Pinellas Park Mall, Pinellas Park, FL

When DeBartolo’s Pinellas Park Mall opened on April 13, 1977 at US 19 and Gandy Boulevard, it was anchored by JCPenney, Ivey’s and Montgomery Ward and already in a region overwhelmed with malls.

The mall’s suffering kicked into high gear with the 1997 closing of Montgomery Ward. That same year, new owner John Hancock Insurance attempted to reverse the decline with a major renovation. Nevertheless, JCPenney converted its store into an outlet in 1999. The final nail in the coffin came with the departure of Dillard’s (former Ivey’s) in 2004. By that time, the mall’s named had been changed to ParkSide Mall. After Dillard’s closed, the shopping center was razed and the property was redeveloped into a 600,000-square-foot Target-anchored big box strip mall called The Shoppes at Park Place.

Tampa Bay Center, Tampa, FL

The final days of Tampa Bay Center. Courtesy of

Opening its doors on August 5, 1976, Tampa’s fourth major mall was developed by the Maryland-based Rouse Company. Known as the Tampa Bay Center, the 877,000-square-foot two-story complex was originally anchored by Burdines and Sears. In 1979, they were joined by Montgomery Ward. Located adjacent to Tampa Stadium, the mall’s management was accused of racism after it closed early to avoid being swarmed with fans attending the 1994 Florida Classic college football game between FAMU and Bethune Cookman (both historically black universities). Karma came a few years later with the 1999 closure of Montgomery Ward, Burdines leaving for the new Citrus Park Town Center and Sears heading to WestShore Plaza in early 2002. With no major department stores remaining, the shopping center was purchased by the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and demolished in 2005 to make way for a team training facility.

University Mall (University Town Plaza), Pensacola, FL

The redeveloped University Town Plaza. Courtesy of Realty Masters of Florida.

When University Mall opened in 1974, it instantly became Pensacola’s dominate retail destination, despite the presence of the then two-year-old Cordova Mall a few miles southeast. Its original anchors were JCPenney, Sears, and McRae’s first location outside of Mississippi. In 1994, Simon Properties acquired the successful shopping center. Unlike most malls on this list, University Mall died despite all of its anchors still surviving. After being significantly damaged by Hurricane Ivan in 2004, Simon decided to upgrade its other Pensacola mall at the expense of University. Plans were also made to convert the mall into an outdoor lifestyle center. Excluding the anchor stores, by 2009 all of the tenant leases had been terminated. In 2011, Belk (acquired McRae’s in 2006) relocated its store to Simon’s expanded Cordova Mall. Demolition of University Mall began in 2013. Big box space for Academy Sports+Outdoors, Burlington Coat Factory and Toys “R” Us were constructed in its place between the former mall’s JCPenney and Sears department stores.


Article by Ennis Davis, AICP. Contact Ennis at