Florida State College at Jacksonville (FSCJ) Deerwood Campus occupies the former Grand Boulevard Mall in Jacksonville’s Southside.

Grande Boulevard Mall was designed as a two-story, 289,000-square foot structure featuring 65 retailers with glass-enclosed escalators wrapped around an 80,000-square foot Jacobson’s department store. Expecting that retail sales would average between $225 and $250 per square foot in sales or twice the national average, the mall never caught on with Jacksonville residents, closing 11 years after its grand opening.

In 1994, ownership sold the mall to Florida State College at Jacksonville (FSCJ) for $4 million. FSCJ would go on to convert the dead mall into a satellite campus. Across the country, the trend of converting retail space into educational uses continues to pick up steam. Former department stores have become a popular alternative for charter schools, seeking to save money on construction costs. In Chubback, Idaho, a former Sears in Pine Ridge Mall has been repurposed as the Gen Prep Pocatello charter school. In Idaho Falls, another former Sears is being converted into the Alturas International Academy. Anchoring the Grand Teton Mall, the conversion of the former 70,000 department store includes the transformation of the parking lot into an outdoor play and recreational area for students.


Characterized as large sites with mix of buildings and a sea of parking lots already over designed for Black Friday shopping, malls and retail centers are being repurposed into mixed-use developments that include everything from religious centers, hotels and gyms, to restaurants, office spaces and multi-family living. The Winter Park Mall was one of the earliest centers to go through this transformation in the late 1990s.

Opening its doors in 1964, with JCPenney and Ivey’s as its original anchors, Winter Park Mall was one of Greater Orlando’s first enclosed shopping malls. The proliferation of larger, newer malls throughout Central Florida led to the shopping center’s demise, culminating with the departure of both of its anchor stores by 1999. While most of the mall was razed and replaced with a lifestyle center called Winter Park Village, the former Dillard’s (Ivey’s) store was retrofitted into a mixed-use structure featuring retail on the lower level and 58 loft apartments on the second level.

Article by Ennis Davis, AICP. Contact Ennis at