University Mall Mallmanac ca. 2000. View the full PDF version here.
University Mall opened in 1980 as west Alabama's largest enclosed mall, exceeding the community's older facility, MacFarland Mall. It was designed in the shape of a cross with an anchor bookending each of the four corridors. These original anchors included Sears, JCPenney and Parisian. McRae's was also a part of the complex, though I'm unsure if the Jackson, Mississippi based retailer was preceded by Pizitz before being taken over in that chain's buyout. McRae's became Belk when Saks sold their mid-market division to the Charlotte-based chain, followed by their opening a second location in the old Parisian space when they purchased that division as well.
L- University Mall's layout through much of the nineties and early 2000s. R- University Mall as of this writing.
As pretty much the only enclosed shopping venue in the college town, its success and dominance goes unchallenged. Unchallenged by man-made factors, at least. The famous and well documented major tornado of April 27, 2011 barely missed the red brick institution, and University Mall survived with only moderate damage. Besides no one's being hurt in the building, which is of the utmost importance, it was also fortuitous that the facility was left standing and structurally sound. Had it been irreparably damaged, considering the size of the market and today's retail trends, the replacement would have surely been neither traditional nor enclosed in nature.
-26 December 2021