Wednesday, July 15, 2009

LaGrange Mall/West Georgia Commons Mall: LaGrange, GA

The fact that LaGrange even has a mall is fascinating in its own right. If not for a local college out of downtown, the LaGrange Mall would likely have never been constructed. The thing is, LaGrange is like many towns south of Atlanta in that it at the time it was built, it was quite far from other regional shopping centers. Because of that, it has a decent market to draw from ranging multiple counties in Georgia and Alabama. It is a small mall, and this smallness likely was reflected in the fact that LaGrange could never sustain a large shopping center like those in Atlanta or Columbus. Shannon Mall to the north, while small by Atlanta standards, dwarfs this mall. Peachtree Mall in Columbus is a monolith in comparison. Somehow, though, this mall remains modestly successful and was quite busy when I visited on a weekday!


Looking from the main entrance to center court. Sock Shoppe in the background was formerly Goody's. Note the standalone Chick-Fil-A

Built in 1979, the mall was situated to take advantage of recently completed I-85. I-85 was completed in the area in 1976. It is located on SR 109 east of the city, which has an interchange with I-85 and leads directly to downtown. Other retail is found on this road, but it is actually not the dominant retail center of the city. Most of the shopping is actually north of town on US 27, including Wal-Mart. Still, the mall is in a good position if the town ever grows larger.




The first photo is looking back at the main entrance from the first photo. The second takes another look back at center court from a different angle. The last is a view of the mall corridor approaching JCPenney.

The original tenants of LaGrange Mall were Belk, JCPenney and Columbus-based Kirven's. Belk is almost in common as Wal-Mart in rural Georgia, which has actually hurt their reputation in their attempt to expand into Atlanta proper. To my knowledge, this was never a hyphenated Belk, but a company store. It would have been a Belk Gallant, but the Gallant name disappeared by the end of the 1960's and all remaining Belk Gallant stores converted to company stores. The mall also had a Goody's prior to bankruptcy in 2009, which opened originally as Kirven's. However, the mall has quickly filled the former Goody's/Kirven's with a local store known as the "Sock Shoppe", a local clothing store that has apparently been in existance since 1934. It is nice to see that a local tenant happens to be one with a history instead of an upstart, and I wish the best of luck to Sock Shoppe.





Three angles of the Penney's mall entrance. The mirrors on top make the mall appear to go on further than it does. Note the 70's fake wood style on the second shot. The style there is identical to that used at the closed Century Plaza store. Third photo is full court. The last photo is looking back towards the main mall from the Penney's entrance.

The mall itself is actually one of the most drab malls I've been to. There is not too much appealing about it aside from the distinct period mall entrances to the anchors. What might have been appealing such as planters, sunken seating areas or fountains were removed and replaced with a flat surface covered in bluish carpet squares that looked rather loud and ugly with the pale yellow trim. The rest of the mall looks to have original flooring, but some modest renovations between the store entrances and ceiling, all completed in 2001. I am betting they were attempting to work with that flooring. The ceiling has mostly the drab tiles so popular in the era, but has some more distinct period lattice work and skylights. These are found in center court and in front of the two main department stores. Also, none of the mall is over one level: typical for mid-1970's small town malls. For those looking for cutting edge architecture and multiple levels and corridors to explore, keep driving to Atlanta. In all, I would have enjoyed the center more if they had retained all of its 1970's appearance.



Approaching Belk from the east mall then right in front of Belk. The shiny coppertone entrances were a very interesting style used in stores of this era. Note the similarities to Belk entrance at Georgia Square.



The first photo is leaving Belk court. The last is looking down the east mall, which is the remainder of the mall photographed back to center court.

Outside, the mall is not terribly inviting but not terribly ugly either. The mall entrance was, of course, upgraded recently but otherwise its your standard 70's fare. A vast parking lot sits in front of the mall with some parking in the back. There are no mall entrances in the rear, but there are entrances to Sock Shoppe and JCPenney. The Belk entrance is apparently sealed off in the back, but there is a peculiar employee entrance off to the left of it. In all, this makes it a mostly forward-facing mall.




Now, looking at the outside we see the main entrance to the mall, sign on SR 109 and overview shot of the mall (except Penney's).

LaGrange Mall's fortunes, however, might change for the dramatically better when the Kia plant is completed south of the city. This plant is expected to bring thousands of jobs and significant growth to the city. This will likely dramatically increase traffic at the mall. If the plant brings the promised growth, then quite possibly the mall would also expand or redevelop. There will very likely be new competition that could derail this, though. Much like Cookeville Mall in a previous post, a large power center would be enough to empty out and create cause to demall this mall. While adjacent city competition (such as Newnan) is not likely for a mall this size this far from the nearest mid-sized city, it will be very interesting to see if the future of this mall actually remains as an enclosed shopping center.



Outside entrances to Penney's and former Goody's, now Sock Shoppe. The Penney's entrance is on the north side of the mall. Note its very stark modernist design.



Belk east entrance and detail of the replica south entrance. This Belk entrance is definitely in the post-arch era.

Overall, these mini-malls are still found in a few of the more remote parts of the state, and LaGrange Mall has bragging rights in that it has retained both of its original anchors and appears to have been quite successful for around 30 years. However, it is a bit of a disappointment in comparison with the absolutely beautiful downtown it replaced, and it is showing its age. Regardless, while this is not the best or nicest small mall I've seen, I still want to recognize and admire its continued success for its size and market and hope it is still here 10 years from now.

19 comments:

  1. Thanks for writing about this mall. Until a couple of weeks ago, I had no idea that Lagrange had a mall, and I've only driven through the town once back in the 1990s looking for one, but I went through on US 29 and went north on US 27, so I missed it.

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  2. Those interior entrances are awesome! Wow!

    I don't know that I've seen a mall before with so many different interior design elements (copper entrance, mirrored entrance, lattice, original floor, new carpeted floor, &c.) thrown together at once.

    Thanks as always for your work, JT...you've been on quite a roll lately.

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  3. It originally opened as West Georgia Commons Mall, only becoming LaGrange Mall with its last remodel.

    LaGrange was one of Georgia's largest cities for the first half of the 20th century, along with Rome to the north. Besides LaGrange College, West Georgia Medical Center is located here. The city grow as a textile center, with names Callaway, as in Callaway Gardens, Lanier and Bennet(founders of West Point Pepperel), and Miliken playing strong roles in the locality.

    Downtown retained the local department store, Mansour's, as well as the distintive LaFayette Square. The old Belk, originally a Montgomery Ward is downtown.

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  4. It almost goes without saying that a population center located at or near the junction of two regional highways will have some type of regional shopping complex.

    That JCPenney entrance design is similar to the main entrance at Auburn's Village Mall, before it was redesigned a couple of years ago.

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  5. Excellent post on a "death of disco" era mall. I'd also love to know what happened to the old Mansour's. It cut quite a figure in local retail for a while.

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  6. The odd thing with LaGrange Mall is that it was constructed around 1978, following Riverbend in Rome in 1975. Carrollton midway between Rome and LaGrange got bypassed by the enclosed mall boom for towns of its size. Carrollton has Lake Carroll Mall and First Tuesday Mall, both more a traditional shopping center design with an open are mall are being only a small part of the centers.

    Lake Carroll Mall is anchored by a Big Lots that originated as a Kroger, with First Tuesday acroos the street having Belk, Winn-Dixie, TG&Y(later McCory), and a triplex cinema. The cinema was in the open air mall portion while the primary anchors were strip center designs.

    That said, LaGrange may be in for a boom that when the mall was built could not have been foreseen, the arrival of Kia may transform this textile center to a West Georgia powerhouse once again.

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  9. I hope the Sock Shoppe fails.

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  10. I mean that it's not agood permanent anchor. It should leave when the Kia plant opens. Until then, it can stay.

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  11. Was at this mall 2 weekends ago for Lagrange Colleges homecoming weekend. Still looks the same as in the pictures except Belk has redone there mall entrance with the new logo and removing the copper. We were there on a Saturday afternoon and the entire mall was booming. It is a shame that Belk will redo there mall entrance but will not even spend money just to simply clean there store. Belk is famous for dirty stores in many locations big and small. This Belk has potential and the space to be a great store but who wants to shop here because the store is simply filthy. All the other stores my wife and I went in through the mall were nice and clean and great for a town like Lagrange.

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  12. Though I'm not a native of LaGrannge,I've been going there since I was a child because of my grandmother and it's my mom's hometown.

    I remembered being in awe when the mall was first built. In a small town like Lagrange, one wouldn't expect for anythin like that would come there.You also have a point that college kids being the reason that the mall is there.

    I thought that I was the only one who couldn't overlook the drabness of the mall. Geez! I've been to dead malls that looked to have more life in it than West Ga Commons. The colors ..designs ..of the mall..I'm just not feeling the design whatsoever.There are hardly any stores in the mall.

    Though I wouldn't expect for West Ga to be like Lenox Square but it doesn't mean that people don't want the best for their malls. It would be nice if the mall was altered some and more stores come in the mall

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  13. they need to tear down that raggedy Mall and start over.

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    Replies
    1. likewise to your raggedy self

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  14. Totally like Southlake!!!

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  15. I was in LaGrange yesterday [6/19/13] and the Sock Shoppe, which originated as a local outlet store in Griffin, GA, is gone. The front of the store is being rebuilt, and it will be the home of a TJMaxx, according to the sign out next to the highway.

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  16. Sock Shoppe is still there, they are just adding a TJ Maxx. It's on the back side.

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  17. TJMaxx is on the front between JCP and the center of the mall. Sock Shoppe is still there as well.

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