Thursday, August 31, 2017

The Avalon, Alpharetta, GA

     Our next post leads us to The Avalon, a lifestyle center located off GA 400, in the affluent Atlanta suburb of Alpharetta. I - very clearly - hate all that the Avalon brings and its Millennial mecca that it has. It should have never been built and captures my love and attention as much as a, well, lifestyle center. But no, I have bottled up so much dislike against this certain shopping venue that this is essentially the vibe of this post. I'm usually fine, but there are certain cases where this is completely OK. Anyways, we will return to normal broadcasting following something most closely described as this. 

Electronic directories make this job much more harder. Can't we go back to like, 2007?

This angle is the tone of this post. I wasn't going to stand in the road for a few pictures. 
     What's really the bread and butter of this post is the lack of history here (built in 2014). There is also a lack of community too, huh. This is the problem with stuff like this, really no "Let's see who is there and people watch." Instead, you see just people going about in the hot sun, which is much less enjoyable. Or just head one exit south to North Point Mall, which has some weird hate around it for no apparent reason. Speaking of that, more hate on that post, which pretty much sums this one up. This is what happens when you have to make a post on something with no real history or much to say. Bye, for now. Enjoy the photos.

Monday, August 28, 2017

North Point Mall, Alpharetta/Roswell (Atlanta), GA

     Sometimes a city's best can be simply ignored as another mall that is simply doing well. It doesn't matter that the mall is becoming or will be upscale. It doesn't matter that this mall is an architectural beast, in more than one ways. It doesn't matter that there is a stupid lifestyle center an exit up that I hate more than much else. North Point Mall falls into this deep category that it shouldn't be in. North Point simply needs more respect and love in Atlanta, and there are serious reasons why.

We begin this rant-filled post with shots of the stunning Rich's/Macy's store at NPM. Reason numero uno to respect NPM. This Macy's store was very busy on the Saturday afternoon I visited the mall. This photo is of the interior RICH'SATLANTA clock. There is another clock of the same on the outside.

Main Macy's entrance with a Rich's labelscar beneath the sign. Yes, a very visible Rich's labelscar, after the chain's final phase twelve years to this post. 

The outside is filled with these engravings describing the history of the store. I am excited that Macy's never removed these vestiges following the chain's consolidation.
     While I would normally kick off a post with the history, I can't get this rant over me. The Avalon, a lifestyle center recently constructed an exit up GA 400, shouldn't have been built. All the yuppies moved into the apartments above the stores and apparently can't get off the center's back. A recent CBS 46 article reveals my cries - apparently some very irking shoppers are done with North Point. Those interviewed showed some very detailed thoughts. "It's just nice to walk around. They have good restaurants", said one questioned. I mean, I personally love walking in hot and humid weather during a baking summer, and then eating at restaurants that are found across the rest of the city. I see no reason to avoid NPM, giving that it is larger, much cooler, and bright enough to make you think you are outside. Another cited they only visited the Macy's if they had a coupon, because the rest of the mall is invisible? Most of the stores are exclusive to NPM, and aren't half-bad stores. And did I mention that the Avalon has zero anchors, and NPM has five? I see no advantage. So I end this with a call to General Growth. Please add a Nordstrom, Neiman-Marcus, Saks, Lord and Taylor, Bloomingdale's, or something more upscale. The surrounding demographics are absolutely insane, and would love these stores joined with the existing Von Maur. Capture the crowd needed to be captured. Give The Avalon the middle finger that it needs. Turn NPM into an upscale showcase filled with expensive wares. This would do miracles.

Is this not the most beautiful mall you've seen? It was bright enough that I actually had to be extra careful with my locations for photo-taking. If I took a photo in the sun, it came out weird. Normally I would be mad, but I love the architecture and hope it's copied elsewhere.
     North Point Mall was constructed on hopes and dreams that luckily came true. Constructed in 1993, the mall was located in an area consisting of mainly farmland and rural area, similar to what Mall of Georgia had to deal with in its opening six years down the road. This slowed down traffic for a while, enough that it could have been called a dead mall straight off the bat. This thought was pushed ahead farther when the original Mervyn's vacated its spot two years into operation. Fortunately, all other anchors remained. These other anchors were Lord and Taylor, JCPenney, Sears, and a stunning Rich's, to pay homage to the closed downtown flagship store that died two years before. This Rich's featured most of the mainstays of the downtown store, included with beautiful Greek-inspired landscaping on the outside. Also with the mall was an empty anchor pad, filled by Dillard's in 1996. Parisian filled in the Mervyn's space, which improved the mall with an upscale anchor. Around this time, growth kicked off in the area, and soon the Alpharetta area was very wealthy and populated. This came just in time, as the exciting Mall of Georgia opened up in Buford in 1999, with similar anchors and 400,000 more square feet. This made it the largest mall in Georgia, and a Southeastern draw.

First-floor mallway views. This is truly a shiny, stunning masterpiece with the beautiful architecture and modernity of its time beyond nothing else. 
     Even with a competitor on the rise, NPM kept steaming ahead. A minor renovation in 2003 still had the mall in favor. A small hit was taken when L&T vanished from mall maps and was subsequently replaced by Belk, which failed in 2009. This formed a big problem the mall needed to face, with Parisian now empty as of 2007 due to the Belk buyout. There were two vacant anchors, and following consolidation (that forced Rich's to become Macy's) there were less candidates for replacement. The solution was quick and simple. Parisian became an AMC theatre, and Atlanta's first Von Maur was opened in the Belk space. The new Von Maur was seriously beautiful, with a treatment similar to the Saks at Phipps. Included was a interior fa├žade of red brick, which while it would seem it would clash with the all-white interior, added a nice accent and some change in the mall. VM also brought another upscale anchor to the mall, to take advantage of the surrounding demographics. The aforementioned Avalon was opened in 2014, taking Apple, Pottery Barn, William-Sonoma, and GAP. Ugh.

The trusswork and skylights here are uncomparable. 

     While it doesn't seem like it, North Point is in the right position to beat the Avalon. In my circa-2021 plan, JCPenney becomes Nordstrom, Sears becomes Neiman-Marcus, and if needed, Macy's becomes Saks or L&T. Belk may work somewhere if it goes for an A-class Belk, like one found at Phipps. This would better fit the mall and the area and beat Avalon, which I hate with my life and passion. One of the entrances could become a Cumberland Mall-esque lifestyle area, with PF Chang's, Cali Pizza Kitchen, and lifestyle tenants to compete with the Avalon on a new stage. I mean, that's what they want right?

When the elevator moves, the Starbucks sign does too. That's some genius engineering.

Absolutely beautiful. Compliments the mall so well, and looks like a start to an upscale makeover.
     With all my hope and might, I very well want North Point to stay well and alive for years to come. Truthfully, I can't say I'm surprised with the love for Avalon, given that's the tendency of Atlanta shoppers, but this can be taken advantage of. The redev plan above is pretty much foolproof for sustained success, but the one problem would be bringing in the anchors. Von Maur is a start, and is attractive to more upscale stores. It's not going to be easy, but nothing is in the world of retail. But as so, the Avalon will learn that lesson too. :/

AMC with a children's play area in front.

The world will end whenever Sears makes a store look different than the plain tiled look. 

Here's the food court, with a carousel at the back. 

Friday, August 25, 2017

Sumter Mall/Jessamine Mall, Sumter, SC

     Between the loopholes of eclipses, move-in dates, and quick planning, I found myself in Sumter, SC, very unexpectedly. Of course, the city has a mall, so I had my priorities up quickly. This mall didn't disappoint, and I was happy with the plan. I found an alive small town gem with good business at an odd time of the day. Anyways, here at SkyMall, we hope you enjoy this very unplanned post on a very odd mall.

We begin this with two exterior shots. The mall is plain and small, and the Belk is origin-all? I'm trying to be creative here.
     The history of the mall is unique and interesting in many ways. It opened in 1980 as Jessamine Mall, "named for the state's flower," as called. The flower is actually the yellow jasmine, which through slang and the constitution, was called the jessamine by the developers. Leave it to rural SC to do that.

    The original anchors were Belk-Stroman, Capitol (Sumter department store, closed after two years), Wilson's (catalog store), and JCPenney. Wilson's was something rare for a smaller mall to see, being that with most people living nearby, they could go in and out easier. Capitol joined a list a stores that lost excitement after leaving downtown, and heavily declined. It would be interesting to see how life would have been if Capitol stayed in downtown, then left for Richland or Columbiana. Capitol instead closed after two years in operation. Only three years later, Wilson's was purchased by Service Merchandise which switched the Sumter store to their own. Columbia's own Tapp's chain entered the mall in 1986 via Capitol closing. In 1995, Tapp's went belly-up and closed their only store outside of Cola-Town. Another three years later, and Belk-Stroman became simply Belk. Sumter Mall was the only location ever for Mr. Stroman. The proverbial revolving door continued with the bankruptcy and shuttering of Service Merchandise in 2000. With two vacant anchors, one was replaced by Sears, and the other by Sykes Enterprises, a call center, in 2009. Apparently, Sears became Roses sometime between now and then. Roses is a Southeastern discount chain based in North Carolina. 

And here are some very exciting mall entrances. Said no one ever. To the left of Belk is an unconnected Belk Kids store. 

In Hull Storey Gibson malls you get a Hull-lot of carpet. And there will be a Hull-lot of puns in this mall.

So stop, read, and smell the Roses! Bwahahha!

The Sumter, SC photos and history throughout the mall is a sneaky way of covering vacant space. American Eagle would do well in that location.

Not much to be Syke-d about on this mall entrance, but they tried. 
     Aside from the history, there isn't much to be excited about elsewhere. The mall was purchased by Hull Storey Gibson in 2000, and renovated (or more fittingly, 'refitted') in 2002. Like literally every other Hull mall, fountains were stripped, carpet was added everywhere, and the mall lost its character. I can imagine center court being beautiful back in the day, but that is the opposite of today. Carpet and a semi-nice skylight/atrium fill up the court. It doesn't have the feel of a meeting place, but more like a place to sit down and people watch. If there is one thing that irks me about this mall, it's clearly the lack of color.

Looking out of Belk. To the left would be a good location for Shoe Dept., which is on an outparcel on the outside. Ross Dress for Less, Ulta Beauty, IHOP, maybe a local appliance shop, Michael's, and some local college shop would fit well in the eventual demise of JCPenney or the vacant space.

Chains still have a large presence here. Cato, on second thought, would also work somewhere. Vacant space has very little Foot-ACTION in a mall.

     At this point, Sumter Mall is in an odd position. It's been doing well for what it has to deal with, but who knows how sustainable this is. Sumter has a fairly strong, stable economy with Shaw AFB, general life jobs, parks, a growing population (over 60,000 people at the moment), and a few local colleges. This makes it unique in that the city has a decent future to see. The big problem is that Sumter isn't directly on I-95, which leads up to better malls in Florence, or bigger ones a couple hours away in Charleston. Only forty minutes west is Columbia, with strong retail, population, and a stronger economy. Sumter probably needs a mall, but the pickings are slim. If there isn't a quick fix whenever JCP closes, then Sumter Mall gets placed in a bad position (view up for store options, on third thought Burlington is preferable but would work). If the response is solid, then Sumter has a major shopping venue for years to come.

     If I were Hull, I would put a plan in place. This would include a new renovation, small expansion, and store options for vacancies. I wouldn't be afraid of doing something completely radical and different, as this often can work if pulled off correctly. I would advise as to not make stupid mistakes or go completely mindless. 

Jewelry World is one serious local shop. Looks pretty legitimate and has top-line jewelry. While I have a problem with mom & pops in city malls, it shows interest when placed in smaller town malls.

Main mall entrance with a few restaurants to the right. Sykes probably gets these eateries some business for lunch.

Here's the weird inline Belk Kids store. I have no problem with using vacant space, but I would have a problem fixing up the family's wardrobe.
     If there was one Hull mall to visit, I would probably go with Sumter. While I've only covered this one so far on this blog, it's one of the more successful ones. It has a future and interest. It's a sunny forecast for malls when there is cloudy for most. If you make a mall a destination, it brings people. If you make a mall look like a guest bedroom, you deal with the consequences. I seriously hope Hull is listening and takes my advice. That is probably not the case though.

Sumter teens enjoy the options of Rue 21, given that Belk or Penney's are the other main options. 

Yes, there is a CFA here. Clearly something went right.

How nice would a grand fountain look here?

Books-a-Million is great to see here. Once a Waldenbooks, small town mall bookstores bring another group of people to a mall. If you're the only bookstore in town (highly unlikely for Sumter), then you must go to the mall for reading material.

Wednesday, August 23, 2017

Cumberland Mall, Smyrna (Atlanta), GA

    To survive as an urban mall, a mall must renovate and expand to stay in favor. While quite sad that this is needed to do well, often removing stunning architecture, this is better than a boarded up dead mall. Cumberland Mall, in Smyrna, Georgia, is a perfect example of this. The mall was a spectacle to see before seeing quieter renovations, though has gotten better today ever since the boring looks. The mall was such a thing to see that citizens would head from afar to see the great mall. Cumberland Mall is truly a story of mall death and rebirth.

And here we are walking in from where JCPenney once was. I was pleasantly surprised how well the mall appeared to be doing.
     Back in its day, Cumberland Mall was a sight to behold. Its 3-story center court had a very futuristic look with a saucer-type balcony on the third. There was a set of stairs leading up to here. A spectacular fountain would rain down from the top. On each side was an anchor, either Rich's or Davison's. Architecture like this led malls of the day to be major tourist draws, bringing in the shoppers from multiple states.

Center court still looks fairly decent. Let's keep in mind that these photos were taken at 7 PM on a Saturday, not traditional shopping time. 

I don't remember why I took these photos, but this is the center court roof.
     Cumberland Mall rolled on with success for the good part of the decade and the 80's. Around this time, Town Center at Cobb, Gwinnett Place, Phipps, and Lenox would either be built up or gain speed. The normal thing to do here would be renovating, and that's exactly what was done. This toned down 70's fiesta, and actually sorta hurt the mall. It was never as much of a tourist destination. This renovation also removed the famous center court fountain, which was a large slice of the mall's character.

Sears area with play area. Not much to say here, other than the fact the Sears entrance reminds me of an old downtown store with its curved walls.
     The first anchor switcharoos happened fairly early with Davison's becoming Macy's in 1985. Later on, Rich's became Macy's, shortly after the shuttering of the original Davison's. In 2005, the inevitable full Macy's switch came, but this time the store stayed open as huge changes occurred to the mall. Around this time, the JCPenney closed only to be demolished and replaced by a new Costco. In 2005, a major renovation would join with the new wing and changed the mall's fortunes. The original Davison's (along with the JCPenney) was demolished, and replaced with a new lifestyle wing comprising of nine shops and services. Included were the Cheesecake Factory, PF Chang's, and a two-story H&M.

Indeed a busy food court. I like the skylights.

The design would be really weird to anyone unfamiliar to the history. GGP was smart with this one.
     Today's Cumberland is very different from its 70's brother. It's filled with all of "2017" shops, and aside from Sears, looks and feels completely modern. This carries over to the architecture, not anything similar to what it was in the past. How much I would give for a time machine...

     While the mall is clearly doing well, there is one change I would easily make. Below the second floor food court, a small wing anchored by Belk would be completed. This would decrease the blow whenever Sears closes, and that Sears would be replaced by Dillard's, Kohl's, or Nordstrom. The first two have very little influence in NW Atlanta, and Nordstrom would cater to the wealthier suburbs in the area. Cumberland Mall is very near to the most affluent zip code in the SE, so something would do. Von Maur? Lord and Taylor? Just thoughts.

     I think Cumberland Mall has a good chance of survival. Unless a new lifestyle center is built, which there is little chance or talk of, Cumberland should stay similar to what it is now. It's generally second thought of in Atlanta retail, but is visible and in a good location for the future. It didn't lose really any business to the Battery Atlanta, Suntrust Park's retail scene, which is a good sign. But just for emergencies, literally only emergencies, I think a conversion to something like Randhurst in Chicago is the way to go. But there isn't a whole lot hindering the mall at this point. The past was success, and I think we can safely say the future is too.