Monday, February 22, 2010

University Mall: Pensacola, FL

One of the strangest things is when malls die when the anchors do not.  A good example is Oak Ridge Mall in Oak Ridge, TN.  It died while the anchors to this day remain alive and well.  Such is also the case with University Mall, the "other" mall in Pensacola.  It was built in June 1974 after Cordova Mall, which opened in 1972.  University Mall was the more dominant mall for over two decades featuring a straight shot between Sears and JCPenney, McRae's off a small wing in the center, and a United Artists Cinema along the northwest entrance wing.  Since both malls were quite small, they co-existed peacefully in the growing Gulf Coast city wildly popular for its white sand beaches, semi-tropical climate and blue-green seawater.

Today, University Mall looks solid from the outside but is literally like a tree hollowed out.  While these anchors are alive and well, in between is an open and empty mall with a leaking roof with missing sheetrock and ceiling tiles obviously removed from water damage and never replaced.  Normally a state of disrepair would be the case in any mall with nothing left, but the funny thing is that the mall is still anchored by three solid anchors: JCPenney, Sears and Belk.  Belk was the only anchor change since the mall opened, since Belk bought out McRae's in 2006.  The movie theater, however, has long since closed.  How a mall can have all its anchors and still die is quite strange, but the story is more eerie than most.  The problem was the mall was damaged in Hurricane Ivan in 2004, and for some reason this damage led to Simon deciding to de-mall the center when it was previously doing fine.  The damage was obviously extensive, and I am only going to speculate on the reasons for not simply repairing it.



Lunch isn't served today...or ever again.  This sad food court looks to have been built later than the rest of the mall and is apparently right next to Sears.  The first photo shows center court in a very dilapidated state with missing sheetrock and ceiling tiles all damaged in 2004 and obviously never replaced.  All photos and most of the information on this page are by Stephen Majors.  He went out of his way to get these for me, and I appreciate it.  A few of you have probably also seen these in the Facebook group.

I suppose that Simon was tired of having two malls cannibalize each other.  Simon bought the mall in 1994, and they also own Cordova Mall, so competition is hardly a factor in the case of University Mall.  What also did not help was when Cordova Mall was expanded in 1998 so that it is now a four anchor mall compared to the original dumbbell shaped Cordova Mall.  However, only Belk overlaps at the two malls, thus the two anchors Sears and JCPenney have no current competition nor need to leave the mall since there is obviously no room at Cordova and no other developments exist in the city that would support them.  The most likely reason, though, that these anchors hang on is very likely due to definite plans to redevelop the mall as a lifestyle center as well on top of an obvious lack of space at Cordova Mall.


If you can look past the missing ceiling tiles, the diagonal, almost pinwheel like skylights are quite unique.  The skylights are actually on the side window and not directly overhead. 


More detail of center court.  It seems like it was such a happy place once.

Former Hallmark and Radio Shack.


I'm guessing a mall arcade.  It looks like the hood of an 80's Firebird.


Empty shops along the northwest entrance wing.  This looks like a jewelry store.


Former Hope Community Church, which previously operated as United Artist Cinemas.

Today, the completely barren University Mall looks downright dilapidated.  After all leases were terminated in 2009, it is completely barren inside along with the obvious structural issues.  From the pictures, it was also last renovated apparently in the late 1980's judging by the color tones, non-working fountains and sunken seating area in the center court.  The movie theater also last functioned as a church, but is also empty today.  I guess Simon thinks they can do better than this mall, but the tight credit market and poor economy is the reason this mall is still standing, and it will likely take some taxpayer financing to get the project off the ground.


Caution!  Wet Floor!  A leaky roof is obviously a major issue on the JCPenney wing.

Looking at Belk (former McRae's) from center court including a now non-operational fountain.  This was a very showy entrance indeed.


Looking toward Sears with a dark Rainbow on the left.  This was obviously a mall geared somewhat lower than Cordova Mall.

A closer look at Sears, which stares out at an almost apocalyptic scene.

In some ways, it seems odd that Cordova was not just expanded to include Sears and JCPenney so as to leave University Mall to die, but keep in mind the decline has only been in the past six years.  Cordova has two Dillard's, Belk and a Best Buy: a rather odd line-up for a dominant regional mall.  In fact, the only reason for the Belk overlap is because of the buyout of McRae's four years ago followed by Parisian three years ago.  The Cordova Belk location had previously operated as Parisian, and it came after McRae's had already transitioned to Belk.  Considering that it is a smaller market, both malls likely had much of the same stores, though evidence suggests this mall was somewhat more downscale than Cordova.


Another view of center court.  The only thing I don't like here is the lack of planters and those horrendous colored tiles.

How sad...I guess this was put there just before everybody was kicked out.  Pretty soon, more than just this wall will be a memory.  I wish I could buy this mall, fix it up and offer new leases to everybody for rock bottom prices.  Couldn't they at least put a nice bookstore chain in the old theater and just try to redo the mall?

The ceiling design is one of the more unique elements of the mall containing vaulted ceilings in the center court and high windows arranged in a diagonal, almost pinwheel-like pattern giving a visually appealing experience.  While this is very eye catching and is one of the best designs I have seen, my guess is that the design was not built with hurricanes in mind since most buildings in the 70's were not designed to withstand major hurricanes.  Ivan was a particularly severe hurricane, and likely the damage was sufficient enough that insuring the center would mean major structural modification.  Since malls seem to be out of favor in the world of retailing, to Simon it made sense to empty out the place and demolish it for a lifestyle center in lieu of just retrofitting, restoring and reopening the center.  Rebuilding the existing mall would likely have cost as much as just demolishing and starting anew...the latter option chosen.  I just hope that the new mall is an actual open-air mall with fountains, planters and tasteful architecture in lieu of just building a big driveway down the center of the mall with shops on each side.  Still, I would prefer to keep the enclosed mall.

I am really digging this mall sign.  It is straight up 70's looking.  I guess the sign is saying "We are open for you to wander around in between our lively anchors so long as you don't take pictures."

The food court entrance has mid-90's stucco trappings combined with very 70's doors.


The front entrance of the mall does not look a day over 1974.  The effects of the photo almost make it seem like a big chain link fence is already around it with bulldozers prepared to chomp away at the 36 year old mall.

Simon's purchase of University Mall was an obvious checkmate for the company and a real disadvantage to shoppers in Pensacola since they were offered no true variety.  This is also not the only city where Simon owns both malls.  Knoxville has a similar situation with one mall completely dominant and the other fading very similar to what happened in Pensacola. Nevertheless, the dual ownership assured that both malls survived in one form or another.  While it is unfortunate that the mall had to end this way, maybe the new development will be attractive and more exciting than an empty, torn up mall.


Empty storefront reflecting the photographer.  I remember signs like this in Cookeville Mall.


Robb is not here anymore.  Neither is Erica.  Would you like to schedule an appointment at our other location?  We're booked here clear through 2015.


Claire's has not been gone too long.  That's for sure.


Can't figure this one out.


Radio Shack is actually doing well these days, so they were probably one of the last to go.  Thanks again Stephen!


  1. Thanks again.

    Just one correction. The Belk at Cordova was once a Parisian.

    Other than that this is spot on. Thanks!

  2. Change made, thanks! That makes more sense now.

  3. Had the recession and collapse in real estate not ended the Florida boom, the center would have been demalled and turned into a lifestyle center by now. Now that Simon is making a bid for General Growth, this mall may fall on the backburner for quite a while.

    Pensacola has grown, but not at the pace of the rest of Florida, and has more in common with other coastal southern cities such as Mobile and Biloxi than Tampa or Miami. As such, the area didn't have the run up in real estate prices that the rest of Florida had, but has been in the path of several hurricanes making landfall, if not uneasily close, for the past two decades. Pensacola never had Publix until Albertson's sold its area stores in late 2008, if that gives an idea of how different from Florida the rest of Florida sees Pensacola. Much of that can be applied to the rest of the NW Florida panhandle, but Panama City and Ft. Walton Beach had the advantage of being beach towns while Tallahassee is the state capital and a college town.

  4. The Cordova mall anchor stores are no prize, either, so I'm not too surprised that these hold on. The Belk over there is so dank that I never would have believed it was once a Parisian if I hadn't seen the Labelscar myself. The Dillard's men's store hasn't been touched since it was converted from whatever it was in the 80's, and looks dated. The Dillard's women's store still looks like a Gayfers, and has definitely never been touched. It smells like diaper in there and has the highest ceilings that I've ever seen in a 2-level store. It's like shopping at a Target with old nasty carpet.

  5. I visited this mall in the summer of 1997. The mall was bustling and busy back then. I can't believe that such a prime mall location has been neglected this badly. This mall should have been repaired and renovated, but it is too late now for the property.

  6. Brian, I am betting the other store was either a Maison Blanche or an older Belk partnership store...of course Montgomery Ward is also a possibility. The last would make the most sense since the "competing" mall would typically have Montgomery Ward in a small city.

    Je, I hope locals can shed some light on why Simon nuked this mall. To me, the hurricane still seems like an excuse.

  7. As for Montgomery Ward, yes there was a Wards store there. It was part of the last stores to close in 1999 or 2000. The Anchor was where best Buy, World Market, et. al sits now. The original Montgomery Ward store was torn down in 2001. The original brick facade for the entrance to Montgomery Ward still exists inside the mall. no label scars though as the upper part of the facade was destroyed.

  8. I grew up (off and on) in Pensacola. When I was in school, University Mall was the place to go. Cordova Mall was the second rate mall. In the mid-'80s, Cordova Mall was expanded and University Mall started the downhill slide. I worked in University Mall at B. Dalton from 1984-1988, then again from 1997-'99. By the late '90s, they had created the food court, but the roof leaked and it was already getting run down. A few years later, it was pretty much a ghost town. After Ivan, Simon announced grand plans to pretty much tear everything down and turn it into one of those outdoor park/shopping areas, but then the recession hit. By the way, MacRae's was one of the original anchor stores. I guess it might have been Parisian for a little while before becoming Belk. I don't remember for sure.

  9. I, like Auriette, grew up in Pensacola. I can attest it was THE place to go. I love that mall so much, I have so many memories of my teen and early adult years there, it's a real shame to see it like this. But time ravages everything, including us. The game room was originally called Spaceport. Not sure what or if it changed to before closing. The theater was especially sentimental to me, as my friends and I would always see the latest James Bond movie, Star Wars and Star Trek, and so many more. I, too, wish I could buy it and fix it up. There was actually a third mall in Pensacola, on the west side of town. It opened as Westwood Mall and later became Mariner Mall. It died a quicker death. Malls are great, I can't understand why so many people stopped going to them and opted to go to 4 or 5 strip "malls" to find the same items they could in one place. Don't get me started on WalMart. They are sucking the life out of this country. Thanks for this page!

  10. I am going to guess that Westwood/Mariner Mall was a smaller discount type mall. What were its anchors? I am going to guess a grocery and discount store, but what I do not know. Those are so easy to miss and harder to document. I thankfully discovered one in Tuscaloosa, AL just prior to visiting there and it is my latest post. What anchored that third mall you mentioned? I am guessing it was built probably in 1977 and demolished/redeveloped no later than 1995.

    Thanks for all the comments, though, from everyone! I hope to be able to cover more of the panhandle in the future including actually visiting University Mall in person before it's gone.

    1. Westwood Mall was Pensacola's first mall. Anchored by Zayre's and Grants.

    2. I think it was anchored by JM Fields and Grants, not Zayre. I managed a store in the mall in 1973, the Male Box, which was as dead as the mall was then.

  11. To answer the questions about Mariner Mall. I don't know too much about it as it was mostly abandoned by the time I first remember seeing it in the early 90's. Apparently it was an open air mall with many stores on the outside. One of the anchors was a Scotty's hardware store. The other that I remember was a Foodmax that closed in the early 90's.

    I seem to remember a corridor that went into the center of the mall where there were more stores and all. This also went back to where a Movie Theater as well.

    As for other stores, I seem to remember a hobby store of some sort. Most of the mall was abandoned by the mid 90's. It sat vacant with only the Scotty's operating until sometime early last century, when the Scotty's closed. Soon after Hurricane Ivan hit and pretty much destroyed the entire mall. It sat in a sorry state for almost an entire year before the whole site was buldozed. The area is being redeveloped however. It was a blighted area at one time, and now it looks brand new.

  12. Steve M you are dead on about old Mariner Mall. Foodmax, Scotty's, a fifth-rate movie theatre, and an arcade with a cool brick entrance.

  13. In an effort to get some more insight on Westwood/Mariner Mall, I purchased a 1981-1982 Pensacola phone book off e-bay. Looking at just the entries in bold text, I was able to glean a rather bizarre hodgepodge of stores in the mall at that time. When time permits, I will go over the phone book with a fine tooth comb and see what else shakes out. For now, here is what was there in November 1981 when it was still Westwood Mall:

    A Child's Place
    Big "B" one hour cleaners
    Foshee Piano & Organ Company
    National Automotive Superstores
    Pensacola Cycle World
    Pensacola School of Dramatic Arts
    Rhodes Furniture
    Wash Bowl Laundry Mat
    Waterbed Specialties
    Westwood Four Theatres
    Westwood Gold & Silver Brokerage
    Westwood Hairstylists

    As for the Foodmax, it may have been a different food store in 1981, but not listed in the phone book. My friend remembers it as a Jitney Jungle, which was bought out along with Kwik Check, by Winn Dixie.

  14. Thanks for all the info on this place (Westwood/Mariner)! It actually pains me for you to talk about a mall that was not only demolished, but completely done in by the hurricanes. I will be perfectly honest I can't stand to see most malls go away. I think when they demolish a mall in most cases they just aren't trying hard enough and are motivated by speculation more than need...there are a myriad of ways to make it work not limited to removing the roof.

    Also, what is making the malls disappear is not because of the mall format's because they're trying to push face-off strip malls with faux neoclassical architecture (lifestyle centers) as some sort of pseudo-mall instead of giving us real options such as tacking big box anchors onto an open-air mall, enclosing existing strip malls where practical, etc. I think the mall could be reinvented, and something I have well noticed is that the rare few original malls that were never enclosed seemed to have a much higher tendency of surviving into the 21st century vs. those that were fully enclosed.

    I have little hope of covering Westwood/Mariner Mall without your help, though. I am currently trying to locate an aerial view of it. If any of you can find some old photos, newspaper clippings (like I did with several posts) or anything else out there I could do a post on it. I'd especially love to see a pic of Scotty's. I personally remember Scotty's...I'm assuming HD did them in, and I absolutely loved their logo. I would also say the economy in general is making much of what I'm doing suddenly a race against time as much of these places are going under way faster than I expected.

  15. Was this on the SE corner of Fairfield and US 90? If so, it looks like one building was remaining until Ivan tore it up. It looks like they had FEMA trailers set up in the parking lot on the aerial. Was this where the Scotty's was? Or do I have the wrong place?

  16. Hi I was curious about whats goin to happen with that lot..I came up with a good idea if your company is open to one.
    Ive lived in Gulf Breeze for about 16yrs and i just moved to Pensacola last yr but its always been my 2nd hometown anyway. Growing up here I always noticed how all the kids say they're bored and how theres is never anything to do here..The only thing sumwhat enertaining around here is the movies..beach (which is about to be scratched out) and the mall. What if you guys upgraded University to where its still a mall but at the same time its multi entertainment attraction for all ages. It's a mall but better...the melting pot of all malls. :) I figure where gonna need a new tourist attraction so why not do it big right? Im a artistic girl and i see such potential in this building and i feel if i get in the right persons mind to where we can share the same view..everybody profits. Im not going to get to datails here..just incase someone trys to jock.But if i spark interested please contact me :)


  17. Despite my best efforts to give a professional viewpoint, I am not professionally involved in anything to do with these malls. Most of my "redevelopment plans" are nothing but mere speculation and wishful thinking. I really do like the design of University Mall, but it is a mess right now. In another time, the mall would be getting a second level and expansion but thanks to the anti-mall attitude taken primarily by builders the plan is to instead make this yet another lifestyle center. Perhaps it will get a few entertainment venues when that happens, but I also tend to think that opportunities for outdoor recreation are just as important as indoor. As to indoor, a multi-venue entertainment center such as Dave & Busters might be good for this place, though...perhaps you can e-mail Simon about this since they still own the mall.

  18. The Westwood/Mariner Mall anchor store back in the late 80's early 90's was another Gayfers. It had a larger selection of Wedding/prom selections and we went over there looking for my Junior prom dress.

  19. I was born (1958) and raised in Pensacola (moved away in 1977, but mother still lives there). My parents live(d) about two miles from Westwood Mall. Westwood Mall NEVER had a Gayfers. You are thinking of Town and Country Plaza.

    As for memories of Westwood Mall...I remember one fireworks-type holiday when EVERY parking place at the mall was taken. so it was once a busy place. It opened about the time Cordova Mall did, and a couple of years before University Mall.

    The far east side of the mall was a Pantry Pride grocery store. Just to the west was J.M. Fields. Fields had a mall entrance. I don't recall if you could go from Fields to Pantry Pride without going outside, but at any rate, Pantry Pride did not have a mall entrance.

    The other anchor store at the west end (Mobile Highway side) was W.T. Grants. I think Grants was the first to go into bankruptcy. Later Pantry Pride and J.M. Fields joined them.

    The "gigantic" AMC Westwood 4 theatre was inside the mall, close to Grants. "Gigantic" because Pensacola had never had a multiscreen indoor theatre before (the Twinair drivein on Navy Blvd had two screens). I remember how tiny each screen looked. The theatres were about the last mall store to close.

    The only other two stores I remember there are Bookland (a forerunner of Books a Million) and a record store/headshop owned by Herb Lance, who had owned Town & Country Record Shop in Town & Country Plaza. That was the cool place in Pensacola to buy your records.

    When University Mall opened, I had just started at Pensacola Junior College, and I had my first job with a paycheck at B.Dalton's in University Mall at the time the store opened. I remember all the hard work involved stocking the books, each one of which had to have a preprinted price sticker put on.

    1. Sir Lance's Lot. A friend worked there.

  20. So when will the renovation start for Univeresty mall in penscola fl?

  21. I too remember University being the nicer, more popular of the two malls throughout the 70's and most of the 80's. It had stunning interior design that made Cordova mall look like a strip mall until Cordova was updated and expanded in the late 80's. University had reflecting pools/fountains in the floor in front of Sears and JC Penny. It had a huge unique fountain at centermall in front of McRae's that went almost to the ceiling looped back toward the front of the mall and emptied into a cascading waterfall reflecting pool. There were sunken sitting areas at the midpoint of each wing that was surrounded by ivy and greenery. All of these went away with the Miami Vice style pastel redesign of the 80's that remains today. Cordova's expansion coinsided with expansion in the area around it (PJC, Airport). This helped Cordova become the more popular of the two malls but University was never downscale to Cordova. Even at its death at the hands of Hurricane Ivan and Simon it was still thriving and popular. Westwood/Mariner was not really a mall even though it was called that. It was more like a plaza mall that had an interior corridor that went to more stores and a movie theater. It's gone now and a Lowes home improvement store sits in its place.

  22. After reading the above posts, I was glad to see someone finally get the Westwood Mall lineup straight. I grew up in Milton but we always shopped the malls in Pensacola. JM Fields and Pantry Pride were owned by the same company, and they were frequently paired in the same shopping plazas. Fields was kind of a scaled-down Kmart-type store. Aside from their presence in Westwood Mall (when it opened), they also had paired stores just west of Cordova Mall at the corner of Airport Blvd. and 9th Ave. That space later was an Ames and now a Kmart I believe. I graduated HS in 1981, and about the only reason anyone ever ventured to Westwood/Mariner was for the head shop or the movies. The 4-plex was a big deal for midnight movies and such. Lots of navy personnel on that side of town, which was another reason local kids liked to stay away from over there. Cordova Mall was very much as described above. Only Gayfers and Monkey Wards to start with. There was also a large store closer to the Wards end called "National Jewelers" that was very much like Wilson's (later Service Merchandise). Another story I remember was the Kahn family owned Ordon's Menswear in downtown Pcola, and they were the first local store to take the plunge and sign a lease in the new mall "out-of-town". I bought my first real suit there when I was 17. It was kinda like being in downtown, because there were all sorts of local menswear stores in sight of each other in the mall--Ordon's, Wiggins, Ed White's, and maybe others. The salesmen were all in cahoots and they would bird-dog each other--"Don't like anything here? Go down to Wiggins and ask for Harold. He'll set you up! Tell him Cleo sent you." By the time I was in 11th grade, University Mall was the place to be. It had the better stores like Chess King, Gap, Merry Go Round, Davey Jones Locker, and Richman Brothers. I bought tons of stuff from that old Chess King. It was a really narrow store, just around the corner from Spaceport and the inside theatres. No food court in University, but a really nice local-owned pizza place down on the Sears end I believe. Morrison's and York Steak House flanked the main entrance. When I started PJC, Cordova was right across the street so we went there for lunch a lot. In the middle and toward the rear there was something called "Five Flags Bazaar" (named as such since Pensacola is nicknamed the "Five Flags City"). It was just a big flea market really, where people could rent out a space super cheap. No walls or security. You could park right outside, cut through the flea market and be in the main mall in 30 seconds. There was Orange Bowl and an Orange Julius that were good for fast lunches between classes. Also up in the front of Cordova by the main entrance was an early casual dining chain called "Twickenham Station" that served as a great happy hour place before evening classes. It was really neat because you could sit upstairs where the lounge was and look down through windows into the mall as people walked by. That place later became a Ruby Tuesday and the upstairs windows were removed or covered. Cont . . .

  23. I had moved away when the big Cordova expansion took place--I think in 1986. The two new anchors added were Parisian and D.H. Holmes. Holmes was an old, old New Orleans-based chain. It was only Holmes for a few years when Dillards bought them out. The rest of the history of Parisian and Gayfers is pretty well known. After Cordova was expanded and upgraded, it was very apparent to me that it was the more upscale of the two, even though University tried to keep pace. Part of the problem for University was that they had little room to expand in any direction, whereas Cordova owned plenty of undeveloped land in the rear. Someone above nailed the situation pretty well. Pensacola has grown a lot in the last 40 years since Cordova opened, but not on the same pace as other Florida cities, or even other Gulf Coast cities. Two malls were about all the immediate area could ever support, and with the move toward open-air and power center shopping venues the need for two indoor malls just vaporized. Lots of great memories for both though. Here's another from University: someone above mentioned the big loop-d-loop fountain sculpture that sat in the middle of UM in its early days. I was maybe 11 when I first saw it and for a kid from Milton it was pretty big deal. Modern sculpture. The spout where the water poured out used to just hang freely and kids would come by and swing on it. The mall security was always chasing someone off it. Later they added a pedestal or post under the spout to steady it. People were always banging their heads on it when they tried to walk under it. Funny. Also, when I was in my sixth grade art class, the teacher asked if anyone could name a modern sculpture they had seen anywhere in the area. I took a stab and said "how about that fountain in UM" and I was teacher's pet for the day. That was exactly the answer she wanted. Okay, I'm done now. Don't know if this was fun reading for anyone, but it was fun writing and reminiscing for me!

    1. Fun Reading, and accurate !

  24. Thanks for covering this mall. Good article. I grew up in Pcola, but I never paid much attention to the mall so I can't offer much. I do remember watching Titanic with my first boyfriend at the theater, when it came out. Now, my husband and two little girls and I walk around this old mall sometimes just for the entertainment factor. My 4-year-old calls it the "creepy mall". I wonder when Simon will start on the much anticipated "lifestyle center?"

  25. The local pizza place in University was called Italy's Finest Pizzeria- I was still pretty young when it closed [born in 1980] but it was my older sister's favorite. I remember the pre-Miami Vice decor of the malls only vaguely- darker browns with ashtrays every so often on the walls [inconceivable today!] I only remember Mariner Mall as he place with the $1 movie theater, and literally nothing else but Scotty's. Funnily enough, it had also gone through the Miami Vice makeover, though why anyone would have spent the $ by that time is a mystery. It also was a weird hybrid of a closed and open mall. University was only a few miles from the house, but since it was smaller it was usually more crowded so we split our shopping 50/50 between Cordova and University unless we had a certain store in mind. Dad loved Montg'y Ward's so whenever the car needed tires we were there. I haven't lived in P-Cola full time since literally a few days pre-Ivan [I left for the Air Force in Sept of '04] so I never experienced University Mall as this ghost town. Sad to see.

  26. My wife and I were in University Mall today and was truly saddened by its condition. I was the store manager of Bell Bros. Shoes in this mall in 1974-1976. A lot of good memories in Pensacola.

  27. I have to say being a native of Pensacola I kinda of liked this mall a little better than Cordova. I always root for the under dog. I have so many memories (some i care not to remember jk) but none the less I really do miss it. I remember the arcade and there was also a shop called the "sound shop" sort of a strait forward name but they had some really good deals on CD's. Next time I got back in town I am wondering if I can still get in there. hmmmm

  28. Man this sucks reading this article! I remember it was awesome back in the day to go to both of these malls and an even bigger treat would be to go to both of them in the SAME DAY! It blows my mind! Anyway my best memories are the arcade where I got some really good prizes, the sound shop which had some really good deal on CD's and the movie theaters. OH and the mall santas who smelled like beer and funions.

  29. I miss it. I moved away from Pensacola way back in 2000 when the economy (and the malls) were thriving. I'd come back from time to time but I didn't realize how LONG it had been since I'd actually been inside University Mall until earlier this year, when I originally read this article. I tried to think when the last time was. "Probably before Ivan hit," I thought. And Ivan was apparently one of the factors that killed it.

    But hell, where did 10 years go? It seemed like just yesterday I was wondering through that mall with my fiancee back in 99. Time flies. I remember going to the movies there a lot as a kid. I was one of the first in line to see "Return of the Jedi" back in 83. I remember that chrome waterfall thing that used to be in the center of the mall. There was an energy there, in its prime. The employees don't act like the disinterested zombies you find working in the dying malls of today. Christ, where are we headed anyway? As I write this, Blockbuster filed for chapter 11 today. Their days are numbered. The whole concept of brick and mortar stores is antiquated and will soon be largely obsolete. Just like the mom & pop general stores of old. It was painful for our parent's generation when the mom & pop stores closed, and downtown stopped mattering (thanks to the malls!)

    Anyway after reading this article I HAD to go walk that mall one last time. Went there with my daughter back in March. It wasn't a pleasant experience. The interior was not heated at all and poorly lit. It was like a big haunted house. Dreamlike. Depressing. Literally every single store was closed but the anchors were doing decent business. It was sad walking past the dark, dirty, smudged windows of the old movie theater. I remember playing video games in Spaceport before a movie would start.

    I don't think it's a safe place. We didn't stay very long and I have no desire to ever go back.

  30. The name of the record/head shop store in Westwood Mall Mark Reed referred to was called Sir Lance's Lot. Yes, owned by Herb Lance. He declined on opening a shop in Cordova Mall in the mid 70's because the rent was too high. Closed shop by the end of 1980 and moved to California.

    1. Correct. I worked for Herb at Town & Country Records and moved over to Sir Lance's Lot when he opened that store. Herb always regretted his decision to pass on Cordova Mall.

  31. I grew up in Pensacola and moved away at age 19 in 1993. The Food Court had just been completed the previous Fall, and University Mall was still a fairly active mall though Cordova had taken it's place as the main mall back in 1986. I still remember this mall as the place to be prior to 1986, especially for young people because they had the biggest game room (at the time) with Spaceport, had a HUGE toy store named Thornberry's, thriving bookstores, and both a Sound Shop and Record Bar. I can still remember eating breakfast and sometimes an early dinner with my parents at JCPenney cafeteria that closed in 1984.

    It's a shame what happened to this mall. I have more positive memories from this mall then I ever had at Cordova even when it became the main mall in town. All the best movies came to University Mall Theatres (inside and outside mall) during my youth. You can't even tell there was an outside mall at one time because they closed it down, sealed it off, and made it an inside movie theatre in 1995. I came back to visit relatives in Pensacola last Christmas for the first time in 15 years, and was very dismayed to see what had become of not only the mall but the surrounding area and restaurants. Even the Holiday Inn restaurant that had an outdoor eating area (one of the first in PCola at the time) had been closed down. If Simon cannot/will not do anything with this area, someone (if not me) please call Colonial Properties in Alabama. They have refurbished/remodeled/renovated MANY malls in Alabama and have done a wonderful job. Simon has a terrible reputation in the retail community.

  32. Today I was in Pensacola & wanted to visit
    University Mall, since it was part of my
    UWF experience back in the '80s when I was
    going to college there (every Friday, a
    school van would take students out to the
    mall & then on to Sack and Save so we could
    get groceries/necessities).

    What a shock I was in for: it looked like
    the parting of the Red Sea from "The Ten
    Commandments", with Penney's at the start
    and Sears all the way down at the end of
    the run. No more Waldenbooks, no more
    Chick-Fil-A (with its terrific sandwiches
    & cole slaw), no more broke
    my heart! :(

    Look at all the improvements done to I-10
    in that area...the mall is still in a
    prime spot, with all the potential traffic
    going in both directions, as well as the
    area north of I-10 on Davis. Holiday Inn
    was mentioned previously: one of my former
    dormmates & his (former) fiance invited a
    group of us out to dinner one night in
    fall '83: it was fantastic!

    After what I saw today, I'm still at a
    loss for words... :(

  33. I owned a restaurant Taco Casa in the food court in the 90's at University Mall. Simon Properties alway was telling the owners for years that the mall was going to expand and add more stores. The foot traffic was pretty good, but was never as busy as Cordova Mall.

    I sold my restaurant a couple of years before the hurricane hit. I was lucky, I got out before the destruction hit the mall.

    I also just went back recently to visit Pensacola. Quite sad of how the mall looks now. I visited Cordova Mall and that mall also is in horrible shape. The parking lot is a disaster. A outlet mall would be perfect for University Mall since it's right by the highway.

  34. I lived in Pensacola in the early/mid 90's and remember this mall. I was pretty young though. I mostly remember it's arcade (obviously) which at that time was flourishing.

    I have some old family photos laying around here somewhere where we're in the mall. Like a picture of my little bro in the center court with a gadget he got. I could try to copy those and send them to you if you'd like.

    So weird looking at these pictures today and remembering the greenery which flowed around the center court.

    Anyways, another great post. Thanks.

  35. That would be awesome, actually! Please do send them along.

  36. Jason J cruz

    University Mall Was a awsome place to come and shop on Black Friday after thanksgiving. How the mall went down hall it's not the same mall i remember. It woudl be so cool if the maill would remodel and bring the mall bacik to life the way it use to be nice stores a place to brign the family and a land Mark in Pensacola FL

  37. When I first found this thread in early August, I posted a fairly lengthy memory above. I was so intrigued that when I drove up from Orlando to see family later that month, I made a special point of visiting UM on Saturday, August 28, 2010.
    Like several people have mentioned above, the three anchor tenants seem fairly oblivious to the plight of the darkened areas. Business was brisk at all three stores. While they all could use a face lift, it didn't appear to be keeping shoppers away.
    I was simply in awe as I walked through the darkened mall. It was surprisingly clean--no trash or debris laying about, just a few "wet floor" signs here and there. In places where roof leaks had developed, ingenious people had suspended blue tarps with drain tubes to divert the water away from the walkways.
    As small groups of people walked between the stores, their conversations echoed throughout the corridors in an eerie sort of way. It was hard to shake the feeling that I was somewhere I shouldn't be--someplace that should be off limits to the public. But here we were--walking through the cavernous, silent hallways like zombie shoppers. I had flashbacks of "Dawn of the Dead" when the zombies broke into the abandoned mall.
    One of the pictures above shows the neon lights on in the completely abandoned food court. Officials had seen fit to remove all the chairs, leaving nothing behind but the tables that were anchored to the floor. The irony is that they did not feel it necessary to save power and turn off the neon lights--kinda like a weird joke implying that if you hang around a little while, somebody will bring back the chairs and start serving pizza, pretzels, and bourbon chicken again.
    I fully understand the sad feelings expressed in comments above. Many people have their own special memories of this place for whatever decade(s) they happened to go there. But if you have an opportunity to visit there while it's still in its current state, I would recommend it. It definitely has a "land that time forgot" feel to it that I can't recall having anywhere else.
    With the three anchors apparently fat, dumb, and happy, I don't think they'll have any problem making a new power center work if they choose to move forward. The area around the mall has definitely declined, and those ancillary businesses will need to be upgraded too. The Holiday Inn has converted to something more downscale. The old Hampton Inn is some other brand now as well, but a new Hampton has popped up back where Chan's used to be. The Bennigans building is still shuttered, but a radio station appears to have moved into the old Darryl's building.
    Darryl's is a place I really miss. It was one of the early forerunners in the casual dining/tavern environment, and it was super easy to get comfortable there. Tons of ephemera all over the place. Food was always just so-so, but the bar rocked. Their stores used to have double-decker buses inside them with tables on both levels of the bus.
    When we would finish "loading up" on happy hour drinks at Darryl's, we would move to the other side of the mall to Chan's, or go to the Rodeo at the Holiday Inn. Plenty to do around there back then--all in the shadow of "University Mall". Great memories.

  38. Are they ever going to bulldoze the place, or is it just going to sit there forever???

  39. i have lived in Pensacola pretty much all my life and havn't had a chance to make it back over to see University Mall since all the mall stores have closed, i remember when Cordova Mall went through their remodel/expansion and University Mall was still thriving, in an earlier post someone mentioned the out dated tile color decor in University Mall, Cordova Mall had the same up until recently when Cordova Mall refurbished the interior, removing fountains and adding seating areas and putting the skylights back in. Guess Simon had a good deal on pink early 80s tile, very good site brings back lots of memories

  40. These pictures made me tear up! I just moved back to Pensacola and so much has changed since I grew up here. I had my first date at the movie theatre in University Mall. There was a giant cookie place as a central kiosk in the food court. I'm 24 now and when I was very little the malls were neck and neck in terms of being busy, but when Cordova expanded when I got a little older, it really took off. The fountains in University stopped functioning in about 2000 and they never fixed them. I remember that because I was an avid penny-tosser :) After Ivan all that remained were a Rainbow (which wasn't previously there) Radio Shack, Trade Secret, some airplane hobby shop, Gap, Gap Kids, the anchors of course, a restaurant Piccadily's which you could only enter from the outside, a glasses store, and the food court. The movie theatre kept functioning as a $1.00 theatre for a bit but people prefer a place called Silver Screen which has cheap movies and you eat at tables with "movable chairs!" (pcola natives will get a chuckle... youtube that commercial!) and is still open and thriving! It is located in the back parking lot. There is also a Chuckee Cheese in the parking lot that is still doing fine! This area has been dominated by off the interstate hotel chains like Red Roof Inn and Motel 8, and Northwest Florida hospital. While the center of town for Pensacola used to be downtown, and the Warrington area, it is now definitely the Cordova area.

    The neighborhoods surrounding University started to go downhill quite a bit. Oh and that caution taped area with the trashcans for leaks? That has been there since 2005 after Ivan! I went to that mall a few months after Ivan to see a movie at the cheap theatre (we left halfway through, it smelled too strongly of mold) and it was there! I always thought it was strange how long The Gap lasted! It was one of the last stores to close, despite there being a Gap at Cordova the entire time.

    Oh and the store you couldn't figure out, was either called Surprises Inside or Kaboodles. It was a Sanrio (Hello Kitty) store and my absolute favorite when I was 12! I don't remember what it became after though.

  41. hey, i appreciate this little overview of university mall. i am 21 years old, and university mall was always my favorite as a kid. it had a huge kb toy store (which cordova mall lacked). i can remember seeing movies in the theatre and then heading to the toy store afterwards to get the action figures from the film. my friend and i sometimes take a walk through the empty mall just to reflect on old times. good times. it is really sad. unfortunately, after the mall died, many of the businesses around it died (steak and ale, a few hotels, etc). it just sucks to see a place that used to be so lively become so desolate.

  42. I am born and raised in P-Cola. I just saw tonight on the local news that University Mall has construction type fences around the mall and supposedly demo is going to begin soon. No comment from Simon as yet. I too, remember UM being "the mall". I grew up near Cordova and while it was a good mall, particularly with an Aladdins Castle, which the arcade being the most important part of a mall, Spaceport and UM were still a special treat cause it was all the way across town. Spaceport was a much larger arcade than the Castle at Cordova. If I remember right, there was a Biggs sporting goods in UM as well as Cordova. Biggs was a store originally based in downtown P-Cola. They had bunches of stuffed (by the taxidermy man) animals, Kodiak bears, that kinda thing. I'm going to try to go to UM this weekend in hopes that I can still get into the open mall area. Maybe take my hammer and get a souvenir or two.

  43. I moved to Pensacola (right up the street from University Mall) in September 2009. I just read today that the go ahead was given to raze the mall. Sad day indeed.

  44. My friends and I used to cruse UM for girls back in high school. UM brings back so many fond memories for me.

    As far as Mariner/Westwood Mall goes, I bet that no one remembers what occupied this property before the mall was built.

    1. I do! There was old housing on the site of Westwood Mall. I remember going there with my parents when the houses were getting torn down (somewhere between 1967 and 1972 is my guess). We were scavenging for good lumber, doors etc that were reusable.

  45. Just heard that demolition had started... that's what prompted me to do a search and see what the final plans were. Last I heard they were talking about a "River Walk" type environment with outdoor cafes and such. I wish them well, but it's sad they couldn't just remodel and repair what has been so successful in the past. Good memories reading the comments here!

  46. I was in training at NAS Pensacola the summer of '84. Used to drive to University Mall to play games at SpacePort, have a slice of pizza at Italy's Finest and watch a movie. I'm pretty sure the pizzeria was right where either the Hallmark or Radio Shack is (was) at.

    Sad to see it go, but thankful for the great memories

  47. I grew up in Pensacola and recall when all three Pensacola malls opened in the early 1970's. My family lived in the Montclair subdivision and my Mother always shopped at Pantry Pride. Whenever she went grocery shopping I would always go along so I could head down the mall to Bookland. Years later, when I was in high school, I frequently went to the dollar movie at Westwood Mall.

    Of the three Pensacola malls, University was the premier mall until Cordova was expanded in the mid-1980's. I graduated from PHS in 1983 and when I was in high school University Mall was the place to go. By the late 1980's Cordova had become the main mall and University began its long period of decline.

    Pensacola was never large enough to sustain three Malls and from the beginning Westwood Mall was the odd-man out. It had the least desireable anchor stores, all of which had closed by the early 1980's. During the later 1980's and early 1990's the mall was renamed and had Scotty's and Foodmax as its new anchors, but the mall never recovered from the loss of Fields and Grants. There is no doubt that Mariner Mall's recovery efforts were also hurt by the expansion of Cordova Mall.

  48. This post is a follow up to the one I made earlier today (May 21, 2011).

    In addition to its second tier anchors, another factor working against Westwood Mall was its location. Through the early 1970's Pensacola's main shopping district was downtown around South Palafox Street. This district was anchored by Sears and J.C. Penny. In 1974 Sears and Penny relocated from downtown to University Mall.

    After 1974 the old downtown area was no longer Pensacola's retail center. A new business district was developing in the suburbs of north Pensacola. The approximate boundries of this new district are North Ninth Avenue to the east, North Davis Highway to the West, Olive Road to the north, and Brent Lane/Bayou Boulevard to the south.

    University Mall and Cordova Mall were built in prime locations on opposite sides of Pensacola's new business center. Westwood Mall was located miles away in west Pensacola where it was more difficult (if not impossible) to attract the better quality tennants found at University and Cordova Malls.

  49. I should say, the demolition is nearly complete at this point. Oddly enough the original mall entrance sign for Belk still exists. I'm thinking in the end Belk is going to end up making that their new main entrance to their store when it is all said and done.

  50. Drove by the mall the other day, its weird to see how the demolition has effected the landscape. According to a Pensacola News Journal Report, even though demolition is underway there are no plans for the next 2 years to actually rebuild. Pointless. If they wanted too they could have had it rebuilt by the end of the year. 1,000 more mall jobs would have been nice.

  51. Thank you to all of you fine folks for stirring up memories I had forgotten. I am 32 and have lived here in pensacola my entire life. I remember westwood quite well and shopped at UM up until the leases ran out. I have memories of the loop fountain, the pizza joint and both theatres. One question remains...what was the name of the store that sold candy that was by the theatre near JC penny? I remember my mom telling me it was "too expensive for candy" but that's about it. What a wonderful palce it was...

  52. Morrow's Nut House was the candy place.

  53. I still work at this mall. Let's see...stores that made it near to the end of the mall. Dollar Tree, C.O. Charlie's, RadioShack, Victoria Secret, Gamestop, Ross, two or three random clothing places, Bath and Body Works, Zales (I think), Subway, Sbarro, Wendy's, Piccadilly's, Chick-fil-a, TCBY, Hallmark, Lenscrafters, Rex, and I think there were a few more. Most of these were still there as of 2008, if memory serves. Maybe 2007. I think maybe Spencer's was there still too.

    So even after the hurricane, it was still pushing along. It could have been saved. I think my favorite store when I was a kid was KB Toys, lol. Of course.

    I am glad they finally tore it down. It was scary in there and I always felt like I was risking my life when I would have to go take carts back to the other anchors.

  54. Haha, someone mentioned they were surprised how long the Gap lasted when there was one at University. I worked there in high school and college 2002-2003. 2 reasons is lasted so long (1) the Gap Kids/Baby Gap in Cordova closed, so we were the only place you could get that stuff. Then we were MUCH newer, nicer, and bigger than the Cordova Mall Gap. We always had better selection and more in stock (due undoubtedly to less traffic) than Cordova Mall. So we had Gap fans always come to University Mall just for us.

    I was born in '84 and for as long as I can remember Cordova was the "nice" mall and University was the crappy mall my mom would go to sometimes to buy church dresses! I cna't imagine Cordova being nicer than Univeristy. My little bro loved the Sound Shop there though. They were the only place in Pensacola he could get a certain type of music he lked.

  55. It's such a shame that mall is gone. If I were Simon, I'd figure out SOMEway to get JC Penney and Sears to get to Cordova Mall. Simon owns Ciela Vista Mall in El Paso, TX and it's a HUGE 2 story mall that's very successful !! I, too, worked at one of the major anchors for 5 years and watched the decline of University Mall. So unneeded!!!

  56. Thanks for the update on the name of the candy store...morrow's nut house...I drove by there yesterday and just shook my mall is gone but not forgotten

  57. There was no Gayfers in Mariner Mall, it was at Town and Country and at Cordova in the current Women's Dillard location. Mcrae's became Parisian and then Belk at University Mall. There has never been a Maison Blanche in Pensacola. Montgomery Ward was at Cordova Mall. And the decor was nice when the mall wasn't in disrepair. The food court WAS added years after the mall was built. There used to be an Orange Julius on the opposite leg from Mcrae's, as you came in the front entrance fron Davis side. It was on the left.As you entered the mall there was a York's steak house you entered from outside and on the left a Morrison's, although I don't think the Morrison's was in this mall from the beginning.


    News on what is happening at the two malls in Pensacola.

    The basic jist of the story is that Dillard's is combining their two stores into one at Cordova, and vacating the Men's store. In it's place will be a Dick's Sporting Goods.

    Belk is vacating its University Mall store, and combining operations with the Cordova store.

    As for expanding Cordova Mall to accompany both Sears and JCPenney, it's never gonna happen. There's simply not enough room if you look at the satellite view of the area. The only way to expand is upwards.

    Although personally I would have loved to had seen either Sears or JCPenney take over the anchor Dillard's Men is vacating.

  59. I lived in Milton/Pensacola/Cantonment From mid 70s until mid 85 when I moved to San Diego. I've been back in the area multiple times since then and have noticed many changes. Westwood/Mariner-I remember the Jittney Jingle on one end but can only remember a Scotty's on the other. I watched movies at the theater a few times and do remember the brick entrance. On the south end of Town and Country Mall there was a Gayfer's or Gaylord's for many years. The north end of Cordova is where a Montgomery Ward once stood. I, along with others, remember University Mall being the place to go in the 80s, when I watch Fast Times at Ridgemont High it brings back memories of going to University Mall in the 80s.
    I mentioned moving to San Diego because another person mentioned open air center malls surviving longer, those are the only kind of malls I went to in San Diego as those are the dominant design for malls in the area. As far as I know those malls are still standing and surviving today.
    I was in University Mall a few years back and it was like a ghost town. What two or three shops that remained were going to close soon and a security guard told me the roof was to be torn off and other buildings redone or completely rebuilt. I got the impression it was going to eventually resemble a mall like Mission Valley or Fashion Valley in San Diego.
    On an odd note, the middle school I attended, the original location of Ransom Middle on Muscogee Rd is another type of school last I heard.

  60. Surprises Inside! I literally grew up in that store, my parents owned it as well as the nutty Bavarian, the candy dispensers, Krazy Kollectibles, and my dad was also the manager at EB games. This mall is the biggest memory in my life I grew up in it. So many pictures so many memories, the arcade, the movie theater...I miss it!

  61. Since this post Simon Malls have finally torn down the main structure of the mall leaving the box stores. Currently they are removing the old concrete foundation to make way for the new mall (I tried to find the article in the local paper showing the new plans but was unsuccessful) plans call for 4 stand alone stores to be built (outdoor mall?)(tenants unnamed as of this time) Also Belk is planning to close their University location and combine to the Cordova Mall location. (bare with me as this is gonna be kinda confusing) at Cordoava mall the two Dillards are combining to one location, Belk (and Belk University Mall) will move into the location Dillards is vacating, and a Dicks Sporting Goods will occupy the former Belk location. No plans have been announced as to what will happen to the Belk location at University Mall, (will keep you posted).

    1. It seems that they have the same pile of dirt in front of Belk that they had 3 months ago. At Cordova, it would have made since to change the belk location to Dick's, however, they wanted the location closer to Best Buy and Airport Blvd. The issue with University is still that 2 of the stores MAY BE Academy Sports and Toys R Us, the problem, just moving from their current locations to the Mall, leaving their old shopping centers with BIG places to fill.

    2. I agree that the dirt pile hasn't moved much recently but I haven't been on that side of town to see what progress has been made. I will make a trip and keep you posted. I would think Toys R Us is in a prime location on 9th and Bayou next to Publix, and Cordova Mall, I know the store could use a good remodel since its kinda dated, Academy sports would just be moving down the road on Davis. If I remember Academy Sports was formally home improvement store. I heard the location Toys R Us is at used to be something else, anyone remember what it was? As for toy stores I miss Childrens Palace (now a Tj Maxx in the Trade Winds Shopping Center)

    3. In between Children's Palace and TJMaxx, the store you're talking about in Trade Winds Shopping Center was PharMor!

  62. Olde them pottery used to be at mariner mall for a bit also, along with a boot store and some negligée shop. That was early 90's. As far as university mall, there are 3 new buildings under construction now, one of which is academy and not sure about the other 2.

  63. There was also a Grice Electronics store in Westwood Mall. Their main store was in downtown Pensacola and they were the place to purchase high-end audio back in the day. Unfortunately they did not survive.

  64. I have heard that University Town Plaza(old University Mall)will have Sears, JC Penny, Toys R Us, Academy Sports, Burlington Coat Factory in the old Belks. With out parcels containing a Cheddar Casual Cafe and a small strip mall like building containing AT&T store and other shops. There is also, two small shops being built between Sears and Toys R Us and one small store being built between Burlington and Academy. Also, another small shops building in the back parking lot in front of the closed $1 movie theaters.

  65. One of the small buildings will be a Jenny Craig store and another one a shoe store. Also, a Jonas( or something like that) Sandwich shop in the same outlet building that AT&T is going in.

  66. I remember UM as a great place to be. I remember the fountains and miss when malls used to be bustling places, alive with people and things to see, not just junk in a jumbled mess on a wal-mart shelf.

    Mom used to drag me to UM every chance she got. I remember standing outside of the camera store watching as the machine spun pictures on the carousel as it developed them. I went on my first real date to see Titanic at the theater.

    I remember visiting Santa in the sunken common area that's posted in the pictures of the mall. I remember my daddy teasing me that he saw and heard Santa's reindeer on the roof through the skylights. I can remember staring up at the ceiling and hoping to catch a glimpse of them for myself. I remember eating a a Chinese food restaurant there and my mom telling me that the peas in the fried rice tasted and smelled like dirty feet. I do not remember eating at Italy's Finest Pizzaria but apparently my taste buds did. A few weeks ago my husband and I wondered into a place by the same name on Davis hwy in the same strip mall as Ichiban. I loved the food, and took my mom back a few weeks later where she recounted to me eating at a place with the same name in the mall. A bit later she spotted the owner and remembered him and they reminisced about when the business was in the mall. (So it's the same place opened again many years later) I've seen several people mention this place in their comments so if you miss them... they are in business again!

    I also remember mariner mall there was a puppet theater or something there that my grandmother used to take me too though now talking about it I remember another mall did the same but the puppets weren't as interesting as the ones at mariner. I can remember walking that mall with my grandmother and her commenting sadly that it wouldn't stay open much longer because no one ever shopped there... the only store I remember there besides the theater, & puppet theater, was a lingerie store. My grandma didn't like shopping at the grocery store there she was an avid Delchamps shopper. I do remember going into Scotty's a lot with my dad and grandpa.

    Even Cordova mall doesn't do the kind of business it used to do, and Santa Rosa mall definitely isn't the happening place it once was either. I don't know about nationally but locally people just don't shop at malls like they used to. :(

  67. I owned Hobby Central in Univeristy Mall form 1999 to 2007 and then in Cordova Mall 2007 to 2011 and Tradewinds Plaza 2011 to present.

    The Gap closed due to Hurricane Ivan and never re-opened in Uni. Mall - I'm certain of that as they were my next door neighbor and were located in the old Kaybee Toys. Most of the mall was closed for nearly three months after Hurricane Ivan and some of the national stores did not re-open. Simon refused to remodel the mall immediately after the hurricane and yet remodelled Cordova rapidly. They paid contractors to come in and remove the drywall, hence the large open holes in the wall. A second set of contractors was supposed to come in and replace the drywall. But, when the drywall was removed a lot of new hurricane damage was discovered and it was determined that the mall would have to be demolished. A large press conference was held and Simon announced the proposed demolition and new plans for a power center with a large reflecting pool (early 2008). The recession hit and Simon stalled it's plans and the mall sat vacant for over 3 years. Simon kept changing it's proposed plans. Finally last year the development started. Academy Sports is almost finished along with the new building for Toys R Us and Babies R Us. The Cheddars restaurant is almost finished as well. There is a block of small stores that will contain, Radio Shack, A T & T, Massage Envy, Sports Clips, Smoothie King, Jimmy Johns Sandwiches, Marble Slab, GNC, Mattress Firm. There is also a proposed Burlington Coat Factory and an unamed other anchor. Not quite the out door center like Malbis, AL, Destin, people hoped for.

  68. are building a dave and busters because thats what a few people told me ?

  69. DOES ANYBODY KNOW IF COSTCO IS COMING TO PENSACOLA. I've heard about Costco going where Kmart on Mobile Hwy use to be.

  70. Wanted to update!
    The demolishion is finished and there is now a relocated Sports Academy (Authority? Can't remember), Toys R Us is on its way over there (currently located across from Cordova and is such a gross state) and those two stores fill out the gap between the anchors, visually speaking, but only have outside entrances. There is a Cheddar's in the parking lot and a strip mall kind of establishment which will house random little things like a Jimmy John's which is very soon opening if it hasn't already.

    Another little outdoor shopping center across from Cordova on the Pensacola State College side has gotten a major facelift. Once a decrepit Kmart now houses a DSW, Marshall's, Fresh Market, and Ulta. There is a Five Guy's at the far end with a Kirkland's.I think we could have done without one of the four as the parking lot was nearly at capacity at 1:30pm on a Tuesday during the school year. The parking lot is a nightmare.

    I can assure you if they put a Costco anywhere near where that Kmart was on Mobile Hwy they are insane. It is nowhere near the retail centers of town and in an incredibly poor area. Like, not once but three times I encountered homeless people or drug exchanges in the ladies room. Someone said they would put a Fresh Market there like in place of the other Kmart... I mean maybe 9 mile could support it but not there. It would be so out of place it would be ironic. Across the street is a dirty motel and laundromat and right over the viaduct is a string of motels so infamous for prostitution that for a while the sheriff's department had a trailer home base set up just to deter it. Sorry it is just so laughable.

    The Mariner Mall location now has a Lowe's (a Home Depot was built across its intersection), office Depot, Ross, TMobile, empty small chain store, Autozone, and a Chili's. All have done very well.

    Ultimately I think after they realized the damage at University was too extensive to fix, they put thought into making Cordova a better mall and then when funds permitted, making University a shopping center as the anchors could remain. Ironically, now that the local economy is getting a bit better and a ton of new stores are coming to town, University would probably be full by now and thriving. But a total renovation would have been needed, it was really bad. As I said in a previous post, we left the movie theatre due to extreme mold smell and lack of a/c which is saying a lot since my own home was partially destroyed and smelled of mold so I was used to it. Cordova has since gotten a Sephora in the old Gap, a Dress Barn, Aeropostale kids, Soma, Maurice's, some new jewelry chain, a brand new huge food court, floors redone, newer skylights. A Dick's is opening soon where the old Belk (formerly Parisians) was, Belk I believe closed the University location and opened a large (gorgeous) Belk where the old men's Dillard's was located. The men's Dillard's relocated to the basement of the women's Dillard's so that it is now a 3 story Dillard's. The men's section is gorgeous but the women's smells and is so old. Little to no renovation (except cosmetics dept) since The 80s for the ladies! The front entrance to Cordova was also redone and is pretty. It includes some stores only accessible from outside such as Men's Warehouse, Moe's, Panera Bread, Macaroni Grill, The Loft, and Coldwater Creek. I don't see much room for Cordova to expand or add more stores unless a second level was somehow added as there isn't much parking. However if places like Village Inn were to close they could add small strip mall satellite businesses. The Target across the street just got a grocery area added so who knows what the area will bring!

    1. I do agree about the Women's Dillards. That place still smells like the old Gayfers that occupied it when my Grandma used to take me through there in the late 80's and early 90's.

      I actually recall when they built in the basement in the old Gayfers. The old hair salon used to be down there (I got taken down there so much by my Grandma when I was younger.)

      If the sun is just right, you can still see the old Gayfers label scar on the sides of the building. Those old block letters in each section spelling out Gayfers.

  71. In the Town and Country plaza mentioned above is where the Gayfer's was, not Westwood Mall. T&C back in the 60's also had a McCrory's, Morrison's (that became Pickadilly), W.T. Grant's (with soda fountain), Toy and Hobby, and in the breezeway is where Santa used to take orders. Remember they actually had ping pong ball drop in parking lot for Easter, in the balls were prizes to the merchants like free candy bar, etc.

  72. Simon needs to updae their U Mall web page. Many fo the announced stores are now open and several more have signs up, but are not even announced on their web page.

  73. My dad always used to like looking around Sears electronics department back in the late '70s; especially at the early projection screen tv's with the 3 colored lenses.

    Also visited Santa many Christmases and the Easter bunny in the main court area.

    My dad hit his head on one of the chrome water flumes while walking under it in the mall sometime in the '70's.

  74. If it hasn't been noted, the major Cordova Mall expansion was '86ish.

  75. I grew up off Burgess 5-10 minutes from the mall. Some of my first memories were of the pecan tree orchards that existed in the area before the original construction. I had the best high school job, working as a doorman/usher in the movie theater. There were a lot of great stores and a fun bunch of other young people who worked in them. I moved away after high school and it was sad to come back and see how far it had fallen. I am glad that something is being done to revitalize the area.

  76. a bank was in front of the spot that latter became morrison's . we moved to p'cola june of 1974 and we started doing our banking there in 1979 . I think it was '' 1st mutual '' . sometime after that they moved before or after amsouth bought them out , later to become '' regions ''.

  77. I worked at Record Bar in University Mall from 1982-1984. What a fantastic place! We were on the Sears end, west wall across from B. Dalton and women's clothing store that had car doors on the changing room doors. Jill Dudgeon was a manager there. We used to go get change from them all the time!

  78. Spent many an afternoon and evening roaming UM while attending UWF '79-81. Really glad to see it reborn in the new 'open air' form and still going strong.

  79. I spent so many hours in University Mall its not even funny. I used to play Mortal Kombat 2 in the arcade that someone said looks like the top of a Firebird. I'm 36 now and one of my first memories was going into University Mall in thinking how huge it was when I was probably 5 or 6 years old. I moved to Jacksonville in 2013, but before I moved my friend and I walk around the shell of University Mall once or twice a week, for years. My kids would play on the boards that were covering the old center Fountain, when the security guard wasn't looking. Anyone who went to that mall between the years 2005 and 2010 would have surely noticed us.

    I also have some memories of Mariner Mall. My mom took me to see Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom in the movie theater. I also remember trying to sneak into an R-rated movie there, but ended up having to see A League of Their Own.. My mom also always went grocery shopping in that Food Maxx, and she told me one time, when I was reminiscing about an arts and craft store, that it was actually an Old Time Pottery as an anchor there. I also remember the Scotties, in fact, I have a tape measure in the drawer right next to me that came from that Scotty's.

    Finally, the memories of Cordova Mall were seeing the puppet show, the two arcades I used to frequent (yes, there used to be a second one next door to Glamour Shots), the sculptures which have since been replaced with annoying Gypsy stands selling Dead Sea products, and of course Montgomery Ward's, which is now Best Buy and World Market.

    The internet is what destroyed malls. The only stores that can survive Amazon and the like, are the huge chains (Walmart, anyone?), and impulse buy stores (ie: women's clothing stores).


    1. You mentioned the puppet show in Cordova mall. I knew there was a puppet show there. I even remember seeing it in the 80's at some point. I knew my brain wasn't playing tricks on me.

      Thanks for confirming that for me.

  80. I can't believe I forgot to mention the two most important things in my life, relating to these malls. My first job was at Babbage's in Cordova Mall, down from where Montgomery Ward's used to be. And in University Mall, I bought my wife's engagement ring from Kay Jewelers, which was by the Center Fountain and down from the Mcrae's / Belk. Also, I can't believe no one has mentioned Service Merchandise, which was outside of the JC Penney's parking lot and across the street from the old Silver Screen movie theater. While we're at it, what about the old outside movie theater at Cordova Mall that was across the food court parking lot, once upon a time? It was torn down in 2000, I believe. Now a small strip mall, OfficeMax, and Chick-fil-A are in its resting place. So sad..

  81. I just found this blog post, linked from the post about the Bristol Mall, near where I live now (which is now all but dead, with Sears closing next week and only 4-5 small places left).

    I was in P'cola during Ivan, and the game store (on the north end) I played HeroClix at had to close initially due to water, then had to stay closed due to damage Simon wouldn't fix. There was also a branch of a blood bank on that end. William Childers has now mentioned the Service Merchandise on the loop road, which was already closed when I went there in 2002, but it was still recognizable.

    And I highly doubt Sears is going to build anything there anymore.