTHING about the mall closing. I have NO idea how it will stay alive with no anchors.

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  29. I stumbled onto this wonderful site by accident (trying to find Century Plaza in Los Angeles) nice to remember stores and malls of days gone by! You can still the Estee Lauder counter on that one Belk picture, spooky! Sad that the mall's Sears is bailing

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  30. I wish someone would post some pics of the way Century Plaza looked before the makeover. That's the Century Plaza I grew up hanging out in!

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  31. Your comment about the mall being owned by a strong company is incorrect. General Growth Properties also known as GGP just filed for Bankruptcy.

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  32. It's finished:
    LINK TO STORYBirmingham's Century Plaza Mall shuttered;
    Sears remains open 2 more weeks for liquidation sale
    Posted by Dawn Kent -- Birmingham News June 01, 2009 2:56 PM

    Birmingham News file
    Eastern Birmingham's Century Plaza mall, once a thriving retail hub has closed.
    Only the Sears store will remain open until June 14. Century Plaza mall, which has
    served shoppers in eastern Birmingham for nearly 40 years, officially closed Sunday,
    according to mall owner General Growth Properties.


    While the mall's interior has been shuttered, its last anchor store, Sears, will
    remain open until June 14 for liquidation purposes. Century Plaza used to be a
    thriving shopping hub but it lost a number of tenants in recent years and only a
    handful remained earlier this year.

    General Growth, which filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection in April, is
    assessing its options for the property, said Joe Janosko, senior general manager
    with the firm.

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  33. Went in there today for an angel tree service project they were holding in the old JCPenny. It was in suprisingly good condition, and the power and water were still working. The main central srea of the mall looked like the stores had just closed for the night. I didn't get to see
    as much as I would have liked, but the loading dock and 'Employees Only' parts of JCP were clean and rodent-free. It's still not too late to do something with this mall.

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  34. I actually went inside this mall this week. The old JC Penney space is used a pretty good bit for area plant shows and the Junior League of Birmingham holds their annual rummage/garage sale in the old store space. I walked through one of the entrances to the mall to get inside and that basketball game thing is still set up in the food court.

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  35. I actually went inside this mall this week. The old JC Penney space is used a pretty good bit for area plant shows and the Junior League of Birmingham holds their annual rummage/garage sale in the old store space. I walked through one of the entrances to the mall to get inside and that basketball game thing is still set up in the food court.

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  36. Howard Hughes Corporation owns the mall now.
    http://www.howardhughes.com/properties/future-developments/century-plaza.html

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