Opened in 1999, Mall of Georgia is flanked by both traditional department stores and big box junior anchors. Traditional department store anchors include Dillard's, Macy's, JCPenney, Belk and Nordstrom. Belk originally opened as Lord & Taylor, and Macy's opened as Rich's in 2000. Rich's converted to Macy's in early 2005 and Lord & Taylor closed there later in the year before reopening as Belk in late 2006. The mall's junior anchors include Dick's Sporting Goods (opened as Galyan's), Bed Bath & Beyond, Barnes & Noble and Haverty's Furniture. Dick's and Haverty's both have mall entrances, Barnes & Noble is in the streetscape portion and Bed Bath & Beyond is connected to but does not enter the mall. A PF Chang's is also found in the streetscape portion as well as some of the typical lifestyle center fare such as Coldwater Creek and Restoration Hardware (closing on the visit pictured here). Haverty's is the only home-grown store at the mall, the last of the original Atlanta-based furniture chains.
A look at the Plains section of the mall. The Plains section is one of six distinct sections of the mall, and each section is introduced by a large mural on one side and a named monument on the other.
Inside the mall, most of the mall is two levels. However, a third level in the center tops off the behemoth. This level, however, is anchored only by the 20 screen Regal Cinema & IMAX theater. Last fall I went there to watch the Dark Knight and was greeted in the mall with the largest crowd of teenagers ever encountered. Needless to say, a mall like this will always be hip with the high school crowd, and who could blame them? Next to the IMAX theater on the bottom level is a humongous food court. Centered in an elaborate three-level atrium, the food court is actually pretty standard but offers an enormous amount of seating compared to the typical food court. The food court is part of the lower level main entrance and opens directly into the streetscape portion.
This mall is very hard to explain without a map. I hope this image shows what I can't explain as well myself.
Looking along the west arcade. the two arcades are identical, featuring articial purple-tinged light in an open archway. They are located between the center court and the next anchor over: JCPenney on the east and Belk on the west.
The mall itself is divided into themes representing the regions of Georgia. The eastern portion anchored by Macy's and Dillard's is known as the Coastal Mall. The portion from Macy's to JCPenney is known as the Plains Mall. The portion from Belk to Dick's is known as the Piedmont Mall and from Dick's to Nordstrom is the Mountain Mall. Each mall is very distinct architecturally from the other. The Coastal and Mountain portions offer the most beautiful designs. The Coastal portion features an ornate antebellum ceiling treatment while the Mountain portion features a wooden ceiling resembling an upscale cabin. All sections are very attractive and elegantly detailed. The mountain section is similar to the roof treatment in tiny Three Star Mall put on a grand scale. Basically, in that it is like comparing a grand piano to a pipe organ in a tabernacle. The mall also has two "arcades" flanking each side of the center court between the Plains and Piedmont malls.
A look at one of the courts inbetween malls. The mural on the right appears to be the entry to the Piedmont section.
A look at the coastal section. This is a very neat looking part of the mall, and it is my second favorite. Dillard's anchors this wing with Macy's and Haverty's off the court on the other end.
Now owned by Simon, the Mall of Georgia was the remaining legacy of one of the great Atlanta mall builders. This was D. Scott Hudgins last big project before he died, though his eventual plan was to build another Mall of Georgia type center in Canton. Mr. Hudgins was well known for his Atlanta mall projects with the company Cadillac Fairview, who was also known for earlier projects such as Gwinnett Place, Shannon Mall and Town Center at Cobb. In all, the mall encompasses 1,797,000 Sq. Ft, according the property facts sheet.
A look at the Piedmont section of the mall. The Piedmont section is inbetween Belk and Dick's. The Bath & Body Works on the last photo is apparently a second locatoin in the mall. Another location is also pictured here on the upper level west arcade. I didn't find out how many duplicated stores were in the mall, but I'm sure there are a few.
Malls like this would not be nearly as successful without all the distinct touches. In that, this mall has many interesting elements adorning it that I have seen in no other mall in the city. The mall features four fountains. One is a faux mill chute with water dripping down the chute into a pool below surrounded by fake stone. This is found in the Mountain Mall. The second fountain in the Coastal Mall is a more subdued Italian fountain like one you would find in Savannah or a city park. The third is a small one in center court, and the fourth is the showy jet-stream fountain found in front of the food court atrium. Also, the arcades are lit up with an arched lattice, which gives a surreal arbor effect. A carousel, standard in many 90's malls, is found next to the food court. Outside, a statue of Button Gwinnett adorns the top of the mall above the theater, and an outdoor walkway connects two parts of the mall on the second level with faux outside store entrances. The mall also features an empty anchor pad for a future department store. This pad currently serves as a lower level mall entrance and is walled off on the upper level.
Center court in the mall is absolutely massive. It is also the only three level portion of the mall. The third floor functions only for the Regal 20 Cinema & IMAX Theater.
A look at the ENORMOUS food court atrium. The first photo is from the third floor looking down and the second is from the actual food court itself. The food court doubles as the main entry from the east while the main entrance from the west comes from the second level.
Mall of Georgia, in my opinion, is far more impressive inside than outside. That's because its outside is an unfortunate 90's legacy of stucco galore outside of the streetscape. Most of the structure is fronted with stucco, which tends to mildew rapidly in Georgia heat and humidity. It is making the mall look more ragged around the edges already than it would if it was some other material. Dillard's and Nordstrom both are largely stucco structures. The streetscape side, however, is much more attractive with brick facades dominating.
Now for the heavenly "Mountain Mall". The Mountain section is absolutely incredible to me...a real standout in mall design. Of course, I am also a sucker for malls with wood-framed ceilings, and to me this is Three Star Mall with class and on steroids. Needless to say, in an era of so many bland malls, I have absolutely no complaints here.
Of course, it tends to make sense that the most elegant part of the mall would have the most elegant anchor in the mall. Nordstrom's mall entrance makes you think of the most ornate cathedral. If there was stained glass above that sign, it would be perfect.
It is a bit ironic calling it the "Mall of Georgia" when considering that the mall retail-wise hardly represents anything actually from Georgia. Imagine if all of the Georgia-based long-gone department stores across all the towns had a store in the mall. The anchors would be Rich's, Davison's, White's, Kirven's, Levy's and of course Belk, which actually came later. Each small store in the mall would be a store that had been around as much as 100 years in some downtown in the state. The mall's restaurants would represent popular local chains offering the best in Southern cooking and fine dining. The mall would also feature as junior anchors stores like Ellman's, Cullum's, Mansour's and other home-grown favorites. A farmers market would also be in the mall selling Georgia-grown produce, which is what Georgia is best known for. What mall representing the state wouldn't offer peaches and Vidalia onions? While this is fantasy, this to me is what a true mall representing the state would contain. An introduction of real Georgia in the mall would enhance the experience and increase tourist appeal.
My biggest complaint with malls today is the lack of unique touches such as lush indoor gardens, fountains and the replacement of raised and sunken seating areas with obnoxious kiosks. Mall of Georgia made an exception and provided not just one but four fountains. One in the food court I don't have directly pictured, but this one is the most fascinating with an apparent faux mill/mine shaft draining into a tiny pond. If they had made this 3-4 times larger and added vegetation, it would have been a sight to behold. This fountain is between Dicks and the empty sixth anchor entrance.
In front of Macy's is this more standard fountain, although it is still very eye pleasing.
The effect of Mall of Georgia, like many megamalls, was far reaching. Buford was relatively quite and rural before the mall opened. Afterwards, an explosion of retail and residential development occurred that included the reconstruction of the I-85 interchange and relocation of SR 20. Two new roads were constructed around the mall, and the population shifted predictably to match it. Its effects were not all positive, though. People began to fear that Gwinnett Place Mall would die, and Lakeshore Mall in Gainesville has been visibly affected by this mall. Lakeshore in particular was once protected by its sheer distance from Atlanta, but Atlanta grew to it instead, and the mall has lost quite a few stores since it was last renovated. While Gwinnett Place is alive and relatively well, the area around it has seen a lot of businesses closing and a huge demographic shift from when the mall was first built. Gwinnett Place also had much difficulty filling its empty Davison's/Macy's, which has only been recently acquired by a non-traditional store. Mall of Georgia also took the crown of the largest mall from North Point as well as a lot of its business. It is even affecting Athens' major shopping mall, Georgia Square. Today, North Point struggles to find itself surrounded by a wealthy and fickle market though it continues to thrive on a more local level. In all, malls like Mall of Georgia tend to eat the competition with exception to malls too far or too well established such as Perimeter and Lenox.
Here is a look at the empty sixth anchor pad inside and out. In 1999, there were a lot more department stores to choose from, and this was probably intended for an eventual Parisian. It is doubtful this will be filled any time soon. I am betting this was intended for Sears, which remains at Gwinnett Place with enormous success.
A look at the court between Dicks and the empty anchor from the second level toward Dicks. There is an outside entrance on that end as well.
This view is of the main entrance wing from the second level. Behind me is the three-level court. Valet parking is the only close parking to this entrance.
The main sign on the road looks like this. It is very subdued in comparison to the gigantic signs used for much smaller malls in the 60's. For example, note my previous post on "The Mall".
In this blog, I realized that not having a post on the largest mall in Georgia was defeating the purpose of the blog. After all, to many people an old dead or dying mall is dying because, quite frankly, the place was a dump with no decent stores to shop at. Malls with tarnished images are covered here, because people tend to miss these places when they're gone, but this is not a "dead malls" site. Who knows if one day there are not enough stores to fill this mall and it dies like an amusement mark that people stopped coming to? There is the "remember when" then there are photographs of "remember when" in its prime, like the photographs I continue to seek for Cumberland and Cobb Center. This is the mall in its prime. I have only visited this mall a few times, because the mall is so far from my neck of the woods. Nevertheless, I am glad that I am finally able to provide a complete view of the mall of malls in the Deep South.
If you thought the mall was it, I'm heading outside now. This is the oddest part of the mall, an outside walkway with no actual entrances connecting the entrance in front of Haverty's to the entrance across from JCPenney. This is only the beginning of what is found in the outdoor streetscape, known as "The Village".
The main entrance from the west is massive. This is from the second level, which suggests how large this really is. It even appears there is a fourth level here, which if so must be where the IMAX theater itself is located. On top is the Button Gwinnett statue.
Outside the mall is another huge fountain. This was pictured from another angle on the first photo. This one sits in front of the large food court entrance, and it exists as the center point of The Village. The girl playing in the fountain reminds me of many newsreels of hot summer days, and the day I took this it was scorching.
Another view of the streetscape with the big food court entrance in the background. The windows are shaped like a turkey's feathers plumed out. They should make them rainbow colored so it looks like the NBC logo. The same fountain in the previous photo is barely visible in the background.
Beyond the fountain is something unheard of any other mall: a small amphitheater. Live music is played at this amphitheater on weekends. Of course, don't expect to see any honest Nine Inch Nails or Jay-Z covers here.
A view along the cross street in the street scape toward Bed Bath & Beyond. Typical lifestyle center tenants found their home here.
The backside of the amphitheater features the mall's name as a centerpiece of the grand entrance to the mall through the outdoor streetscape portion. Barnes & Noble is on the right and appears to be one of their largest locations.
A look at all the department store anchors from their outside entrances as well as the two-level Dicks, which opened as Galyan's. I decided not to show the pic of Bed Bath & Beyond.
Other department store entrances, not previously photographed. Historic photos showing Rich's and Lord & Taylor will be published on another post due to the length of this post.