Lakeland Mall, Lakeland, FL

Inside Lakeland Mall in 1972. Courtesy of State Archives of Florida.

Polk County’s first mall opened as the Lake Parker Mall when it was built next to a free standing Montgomery Ward store in August 1971. Developed by Miami-based Bob Howard and Associates, the $6 million, 400,000-square-foot shopping center was originally anchored by Montgomery Ward and Woolco. Other tenants included Super X Drug, Hi-Tide Fish and Chips, GNC, GallenKamp Shoes, Jean Nicole, an S.H. Kress 5 and 10, Winn-Dixie supermarket and Morrison’s Cafeteria. Suffering an identity crisis, it was renamed Lakeland Mall in 1974. The mall’s decline started with the closure of Woolco in 1983. Although replaced by Sam’s Club in 1987, the mall could not compete with the much larger Lakeland Square Mall, which opened in March 1988 at Interstate 4 and US 98. Soon both of its anchors, Montgomery Ward in 1991 and Sam’s Club in 1994, joined the retail vacuum to North Lakeland. After sitting vacant for years, the abandoned mall was acquired and retrofitted into a mega church called the First Baptist Church At The Mall in 1999.

Northwood Mall, Tallahassee, FL

Interior view at the Northwood Mall on opening day. Courtesy of State Archives of Florida.

Northwood Mall opened its doors to hundreds on September 20, 1969, as an enclosed mall experiment by Publix Supermarkets. The first and only mall developed by Publix, the 514,000-square-foot shopping center’s retail strategy was to fill it with local merchants to compete against regional malls catering to national chains. The two-story mall’s tenants included Publix, Eckerd Drugs, Mendelson’s Department Store, Gilberg’s Fabrics, Millers Bootery and up and coming small Florida chains such as Rheinauers, JByrons and Bealls. However, Northwood’s demise came quick with the 1971 opening of Tallahassee Mall and the arrival of Governors Square Mall in 1979. In addition, it didn’t help that the Publix store manager was also the mall manager. Coming to the conclusion that Publix grocery stores and enclosed malls went together like gasoline and bleach, Publix sold the center in 1983 and got out the enclosed mall business for good. As for Northwood, Tallahassee was too small to support three regional malls. By 1989, Northwood had been converted into an office park and renamed Northwood Centre.

Omni International Mall, Miami, FL

Guest dining inside of a restaurant at the Omni International Mall in 1978. Courtesy of State Archives of Florida.

Like many early Florida malls, Omni International Mall was built adjacent to an existing department store (Jordan Marsh). A creation of developer Thomas Cousins, the mall opened in February 1977 in Downtown Miami’s Omni District. Although anchored by Jordan Marsh and JCPenney, unlike most malls, it was designed as a multiple level mixed-use complex featuring 115 retail shops, office and hotel space. It also included an indoor theme-park with a 2-story Italian-designed carousel, a two-level disco and a six-plex AMC theater. Never as successful as South Florida’s suburban malls, Omni’s fortunes turned for the worse after the bankruptcy of Jordan Marsh in 1991. By the time JCPenney left in 1998, most of the mall was already vacant. In 2000, the mall closed for good. Since that time, a portion of the former shopping complex has been converted for use by the Miami International University School of Art & Design and Crystal Cruises.