Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Pinellas Square Mall/Parkside Mall: Pinellas Park, FL

Across the entire nation, few places have had a mall purge as pronounced and extreme as Pinellas County, FL.  Since the late 1990's, six malls have faded and died in what is otherwise one of the most populous and prosperous areas of Florida.  In fact, Pinellas County has nearly a million residents making it more populous than seven US states!  Nevertheless, the big mall purge has left only two active malls in the county, which makes up the peninsula that includes Clearwater and St Petersburg.  Pinellas Square Mall, last known as Parkside Mall, is not one of those malls.

Pinellas Square Mall opened on April 13, 1977 joining the ranks of six other malls in Pinellas County including two which had opened a few years before in 1974.  At the time it opened, it was the newest major mall in the county.  Despite being in a good location at Gandy Blvd (FL 694) and US 19 in a fast growing, high population county the area was already being overwhelmed with malls.  It seemed at the time that every municipality in Florida wanted their own mall not just as a tax base but also as a "downtown" since suburban Florida in the 70's pretty much lacked any other form of central business district due to the lightning fast sprawl that took hold in the decades prior. 

This is a view entering the mall from a lower level entrance wing.  The first photo shows the center court, which was drastically modified from the original mall.  Something tells me that used to be Morrison's Cafeteria on the left.  Morrison's was gone in 1995, and that was about the time this mall was already in the toilet.  This and all photos by id780 taken March 9th and 10th, 2004.

Another view of the same area.  Photo by id780.

In the main mall, a very 70's method of escalators is used: up or down escalators no where near each other separated away from center court.  The malls that still have these as a whole are not doing very well.  Photo by id780.

Staircase with spooky abandoned store in the background.  Photo by id780.

GNC: always the last to turn out the lights when the party is over.  Photo by id780.

The mall was 70% leased when it closed, but much of those leases were filled by local shops such as this.  When a mall talks about bringing in "more local stores" that is code for "we're losing national retailers and failing".  Photo by id780.

Like so many malls that ultimately failed, Pinellas Square lacked any other draw but the mall itself.  When it opened, it had three anchors: JCPenney on the east end, Ivey's on the north end and Montgomery Ward on the west end.  It was hard to make the mall stand out when none of those anchors featured was a local store.  Having Maas Brothers or Burdine's there would have helped for sure.  This seemed to be a problem with DeBartolo malls as a whole: the fact they tended to choose terrible anchors.  Regency Mall in Augusta, GA is the most glaring example of how far DeBartolo could go astray.  The mall was also a pretty typical DeBartolo mall with lots of plain white, trees, built-in planters and fountains.  The mall also originally featured sculptured water animals in the fountain in center court, which appeared to look like flamingos in a pond.  I also noted that the mall has very little natural light, which I am sure did not help its appeal.  About the only thing that truly stood out about Pinellas Square was that it was a two level mall in a region where one story malls seem to dominate.

This JCPenney outlet mall entrance rocks my world.  It is about as dated as you can get right down to the diagonal wood and blonde brick.  Those neon strips on the ceiling were an interesting way to bring a 90's flair to a mall still basically in a bad time warp.  Photos by id780.

For some reason, the wood paneling doesn't show up on the second floor, but it looks a lot more spooky from this angle, especially with the letters burned out on the sign.  Photo by id780.

A random view along the second floor.  Notice the total absense of skylights.  This mall was way too dark.  Parkside Mall should have been nicknamed "Darkside Mall".  Photo by id780.

A random second floor shot approaching the neon-filled center court and ice rink.  Photo by id780.

This is hilariously corny...or should i say sticky sugary sweet?  The excitement is building...a new shopping center when they tear this dump down?  Photo by id780.

While Pinellas Square is gone today, it was not an innocent bystander in the great Pinellas mall race.  Another older mall was located very close by known as Gateway Mall.  Opening less than 10 years before, the older mall clearly catered to a slightly different demographic but it was without doubt that Pinellas Square had at least some affect on the mall.  Gateway was eventually torn down in 1998.  In the previous year, Pinellas Square received its final renovation after being purchased by John Hancock Insurance.  The renovation replaced a more standard center court with an ice rink and added a movie theater with stadium seating in 2001.  This is when the mall was also renamed Parkside Mall (actually ParkSide Mall, but I don't care for that spelling).

Looking down from the top floor.  Despite their best efforts to remodel, I think they actually made the mall look worse than it did when it opened.  Photo by id780.

Here are a couple rink area views.  Note the mall's logo in the ice.  Photos by id780.

This dark, spooky corridor ends at what was once Montgomery Ward.  Unfortunately, no close-up is available of the mall entrance.  Photo by id780.

Mall guide sign near the old Wards entrance.  Dillard's was already gone when this was taken.  Photo by id780.

The of the last things to open at the mall and the only thing still standing.  This spot, however, is most definitely different looking now and likely outside.  Photo by id780.
When a mall is renamed, it is never a positive sign.  It usually suggests that the owners are desperate to mask a badly tarnished reputation caused by a negative public perception.  The perception was due to vacancies creeping higher starting in the early 1990's.  The St. Petersburg times noted this in an article published in January 1993 that Christmas there was not so jolly the previous year as about 12 store fronts went dark afterwards.  By then, the mall was beginning to struggle noticeably, and it became clear in 1997 when Montgomery Ward closed its store at the mall in its first round of closings before the big 2001 liquidation.  Hot on the heels of Montgomery Ward's departure was JCPenney, who announced in December 1998 that it was downgrading its store to an outlet, which opened in early 1999. Darcy's Clothing Outlet, a local outfit, also took over the Montgomery Ward space for awhile.

Views from the second floor including a mom 'n' pop "Optical Outlet" that apparently used to be Pearle Vision Centers.  Photos by id780.

I'm not exactly positive what I am looking at here, but I know it's on the second floor.  Photo by id780.

A couple retro storefronts.  Photo by id780.

Side view of the one-way escalator.  Since the mall is void of people who knows if it's up or down.  There is no way to find out anymore.  Photo by id780.

I cannot quite place what this was, but it looks like food.  Arby's? Checkers?  Photo by id780.

To all appearances, Pinellas Park Mall never really did catch on.  Their problems simply went from bad to much worse in the late 1990's but became terminal when unbeatable competition opened in Tampa.  The only previous competition was older Westshore Plaza, and the two malls at that point seemed to compliment each other.  This was not the case when International Plaza and Bay Street opened in 2001.  This super high end mall was very destructive in that several malls died because of it.  It is without a doubt that this mall along with expansions to Westshore Plaza had an effect.  Suddenly the 10 mile trek across the Gandy Bridge was even less appealing for South Tampa residents and the slightly longer trek back across the Frankland Bridge (I-275) was much more appealing for residents of St Petersburg.  Parkside Mall began to fail during this time.  In early 2004 Dillard's, which was Ivey's until 1990, closed.  This was the final nail in the mall's coffin.

A couple more views of the ice rink from the lower level this time.  Photos by id780.

Here, the photographer is walking along the Dillard's/Ivey's wing.  Photo by id780.

Considering that this used to be Ivey's, of course the mall entrance is classy.  Ivey's had pretty sleek looking stores even for the bland 70's modern era.  Photo by id780.

A side view of the Ivey's/Dillard's mall entrance and adjacent shops.  Note that this wing retains a few of the original planters.  Photo by id780.

The other end of this wing features the mall's elevator in a rather strange spot.  Most likely it used to be in center court.  Photo by id780.

In all, it still really does not completely make sense why Pinellas Park Mall failed the way it did.  I tended to believe there was something more to it, and what appears to be the most likely scenario is the age demographics.  Currently, nearly 50% of the population is over 45, this is about the only other possibility I can think of: that the mall was not able to draw the young crowd necessary to survive.  The only other possibility is that shoppers simply liked the older Tyrone Square Mall better.  Tyrone Square features more anchors than Pinellas Square ever had, and it is better situated not to compete with any of the Tampa malls meaning it likely had the better stores all along.

This view is looking back the way that id780 came in with the mysterious second run store (Morrison's?) on the right.  Photo by id780.

Dairy Queen/Orange Julius/Karmelkorn combination.  My mall used to have one of those, and it sadly closed a couple years ago.  The rainbow colored candy coated popcorn was fun, and who doesn't like Orange Julius?  I know you're out there but nobody understands you, either.  Photo by id780.

The 80's and 90's were big on color because the 70's were not.  I am sure the original entrance was probably just a box.  The entrance here remodeled to 1997 specs features a blend of mango and avocado colors, which would taste absolutely disgusting together.  Photos by id780.

JCPenney Outlet Store featuring palm trees, mildewed brick and some sort of see-through screen thingy that is not the worst I have seen them do.  People like warm tropical breezes.  So does mildew.  Photo by id780.

Whatever it was that killed Pinellas Square Mall, it was not entirely vacant when it was demolished.  A local developer purchased the mall in 2003, and his plans were set to demolish the mall before the mall closed on its own.  After Dillard's closed, the bulldozers arrived by May or June of 2004 and demolished all of the mall except for the nearly new theaters.  The mall was then converted to just a strip mall incorporating the mall's theaters into the center of the new development.  The new strip mall that took its place is known as "The Shoppes at Park Place" and feature stores such as Target, Marshall's, Michael's, Office Depot and Petco.  In all, it is just a typical modern big box strip center now.

Wards MORE than made up for Penney's lack of outlandish, imposing architecture that was dated by the day it opened on their store at the mall.  This relic was on the west end of the mall and somehow came back to life for awhile as a local clothing outlet.  Photo by id780.

The ghost of Wards visible through the mold says "boo".  Photo by id780.

I cannot deny I dig the way this place looks no matter how weird it is.  Photo by id780.

The photographer could not get enough of Wards.  I can't either.  Photo by id780.

Ivey's was quite interesting itself with this big arc-shaped side.  Apparently Dillard's saw no need to transform this store into their trashy stucco arch design they got hung up on in the 90's.  It was nice in the days that anchors mattered so much that each store looked different with a personality all its own.  Photo by id780.

I know this is not the original mall logo, but I like the whimsical style of it.  It at least portrayed a carefree, lighthearted side to the 90's.  Cheap gas would make you feel that way.  Photo by id780.

The demalling of Pinellas Square to a strip center joins the many other lost malls of the peninsula, and it serves as a painful reminder of the problems that come with overbuilding and rapid suburbanization.  Perhaps if Pinellas County had only had about three malls further apart from one another, they would all be thriving today.  It is clear it was just one of those malls that could never be saved and probably never should have been built.  Also see the YouTube video below published by id780 for more pics.

The photographer, id780 also published this YouTube video of the mall with his collection of still shots including some I did not publish here.


  1. Wow! This rocks. I've always wanted to know more about ParkSide.

    Shame the mall had to die: I heard that the neighborhood wasn't great, either. The Arby's/Checkers storefront, I'm 99.99% sure was a Chick-fil-A.

    1. It was. I worked at that mall for 3 years. I hated to see it close. LOTS of memories

    2. Yes I'm 100% sure the food place was Chickfila!!! I use to go with my aunt.

  2. Those old shuttered department stores and the JC Penney Outlet Store just rock my socks.

  3. Here's Chick-fil-A when it was open.

  4. I love the 'twist' on the architecture design of the time that Montgomery Ward did for this store location.

  5. Pinellas Square Mall was my favorite mall. My heyday there is from 1977 to 1982 when we moved to Orlando. The corner shop on the 2nd floor next to JCP was Video Corner, one of the first video stores around. I used to hang out there. They sure had a great selection. Next to where Ivey's was there was a stamp and hobby shop. I remember when the first giant robot model kit boom hit. There was a really good camera store near there too. In the center on the JCP side was a Circus World toy store. Near there was a Camelot Music. I think in between there was a card shop and a haunted house during Halloween. I met Dr Paul Bearer there. ALso near JCP was a Ponderossa steak house we ate at almost every Friday.
    On the upper level near Ward's was a record shop and I remember getting "Sesame Street Disco" there.
    There was a shop on the upper level that sold throwing stars.
    I skipped school to see Return of the Jedi opening day. There was an ice cream store on the opposite side of the theater.

    1. I think the place that sold throwing stars was "Shalimar". It was a jewelry place. My brother bought spiked wristbands there in 80s.

  6. i miss that mall and may it forever RIP but on the good side the movies is still there.

  7. There was a Ponderosa steak house here as well.l downdtairs by Otlrange Julius. A GTE (NOW Verizon) Phone Mart, Hot Sam, Eckerd Drugs and quite a busy mall stood here in the 80's. A 2 story mall tile floors and fountains by the staircases with copper statues inside (frogs shooting water out of mouth) with a Chi-Chis Mexican restaurant and Amaco Gas station on the north side. A Morrisons Cafeteria didbstand upstairs where the theatre is now and a popular remote control train game (coin operated) in the hall out frnt overlooking downstairs on the center of the mall that featured sky lights above, escaltors in the center. You could park upstairs at some sides entering on the second floor and drive aroind to enter downstairst on another side (rare in Florida) The original and prosperous mall had a high ceiling, bright and that later (in more desperate moves) featured a ice skating rink. Letbus not forget the arcade by Dairy Queen/Orange Julius, the train ride at Christmas and Leverocks at the SE corner of the parkwlot.

  8. used to hang out at this mall as a teen in the late 80s kinda sad to hear its gone. born and grew up in Pinellas Park off 86th and 52nd

  9. what was the name of that pizza place that was next to the lemonade and corndog place on the jcpenney side?

    1. That was "Scotto's Pizza." I loved getting pizza-by-the-slice there when I was a kid...

  10. I live only about a mile from Pinellas Square Mall in mid-80s and pretty much spent my entire summers there, I was around 9-10 years old. Me and my younger sister to walk there daily during the summer, we would go to the arcade and basically just watch people play since we didn't have any money. Also my favorite thing they had at the mall as the large model train display that would have been at the main north entrance near Montgomery Wards. If we had money we'd go to the movie theaters there, it was like $1 for a day movie then, and we'd sneak from theater to theater. As a kid that mall was huge, a full 2-stories from end to end and back then it was completely packed with stories and generally fairly busy, so there was always something to do. We moved away and I didn't go to the mall for a longtime starting around 1988 or so but I did revisit it around 2000 -- and what a disaster, you could clearly see it was on it's last leg which was very disappointing considering how fondly I remembered it.

  11. The escalators were originally side-by-side in the center court and where separated to opposite ends of the mall when the ice rink was installed in the 90's, so not a "very 70's" thing as the captions suggest.

  12. I am from the UK (Liverpool), and, as yet have never visited the US. I am really, really enjoying reading these posts as I also have an interest in the dead malls phenomenon. You cover the history of these places very thoroughly which I appreciate; the same thing is happening across the pond in a few malls I've visited.
    I was really taken with the Parkside neon logo and the whole look of the place. I adore bright colours which I know isn't everybody's choice but I thought the decor was pretty perfect in there. Mind you, I do collect 'novelty' lighting and would definitely have installed that sign on my wall! I too appreciate a good fountain in a mall and I'm a massive fan of retro design so this site ticks all the boxes for me. Sam

  13. I use to work in that mall for years at different stores intill the last days I work in dillards Jcpennys outlet store real deals and gift depot K&M steakout carlene research oringal cookie company and the last store was Almond house

  14. I remember there was the dollar movie theater (about 2 -3 screens) inside the mall that would show recently released movies and across 70th Ave street there was the bigger movie theater (now it's a business of some sort). When the Amtrak moved it's location from st Petersburg, it took up temporary location in the mall. It was the connecting but to tampa or Sarasota, depending which way you go. There was a Morrison's cafeteria as well as a hot sam's pretzels. The SPCA had an adoption center there for a while and Pinellas park library was there while the main library was undergoing renovations.

  15. I was the security director and later the operations manager of the mall until it closed. I grew up in Pinellas Park. I chased the girls through that mall and learned how to drive a car in the Ward's parking lot..... It is a piece of my history I will always miss and never forget.

  16. I played Santa there for the Malls's first Christmas. Even then, it was obvious that the mall couldn't compete with Tyrone Square.

  17. As a teen in the early 90s I would spend many a summer day wasting time and money in the arcade downstairs by the Orange Julius. I would play After Burner and Operation Wolf; my brother played a lot of Gauntlet. My first job was at the JC Penney, selling men's clothes. Since it was so close to home, my family did a fair amount of shopping there, but Tyrone and Westshore were more interesting and fun malls. I also learned how to drive in the Montgomery Ward parking lot! While our neighborhood was not bad or unsafe, it was not affluent enough to support a shopping mall. I still miss the yellow rice at Morrison's. Probably the food treasure in the mall was Scotto's Pizza - first place I ever ate a calzone. Great times, great co-workers, good memories.

  18. I moved here two years ago and keep hearing locals refer to Parkside Mall. It always confused me. Now I know. Glad you put this together, and I love your comments. Back in Charlotte, we had a Morrison's cafeteria -- a couple of them -- and it was good food in its heydey. We also had Eastland Mall, which saw the same fate as Parkside. Nevertheless, I am glad the Shoppes at Park Place are doing well, or so it seems. At least the movies and the Chipotle are doing well, and there are new restaurants going up in the area. We have a lot of low-rent housing in the area, though, and I don't know if the property can take this big growth when there is no much in the way of new housing and empty land in the area. Just where are the customers with cash going to come from?

  19. I lived in Pinellas Park from 1981 until 1988, and I LIVED at that mall. I could step out into the street in front of my house, look left, and I could see JC Penny from that very spot. Lots of my choir money was spent there. Because it was so close, and because it was a different time than now, it was NOTHING for myself, and my best friends to be at that mall all by ourselves. Crazy that it went under.I drive by the "old neighborhood" whenever I am in town, and I am immediately transported back in time. Back to the days, when the street lights were your time pieces. * thanks for the trip down memory lane!!!!

  20. The red and white store was a Chickfila!

  21. This is awesome. I worked at Pets A Rama and CHi chis. Best memories of my life. My buddy worked at Orange Julius.Met the first girl i ever dated at that mall. She worked at swansons ice cream. Such a trip. Saw it after they demolished it

  22. Thank you for discussing the great history of this mall. We were wondering if any of the department stores featured their own in-store restaurants through the years ? It would be so enjoyable to read about any details you might have to share ! (Example: Many larger Maas Brothers stores often featured SUNCOAST Restaurants which were full-service dining rooms in most cases presumably.) Again,we thank you for this great forum of discussion and look forward to more of your fabulous remembrances.

  23. Went here as a kid in the late '90s and early 00's. A lot of good memories, right up until they shut their doors to the public. I remember visiting that art store upstairs with my mother all the time, having lunch in the kid's area in front of JC Penny, as well as how overall dark the mall always was. Even saw Shrek there, before Muvico took over as our family theater of choice. Tyrone was the better mall but you can't argue with memories (We always called it the "Froggy Mall")

  24. I was the projection manager at RC theaters about two years before it closed down. My last trip there was in 2003 after my son was born in Aug. I was so upset the mall came down :( there was still a lot stores open when they closed it for good. Whats funny is I went there two years ago to the theater and Most of people I worked with and trained still working there LOL even that Regal bought the theater from Rc . some things don't change. And I worked the night crew in the mid 90's clean the floors ,bathrooms and all the windows " yeah that's a lot of windex LOL

  25. Interesting note I read in the paper when the mall was demolished. They spent $1,000,000 to haul in the dirt that was needed to bring the mall to two stories (enter on the 1st floor or 2nd depending on the side of the mall). The new developer had to spend $10,000,000 to remove the dirt when the strip mall was built.

  26. I lived within a mile of this mall. I remember when they opened up JC Penney in 1977 before the rest of the mall opened and we'd go to the glass doors that were the mall entrance and see the finishing up of the mall's preparation. My mother worked at Zondervan's Christian bookstore by the Ivey's (later Dillard's) entrance for many years. I saw Return of the Jedi in it's old theater as well as my 1st R rated movie, "Escape from New York". I worked in Montgomery Wards small electronics dept the Christmas season of 1990 hawking Sega game systems, and many boom boxes with MC Hammer's "please hammer don't hurt them" album on perpetual repeat. Played "Gyruss" video game in the arcade like a fiend for a while. Only the new movie theater remains of the old mall where you used to enter on the 2nd floor and take an escalator down to the theaters. Anyone who goes to the theater now... look up in the concession area... you'll see where escalators use to be in that, now odd, upstairs railed gallery.

  27. Wow, glad I found this - I have one especially fond and life-affecting memory of this place. My mother would always come visit her sister in May or June for a couple of weeks, and I would always come along since school was out for the summer. We came to visit in late May of 1977, the mall had opened just a few weeks before, my aunt lived only a couple of blocks from the Montgomery Ward end, I was 11 years old and my cousin Jimmy and I went to see Star Wars every day that I was in town. Some days we saw it twice or more - we'd come out, grab a corndog and lemonade at the little corndog shop, and then head back in for another viewing. The next morning, we'd get up early, run and grab a buggy from the grocery (Cash & Carry, I think) store parking lot, push it around the canals and parking lots picking up glass soda bottles, take them back and cash them in for the deposit, and then run back to the mall and start the Star Wars viewing all over again. I have seen every Star Wars film in a theater since, and I think of that week every single time. And to top it off, when we came back the following summer, Star Wars was still playing at the mall.

  28. I didn't spend as much time here as I did at other malls in the area, like Countryside or Tyrone (or Clearwater, when it was open). This mall was farther away for us, and my family was never particularly fond of it. My memories mostly exist from right before it was closed--I was in early elementary at the time.

    One of the few times I remember coming here was for a friend's birthday party, probably 2001-02 time frame, so right at its lowest point. We went ice skating in the ice skating rink (my first time skating--I remember we'd scrape the "snow" off our skates and throw tiny "snow balls" at each other before a worker told us to knock it off). I remember the majority of the mall being mostly empty by that point, a lot of dark, empty storefronts. I do remember being fond of the kind of kiddish, colorful theme, though--the neon lights, the cute, colorful images, the funky decor. But it just couldn't compete with the "nicer" malls in the area, especially ones that weren't so dark.

    Now, of course, it's a big, outdoor mall like what they did to Clearwater Mall. The new theater's huge--I saw the second Hobbit movie there a few years ago, and I knew plenty of people in my graduating class who worked there while we were in high school. They have some nice restaurants, too, like a BJ's, Cold Stone Creamery, and a pizza place that I can't remember the name of. Also had one of the first Pollo Tropicals in our area, before we got one in the new Seminole City Center.

    Thank you so much for the pictures,though. For a Florida girl who grew up around these old malls, it's a real trip down Memory Lane.

  29. Me and my now husband bought our promise rings they're when I was 15. Miss that place!