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OUR Tallahassee Mall
Tallahassee Mall opened in 1971 with three anchor stores - Woolco, Gayers and Montgomery Ward (it's likely today's generation wouldn't recognize any of those names). Now, over 40 years later, the mall struggles to survive, following foreclosure in January 2011 due to debt exceeding $55 million. There are mixed opinions among locals about what should be done with it. Should we fight to save this once-landmark shopping center that has become fraught with problems? Or should we cut our losses and make better use of the large plot of land conveniently located near I-10 on a main artery into the heart of the city?
There's no arguing that Tallahassee Mall isn't what it used to be and has at the very least suffered a decline in its offerings. The mall has even earned a spot on a website called deadmalls.com. The mall currently lists it "key retailers" as AMC 20 Theatres, Barnes & Noble, Cold Stone Creamery, ROSS, Sports Authority and Victoria's Secret.
Some blame Feldman Mall Properties, Inc. for the mall's decline since it bought the shopping center in 2005 from Jones Lang LaSalle and subsequently invested little in physical improvements, failing to live up to the real estate company's own motto of "Moving Malls to the Head of the Class." Or perhaps Tallahassee Mall's true enemy is purely competition, dating back to the opening of Governor's Square Mall in 1979 on the other side of town.
Then there's a "chicken-and-egg" type of issue regarding the people who walk the halls of the mall on a daily basis with little or no intent of making purchases with the exception of an occasional snack from the food court. Many shoppers complain that the mall has become a haven for teens/young adults who use the mall as a hang-out causing trouble and driving away well-intended patrons with foul language and disruptive behavior. Many malls experience this to some extent, but it appears to have risen to intolerable levels to many local shoppers. So, which came first -- the decline of the mall, or the deviant free-loaders? And wouldn't the mall's closure likely just drive these teens to Governor's Square Mall instead?
There's also the issue of repeated store closures and great decline in the mall's offerings to shoppers. Store-owners withdraw from a location ultimately because they can no longer afford the rent either due to issues with their own business model or a lack of sufficient patronage at that location. When large, national chain stores that thrive elsewhere pull out of a mall, it begs the question of what problems with the location are driving away reputable stores. If the movie theater didn't exist at Tallahassee Mall, how would that affect the mall's overall foot traffic?
Photo credit: Andy Callahan
Tallahassee Mall has experienced ups and downs during its 40+ years, including a long struggle for financial stability, as well as difficulties in attracting and maintaining both tenants and customers. The local community is divided on whether this failing shopping center is worth saving, or if that's even possible.