Looking down the escalators in the south court. Dillard's is on the right.
North Point Mall struggled for traffic in its early years even though it was situated very conveniently off of GA 400. Even though the entire road network of Alpharetta was reconfigured for the mall, North Fulton County was still pretty rural when it was built, and north of the mall livestock was still rivaling people in numbers. In addition, much older and darker Perimeter gave the mall a run for its money when in 1993 they completed extensive renovations, adding the state's first Nordstrom. Nevertheless, North Point Mall had quite a few unique touches. The most amazing was the Rich's which opened at the mall. Atlanta natives were still quite upset about the 1991 closure of Rich's followed by the demolition of the mid-century additions it was most famous for. As a result, Federated Department Stores apparently wanted to give Atlanta an extra special Rich's to make up for it. This Rich's was like no other in design: very elaborate exterior, a "RICHSATLANTA" clock inside and out, commemorative plaques celebrating the history of the store and attention to interior details that made the store on par with the most exclusive stores of the time in design.
Details of the main mall corridor. Note the distinct truss work in the ceiling as well as the deck trusses holding up the crossovers. The last pic shows more detail of the trusswork over one of the walkways. This design is a refreshing change from the way-overdone "galleria" style.
The center court has a humongous pyramidal ceiling basking in more light than any other mall I have visited. On the second photo, note the machinery under the escalator is open to view. All but one escalator has this.
North Point Mall also opened with four other anchors: Lord & Taylor, Mervyn's, JCPenney and Sears. Of those listed, only JCPenney and Sears remain at the mall today. Macy's, then under ownership of RH Macy, was the intended sixth anchor. However, the bankruptcy of RH Macy in 1994 followed by the acquisition by Federated ended any possibility of that. The food court also offered something special in its classic carousel and outdoor sitting area (gone today). Outside, the mall featured the latest in architectural design abandoning the clean lines of the modern era and bathing the mall inside and out in white with touches of green and gold trim as well as lots of palm trees. Also unique are the escalators, whose inner workings are left to view: a treatment I have never seen elsewhere. This is also in fact the whitest mall I have ever known, invoking either something heavenly or Florida. Indeed, tropical-themed architecture was in vogue in the late 80's and early 90's.
Escalators in the south court. Dillard's is on the left in the second photo.
As North Fulton and nearby Gwinnett and Cherokee grew like absolute madness in the 90's, North Point found its own. In 1998, the mall was at its peak of success with six anchors and a parking deck. Offices and retail sprung up like crazy during this time, and Alpharetta became the most prosperous area in all of Georgia with the city limits expanding continuously so that the former county seat of Milton County completely shook off its forgotten history of desperate poverty. By 1998, the malls anchor lineup was slightly altered when Mervyn's left and Dillard's arrived. Mervyn's closed all Georgia stores in 1995. While others were replaced with JCPenney, North Point already had JCPenney so newcomer Parisian from Birmingham took advantage of the slot. Parisian was rapidly expanding in Atlanta in that time attempting to make up for the loss of a decent local store. Dillard's, also arriving in 1995, was new to Georgia, and North Point was their first store. Indeed, Dillard's went all out to create a very elegant looking store with three levels absolutely loaded with merchandise.
North court is equally as impressive. The food court flanks the west side while JCPenney enters on the east side. A Starbucks is located at the base of the elevator. The mall has two elevators: one in the north court and one in center court.
1999 was the beginning of some difficulties for North Point. Mall of Georgia in Buford was built then, and the opening took the title from North Point as Georgia's largest mall. From there, North Point would have joined the rank and file of malls if it had not been for the continual rapid growth of the area. In fact, if the area had not grown as expected, it would have struggled greatly during that time. The plan to open up an upscale shopping mall in Forsyth County, first announced in 2002, was not a welcome event for the mall. Fortunately, every attempt to start the project has been hit by an economic downturn and a huge lifestyle center project just to the north also looks to have been put on hiatus. Nevertheless, no major changes would come until 2004.
Featured in the food court is this carousel. The food court itself (shown more in the second photo, was extensively renovated in 2008 with a more elaborate and colorful decor than existed originally. New restrooms were installed on what was previously an outside sitting area.
In 2004, the department store industry started into major upheaval. Consolidation fever was in the air, and local department stores right and left suddenly disappeared from the landscape. Rich's was the first to go, rebranded as Macy's in early 2005, bringing Macy's to the mall after all. Unfortunately, this was the legacy Rich's store, so the conversion left a not-so-pretty sign on the outside that does not properly fit the architecture. Fortunately, one of the "RICHSATLANTA" clocks as well as the Rich's murals remain. It is about all that remains of Rich's today aside from the labelscar on the abandoned Cobb Center store. Also in 2005, Lord & Taylor closed every one of the Georgia locations which were located not only there, but also Mall of Georgia and Phipps.
Mall directory laying out this very large mall better than I can describe it followed by a pic in the center court of the escalator with one of those mall "street signs".
If that wasn't enough, Parisian was bought out by Belk in 2006 creating a fiasco for the mall. Suddenly the mall had two vacancies as Belk decided to close the Parisian at the mall instead of simply converting it. Instead, they reopened the Belk store in the old Lord & Taylor later in the year. What was worse is that the Lord & Taylor was not modified at all by Belk, and Belk entering the mall took the upscale wing of the mall and tossed it in the toilet. Of course, they paid for this move dearly as that store will be closing by Labor Day 2009 after little over two years in business at the mall, leaving two vacancies.
Now-closed Parisian mall entrance and exterior. Parisian here closed in 2006 after being bought out by Belk. This was small, but very nice store inside. The store originally opened as Mervyn's in 1993, but was converted to Parisian in 1996.
The closing of Belk brings up a very signicant point that mall management desperately needs to pay attention to: North Fulton and South Forsyth have money and they want a high-end mall! Much of North Point's traffic is siphoned by Perimeter, Phipps, Lenox and lesser so Mall of Georgia because shoppers want more to offer than the usual middle class fare. That is why Belk failed, and that is also why the owners need to get really serious or this mall will start going downhill. The fact is that if the upscale mall project ever takes off, it will be the death of North Point. It is also a fact that the mall would do MUCH BETTER if they took advantage of the double vacancy and added upscale department stores. A Nordstrom should open in the former Lord & Taylor. This means the entrance should be upgraded (it looks rather 70's) and interior renovated to bring luxury back to this wing. Also, a Saks Fifth Avenue, Bloomingdale's or Neiman Marcus should open in the old Parisian. It is a junior anchor and perfect for a small-scale concept store. This is an area that can support these stores, and it will make the mall more resistant to competition or gradually failure from poor marketing.
Belk here proved to be short-lived. The store opened in early 2007 and is closing by labor day 2009. This was originally Lord & Taylor and was modified very little from when it was Lord & Taylor. Belk was a poor fit for the mall.
Lord & Taylor opened with the mall in 1993, but then owners May Department Stores pulled the plug on all Georgia locations in 2005. May was poorly operating the storied chain. The store sat vacant for over a year before Belk opened here.
North Point is a beautiful mall, and the renovation to the Food Court is as far as it should go with this mall. Its design was very cutting edge when built, and the mistake of radically altering the mall like many others in the area is strongly discouraged. However, the likelihood of losing anchors in the future should be taken into account. The mall owners should raze any additional anchor space if it closes in lieu of keeping an oversized store. If this happens, this would be a good opportunity for an open-air wing or non-department store such as Dick's Sporting Goods to take the spot.
Mall entrances for Dillard's, Sears and Penney's. The escalators in front of Sears are recent. These replaced escalators that used to be located in the north court in front of the food court.
Also, the blander aspects of the mall need to be addressed. Elaborate fountains and/or waterfalls should be added in the Macy's and Dillard's court with lush vegetation to enhance the mall. The gray floor tiles should also be replaced with green or gold toned marble to liven up and upscale the mall, but nothing else drastic. However, NOTHING should be done to the ceilings or roofs of the mall. This is what makes it special. NOTHING should also be done to the exterior entrances to the mall. They are architectural sound and altering them would clash with the rest of the mall and damage the image. Notes should be taken from North Park Center in Dallas: an extremely successful upscale mall that never altered its original architectural design. If it starts looking old, remember paint does wonders.
Now on the outside, the mall entrances are both very elaborate. The second photo shows the huge pyramidal glass towers and poles for trusses. If not for the clashing American Girl exterior, this would look quite heavenly. These elaborate entrances are irreplaceable.
North Point is still successful today, but the owners need to realize that the closure of Belk and Parisian is a warning sign. As a result, they need to look at the market on how to make it more competive before competition turns their big white mall into a white elephant. They should also make sure that the architecture is maintained as much possible even though a few modifications would be beneficial. The mall is approaching 20 years old in an era when enclosed malls are being assaulted by smaller outdoor shopping centers. This is also the other mall of my high school years, which is why I would like to see the mall preserved as well as improved.
Rich's pics from early 2005 of the legacy store prior to the Macy's conversion are featured a few photos down.
Outside view of anchor stores Sears & Penney's. The Penney's is showing a bit of age on its solid white exterior.
This photo from 2005 is all-inclusive of what is NOT at the mall anymore. Note the Parisian in the background with Rich's further back. Anchors Lord & Taylor, Rich's and Parisian are all gone from the mall. Note the mall's interesting logo.
Rich's mall entrance surrounded by lots of marble. The entrance sign was as beautiful as the exterior. Photo taken January 4, 2005
The opulence in design of this store was unparalleled. Note the vine and trellis in front of the store. The "RICHSATLANTA" clock is in the middle. The sign itself was actually engraved into the structure and required complete replacement of the concrete tiles when changed over. Photo taken January 4, 2005.
Conversion of this store was much more costly than other conversions. The Rich's logo was displayed all over this building, including right over the door. Photo taken January 14, 2005.
What remains are these murals and one clock inside the store. The murals depict the history of Rich's over the years up to when the store opened. They are a beautiful and unique touch. This is just one of them. They are pretty much all that visibly remains of Rich's today. Photo taken January 14, 2005.