Tuesday, January 4, 2011

The Death of Shannon Mall: Union City, GA

Shannon Mall was a mall I hoped I would never have to revisit, but I knew I would eventually after my last trip.  I came to recognize that it was one of two malls in the city headed for death within a year, and that is why I took a trip last April to the mall to check up on it to see how it was doing since my overly optimistic post I did in 2009.


Since my 2004 and 2009 photo sets of Shannon Mall, I took one more set of photos on the 2010 trip where I arrived on April 22nd.  I knew it was bad news the minute I saw an "Under New Management" banner outside.  Since when does a WHOLE MALL get that banner?  The mall by then was in a dreadful state with no security, most of the stores gone and an interior beginning to show signs of disrepair.  The mall closed this fall after the owner failed to pay the power bill, and now it is in foreclosure.  On the heels of this, Macy's is now leaving the mall with Sears the only store remaining.  The article posted here claims that "they do not remember another mall closing in Atlanta".  I guess they never noticed when either Cobb Center and Avondale Mall closed down, but as both were 1960's archaic centers it was easy to overlook.


Looking along the wing that was sealed off for several years toward Maxx Fun, which is now closed and opened as Mervyn's, later JCPenney.  In the first pic, it is center court.  Note that despite the condition of the mall the fountain was still fully functioning.


 The lights were still on then, but climate control was non-existant in the doomed mall in the most dead wing.


The old JCPenney wing had the most deterioration as evidenced by the crumbling ceiling tiles from the leaking roof. 


A last (and final) look at the old JCPenney/Mervyn's wing.

Shannon Mall was attacked on every front: Arbor Place took the core of its market in 1999, Ashley Park, a lifestyle center, took the last shoppers from Newnan and Coweta County and Camp Creek Marketplace nabbed the urban clientele as well as much of the inline shops.  Since Macy's opened at Arbor Place in 2004 and Sears opened with the mall in 1999, there was not much of a reason for either store to remain.  I posted in the past a far more optomistic outlook than reality held, and now only Sears remains.  As the smallest mall to open in the 80's in an area that first never really took off then later declined, it did well to last barely over 30 years.


Dead storefronts were abounding in the mall.  Here is a former Zale's Jewelrers.


Finish Line Shoes is out for lunch.  We will be back...never.


The old Davison's/Macy's closed in 1999, and nothing here has changed in that time span.   Note the green stain on the brick where the roof leaked inside the wall.


More dead storefronts.  These were all on the Macy's wing since what few stores remained were mostly around Sears.

Shannon Mall, renamed Union Station, has had its share of abandoned elements for quite awhile.  A movie theater on an outparcel closed and was abandoned for several years before becoming a church.  The original Macy's, located in what opened as Davison's, has been closed for 12 years and is now showing signs of disrepair.  Maxx Fun, a desperate attempt to reopen the dead wing and fill the old JCPenney, failed about a year after opening.  Every chain store was gone from the mall by the time I arrived.  Redevelopment plans also evaporated along with the local economy, which was hit hard by the housing bust.  The mall is also closing just as the mall that effectively replaced it is now struggling, Arbor Place.  Needless to say, the mall's last owner, Union City and surrounding businesses will all be hurt as this mall fades into history.  Hopefully few more in the area will meet this fate anytime soon.  RIP Shannon Southpark Mall.


One last (and full) view of the rather elaborate and cheerful skylights in center court.   This was cutting edge design when the mall opened.


"Union Station" Mall's map was already out of date showing MaxxFun.  Note the configuration of the foodcourt on the southwest wing.


 Walking into the Food Court.  Chick-Fil-A used to be on the right.  They closed just before I arrived.


Bruster's hangs on in the Food Court.  It is a regional ice cream chain found across the Atlanta metro.


What remains in the Food Court are the kind of restaurants that you would normally find haunting old Long John Silvers locations that close as quickly as they open.


Piccadilly, formerly Morrison's, always seems to thrive in dead mall locations.  As you can see, this one was hanging on until the very end.  This is why you will NEVER see them in nice areas again.


 Maxx Fun became Maxx Dissapointment...or should I say Maxx Fail?


 This mall entrance was to the JCPenney/Maxx Fun wing with Maxx Fun on the left.


Davison's here looks especially abandoned and creepy now after 12 years of rotting.  It was the only two-level anchor at the mall, and I would have given anything to go inside.


Mall entrance on Sears wing and Sears to the right.


Sears is sadly reminding me so much of Montgomery Ward.  Here it sits at a mall that is now dead and gone as the last anchor standing like Wards was famous for in the early part of the last decade.  It will doubtfully remain long as Sears itself is struggling to survive for much of the same reasons Montgomery Ward is in the retail graveyard.

32 comments:

  1. The interior was really nice, save for the cheesy lighting "upgrades," but the anchors were kinda dull, except for Davison's, which was neat in its own way..

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  2. The spokesbot for "The Shopping Center Group", which seems to be leasing rep, neglects the various malls decline in ATL, as well as the older ones that closed. But, then his job is probably to say everything is rosy even if his clients can't even keep a GNC. This isn't much of a surprise. the overbuilding of malls seems to play out differently everywhere--places with a lot of underachieving malls like Atlanta and other places with actual dead (and often long gone) malls). How is Southlake doing? I thought that was the nearest competitor? I thought Arbor Place had benefited from the decline of Shannon and the struggles of Cumberland.

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  3. Bruster's isn't just in the metro Atlanta area; I've seen them all over Georgia.

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  4. Arbor Place when I did that post seemed to be doing fine, but I knew trouble was on the horizon when I observed the poorer urban clientele and read commentary online about the shoplifting problems the mall was having. The problems for the mall are a recent phenomenon that is a culmination of several factors including shunning of the mall by upper middle class white shoppers, the fact that the housing crisis in the area is more severe and the construction of lifestyle centers in Newnan and West Cobb, which helped siphon off traffic otherwise.

    Southlake is a solidly urban mall now, and it caters exclusively to that demographic. The mall has held its own and stays very crowded, but the area around it is hurting and the old Davison's/Macy's has never been filled. Arbor Place may head in the direction of Southlake, but being more remote and competing with a mall in Oxford, AL (Quintard, which I covered) for those on the fringes, Lenox and the Cobb malls, time will only tell which way it goes.

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  5. Shannon Mall was simply built in the wrong place. While it was at an I-85 exit, the surrounding area had always been decidedly gritty in nature. The nearby towns - Fairburn, Union City, and Palmetto - weren't large enough places to create a presence of any sort, and the mall was built with the "if we build it, they will come" approach. They didn't come. The closest desirable growth on the southside in the 80's occured in the Fayetteville/Peachtree City area, and Newnan/Senoia got discovered in the mid-nineties. All of these places were at least 15 minutes from Shannon Mall, and the general attitude was that Southlake was the more desirable mall, so they drove an extra ten minutes to Morrow. The area around Southlake also was far more developed than that at Shannon.

    A cultural sidenote...Fayetteville/Peachtree City was home to a large number of folks who had joined in the "white flight" from the south Fulton area around East Point, College Park, Fairburn, and Hapeville. They weren't going go to back where they came from to go shopping.

    It will be interesting to see if Macy's will build at the available anchor spot at Ashley Park in Newnan. This center is slowly filling up with national and regional tenants, and Macy's would be a good addition to Dillard's and Belk's.

    As for the original Davison's/Macy's store...it seemed huge for this mall, as well as for the area. It wasn't just that it was two levels, but it also had a large footprint. It was obviously opened to be a full-line store. The Rich's/Macy's building was the exact opposite. Rich's built the Shannon Mall store, as well as the Century Plaza store in Birmingham, as a sort of experiment for smaller stores. No other small stores of this type were ever opened.

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  6. This is the only major mall in Atlanta that I never went in. I had always thought it was a two-level mall, but I was mistaken.

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  7. I am a former employee of Maxx Fun, the center was open for 3 years and only closed after the owner passed away and the economy took a downturn. The mall management tried a hostile take-over in 2009 and forced the owner of the equipment to close the center.

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  8. Unfortunate, as I thought that Shannon Mall/Union Station had a nice interior (for a mall of its type); clearly money had been sunk into renovations in the mall not long ago.

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  9. While it is very true that Shannon Mall was unfortunately built in an area that never took off economically,I personally remember when there did seem to be hope for the area,and I have some fond memories of the mall in the early 80s when it did seem to be on the upswing.I think it was just a little too much to reach for,though,to expect an area that just a few short decades before was practically rural,undeveloped and not well-off to become the next hot spot.I frequent the area Wal-mart and even in the decline of what never really was,the too-high hopes of the 80s-early 90s somehow seem to linger.
    R.I.P,old pal.

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  10. Shannon Mall one level design holds more in common with the smaller regional malls from the same time frame found outside metro Atlanta, such as Walnut Square in Dalton, a 1980 opening also. The only distinction was having Rich's and a 2-level Davison's.

    JCPenney has been long gone from Shannon/Shannon Southpark/Union Station, joining closings at Greenbriar,South DeKalb, and Cumberland and just announced for Gwinnett Place and Southlake Malls.

    As a local commercial corridor and service exit for I-85 travelers the Shannon Mall/Union City exit is still viable, but was never a regional draw. Having a revolving identity crisis of one name replacing another never really helped the situation. Shannon Southpark never caught on as a name despite its more regional sounding air and Union Station seemed a misnomer for a suburban mall.

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  11. One correction Ken, it is not the JCPenney at Gwinnett Place closing...it is the home store. Otherwise, I could not agree more with what you say. BTW, Walnut Square seems to be really struggling these days. Most of its problems seem to start after 2005...what exactly went wrong?

    I also would love to know the origin for the "Shannon" name. Union Station was just corny for a dying mall even though it would have been a good name to start with. It was as bad as "Four Seasons Mall" was for Cobb Center.

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  12. The vacant Goody's at Walnut Square has been filled by The Rush fitness center, not exactly the type business that will bring shoppers to the mall no matter how popular The Rush may be.
    CVS held onto the old Revco in the mall until last year, finally moving out to a freestanding store. Carmike Cinemas 8 has left to open as Carmike 12 in a freestanding outparcel of the mall. The conversion of Proffit's(nee Loveman's) to Belk for Home and Kids has seen lacklaster results and the store appears a bit tired, though the original Belk is faring well. JCPenney is still doing well, and Sears chugs along. Books-A-Million has opened as an inline tenant, returning a bookstore to the mall. No music stores remain and several local stores are found in the mall, many of which cater to the local Hispanic population.

    The anchors tend to be shopped solely for their own business and their shoppers rarely enter the mall, and mall customers rarely enter the anchors. A common problem at many malls today. Aldi is taking an outparcel formerly housing the local Chrysler/Dodge dealership.

    Walnut Square's distance from I-75 led to Morrison's and Piccadilly declining to join the mall when it opened, and ultimately the distance from I-75 seems to have become a bigger obstacle. The best demographics for the local populace are also near I-75, but little available land pushed the mall eastward, which was seen as beneficial to drawing from Blue Ridge, Ellijay and Jasper back in 1980. Walmart's relocation from Walnut Crossing in 1994 to a Supercenter seems to have pulled the less well to do customers while Hamilton Place and Town Center appeal to Dalton's wealthier consumers.

    Like Shannon/Union Station, a growing reputation as a "ghetto mall" never helps, but for now all 5 anchors are filled. BTW, the pad that The Rush and previously Goody's occupy was originally intended for Miller's as their 2nd Georgia location, but never materialized, by the time the Hess' buyout occurred, and then the sale to Proffit's, it appeared the site would stay empty. As to why Stage didn't attempt to open a Peebles or its revived Goody's store there is a mystery. Goody's had always done well in Dalton right up until the end.

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  13. This is a sad chapter to a once great mall. This mall at one point gave Greenbriar Mall, a run for its money but Greenbriar still thrives and they just recently celebrated their 45th Anniversary. Union Station turned 30 last year to little to no fanfare as evident by a previous posting to another entry.

    A typical build it and they will come theory. Unfortunately, it never came. As you can see, the back area of the mall was destined for office space starting with the lonely office tower near the interstate. The reps for the office building stated that the original owners of the building had plans to build more office space but the demand was never there. The building often struggled to keep tenants. The area around the mall lack other amenities for a mall corridor. The restaurants were not there (no Ruby Tuesday, Red Lobster, Olive Garden and the list goes on). Buffalos Cafe attempted to operate in the mall but left as quickly as they opened as there were not enough customers to support the costs.

    The Toys R Us building (also owned by the owners of Union Station) remained vacant despite an upgrade to attract larger retailers, the original Macy's building never found a serious buyer (nor any interested people since it closed in 1998). Given the condition of the building, it may have to be razed now.

    Maxx-Funn was supposed to come back with a new owner and new look but Union City government was slowing that down with their dumb laws and regulations.

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    1. The Toys R Us building could not be occupied because the extent of renovations required bringing the building up to modern code, Lee tried getting away with thickening the slab as required, by failing to do so he could not get occupancy permits to allow tenants to move in.

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  14. We used to take my grandparents here to eat at Morrison's all the time back in the 80s. They lived in Tyrone. Wandered that mall as a kid for many years. Too bad. Eventually we ended up driving down to Newnan to eat/shop. They could do their shopping at the Kmart and Goody's on Bullsboro and get everything.

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  15. Those 'dumb laws and regulations' was really that the city would not issue any new building permits or business licenses until lee najjar (mall owner) paid the $300,000 he owed in property taxes on the mall. Jamal Lewis had already signed contracts and was going to be the owner of the new maxx fun. It wasn't just a power bill issue although as a mall tenant at the time of closing, that 4 or 5 hour warning we got really sucked.

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  16. My memories of this mall are minimal, but I'm sure I spent a lot of time shopping there, but my main memories of the area are the movie theatre and nightclub outside the mall. Living in PTC in the early '80's at the time with no theaters and nightclubs, I blew plenty of time and $ at the theatre and the club which was called Spinners at the time. Many many fun times there.....It seemed as late as the mid to late '90's that Spinners was packin' em in......now live out of state and have not been to the area in 15 years....was aware of the decline of the area but the closing is still a surprise.

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  17. Clearly ,someone wasn't paying their bills!

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  18. Kid who grew up in the 90s here. The last time I recall going to this mall was for either a Radio Disney event,or an Alice in Wonderland themed event. We didnt have much money growing up,so my mom would take us to free events that were held here every so often. When I turned 12(Im 23 now),we moved to Douglasville and began shopping at Arbor Place instead. Interestingly enough,the pictures here arent looking too familiar to me. So either a lot had changed,or my memory is failing me. And Im not one who forgets details easily. I can recall almost every single aspect of the interiors of my childhood schools. Oh well. Its still quite sad to see it go this way.

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  19. It's a little heartbreaking to see this mall go. I grew up in College Park, Ga. I am currently in college in TX, but my family still owns my childhood home which is only a 5 minute drive from Shannon Mall. I remember when Toys R Us was in that area. I also remember the going to the movies in that movie theater that is now a church. That mall was a major part of my childhood. When I came home last December for Christmas break I was very sad to hear about it closing down. But seeing the pictures inside the mall after the lights have been turned off is a bit jarring. I grew up in that mall and it will be missed.

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  20. I worked at the Bookland store in Shannon Mall for a year from 1987-88 (my senior year of high school). It was in the Macy's wing about halfway down on the right (a few stores up from the Record Bar). I lived in Fayetteville and a number of my classmates also worked at Shannon Mall. It wasn't nearly as "cool" as Southlake, but it was closer. It also helped that there were two movie theaters next door to the mall, so a Friday/Saturday night out usually began cruising Shannon Mall, eating at the Chick-fil-a or Orange Julius and then going to see a movie. Misty, water-colored memories...

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  21. I worked in Maxx Fun from the day it opened until it's demise in 2009. The failure of the business had nothing to do with the mall itself (infact the business had planned to double in size, taking the whole wing of the mall up until 2008. In 2008 the owner of the business passed away, then the mall ownership did an illegal hostile takeover of the business in 2009(had maintenance change the locks on the building and claimed the mall owner now owned the business), forcing the real owners of the equipment to get a court order to pull everything out.

    As for the condition of the mall, from what i understand talking to people in the know, it will cost more to renovate the existing mall to get a new occupancy permit than it would to raze the place.

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  22. Wow. It is so hard to believe Shannon Mall is gone. When Maxx Fun opened, i took my kids there every weekend. I took my brother to a men's store there to pick out his very first grown-up suit. LOL. I moved to Louisiana five years ago, and thought I'd be visiting the mall when i take a trip to Atlanta next year. Guess I was mistaken.

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  23. I lived nearby and shopped there for several years. It once had really nice shops. Still have a nice chair I bought from The Bombay Company. Later, I worked at Buffalo's Cafe for a short stint. Sad to hear it closed.

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  24. I remember going to Shannon Mall a few times when I was a kid growing up in the 1980's. I always thought that the mall was kind of boring even back then. Nearby Southlake Mall in Morrow was a little more interesting.

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  25. My first job was at the Rich's there (2000). My older sister's first job was at a shoe store there called the Cobbie Shop(~1991). This was never my favorite mall in the Atlanta area (That award will always be held by Lenox Square), but it was the closest to where I grew up (Fayette Co.). I remember the original Chick-fil-A decor, Tilt Arcade, the Rolling Pin, Florsheim Shoes, the two-level Macy's, a pet store with puppies in the window near the Rich's, my first hair cut(not done by mom) at Hair Classics, Turtle music store, etc, etc. I definitely remember it's heyday, but knew it was a bad sign when Macy's left and nothing filled its place.

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  26. Im old school, my first memory of shannon mall was going to the movie theater behind it in 1980 to see flash gordon when I was in the 4th grade. My mom would buy my jeans at the gap in the early 80's back when the gap sold levis, lee jeans, and wranglers as well as their own gap brand jeans, which were the least desireable at the time. K&B toys was a favorite of mine. in the mid 80's they built a new wing and built a mervyns store. Mervyns was the place we youth would buy our bugle boy pants. I owned several pair of penny loafers in the 80's all bought from florsheim shoes. But alas nothing can last forever. The area never developed a thriving dinning area or up scale off site shopping district to tie into the mall.

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  27. This is 2013 and I still miss Shannon Mall. I shopped there and also worked at Rich's. I took my children there for school clothing many years ago. It was a beautiful place and holds many memories. I passed by the mall the other night driving to Fayetteville and my heart was saddened as I passed it, remembering how it used to be lit up with lights, cars, and shoppers on summer evenings. Sorry to see the mall go. How I wish someone would buy it and reopen it again. What do you do with old malls?

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  28. I worked at Shannon one summer in high school soon after it opened. York Steak House, anyone remember that restaurant? We lived near Riverdale, and were halfway between Shannon and Southlake and would shop at both. Shannon was easier to get to traffic-wise, so if you needed to run to the mall for something quick, it was the place to go. To answer the earlier poster abouth the name: The area between I-85, Jonesboro Rd and Flat Shoals Rd was initially planned to be a large mixed use project called Shannon. Roads, along with a small amount of office/residential were built, but as previously stated, "bulid and they will come" was the thought about the mall. Once the mall opened, other commerical properties were developed, but very little office or residential came about. IIRC, the developer of the mixed use project went bankrupt.

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  29. Just saw this article in the AJC this morning. Looks like the mall will be torn down in the next few months to become mixed use office space, with the potiential for commercial and residential.
    http://m.ajc.com/news/business/shannon-mall-to-be-demolished-for-new-office-park/ndXdm/

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  30. Like Phoenix Rising, in the Feb. 2014 ice storm, Shannon Mall became the staging place for hundreds of power company vehicles, emergency vehicles, and GEMA resource vehicles, from all over the southeast and more. We could hear the drone of diesel motors throughout the nights. Thanks guys and gals. Makes me proud!

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