19 May 2013

Regency Square, Florence AL

An extant asset

7 January 2015
24 March 2024

It was three years after I had moved to Huntsville, 1993 to be exact, before I had the chance to visit the northwest Alabama city of Florence. It was, and still is, a smaller community with a population of around 40,000. But it is also home to the NCAA Division II football juggernaut the University of North Alabama. Owing to its status as a college town, the urban area feels quite a bit larger than it actually is, has a relatively impressive downtown skyline compared to places of similar proportions and is home to an enclosed shopping mall quite a bit larger than one would expect for a town its size- Regency Square.

Regency Square Mallmanac, ca. 1993. View the full PDF version here.

On that initial excursion to Florence, I was with a friend who was going to drop off some admissions paperwork at the university and she didn't want to go alone. Always up for a road trip, I was game. After she had taken care of the business end of things, I had convinced her to stop at Regency Square so that we could get something to eat. Really, I wasn't all that hungry; we had stopped at the Hardee's in Rogersville on the way up. I just wanted to finally visit another center which had to have one of the most common mall names ever. Oh, yeah, and I wanted a mallmanac.

The Castner Knott then Dillard's exterior before all character was blanched away.

Even approaching the facility on Cox Creek Parkway, it looked rather impressive, if also outsized, for Florence. And, although we dropped by on a week night, it was quite busy. We parked in the rear of the center where I first caught sight of Regency Square's most memorable feature, the green trim over burnt brown brick façade of the Nashville-based Castner Knott department store. Just inside, the concourse seemed to have received a recent update to the early nineties palette and template, but still (and to this day) did not have a food court. But they did have mallmanacs, so my mission was complete. Although my friend was all about talking about Brandon and Dylan from the most recent airing of 90210, I couldn't care less. I was busy studying my new piece of literature.

1- Regency Square's anchor lineup at its opening. 2- Regency Square as of this writing.

Regency Square opened in 1978 and was actually the second mall to open in The Shoals after Southgate Mall. Almost three times larger than its cross-river predecessor, it immediately became the preferred shopping hub of the entire metropolitan area. It had a strong anchor lineup including Castner-Knott, JCPenney, Pizitz, Parisian and Sears. Eventually, Castner-Knott was converted to a Dillard's while Pizitz was taken over by McRae's. That pad eventually became a second location for then new parent Parisian before both spots were taken over by Belk. On a side note, with the loss of Parisian, small towns all over the southeast lost their only true upscale anchor, most likely never to see another again.

Regency Square Mallmanac, ca. 2003. View the full PDF version here.

The mall still does well with all department stores filled, which is quite a feat for a large-ish shopping mall with so many major anchor spots located in a small city. Hull Storey, which has found their niche with facilities in secondary and tertiary markets, now has Regency Square in their portfolio, so I'm sure the most recent renovation in the early 2000s included a very clean and thorough bleaching of every interior feature and element. But that's okay. Though the trim over Dillard's has been white-washed as well, the success of the endangered modest metro mall is what really matters.


-7 January 2015

1- Regency Square’s front exterior before the 2014 renovation.  2 to 4- Regency Square during their renovation just after the name change to Florence Mall.  (Source for all)

Regency Square no longer exists. Oh, it’s still packing them in as the only significant retail draw in its region. But Hull Storey, its owners, have taken it upon themselves to rechristen the successful, mid-market facility with the obvious, generic and unoriginal Florence Mall. This represents another in a long line of changes that Hull Storey has made to other small town facilities from more creative and descriptive names to the [Small Town Name]+Mall formula. They have previously changed Shadybrook Mall to Columbia (Tennessee) Mall, Piedmont Mall to Danville (Virginia) Mall and Village Mall to Auburn (Alabama) Mall. At least they consistently hold on to the “Mall” part without adopting the stale “Towne Centre” phrase.

-24 March 2024

Regency Square lease plan, ca. 2023. View the full PDF version here.

With Muscle Shoal’s Southgate Mall closing off their interior portions, Florence Mall remains the only enclosed facility of its kind in its metropolitan area.  The 2014 renovation was pretty predictable with nothing ground breaking or even deviating from the façades of other malls owned by Hull Storey.  And it wasn’t enough to shield the retail destination from the start of its, perhaps, inevitable decline.

1- A view of the corridor leading to Dillard’s after the renovation.  2- The Florence Mall directory not long after the mall’s refurbishment.  (Source for both)

Sears closed their location at the southeastern end of Florence Mall in 2017.  A few years later, in 2020, JCPenney walked away from their pad on the northwestern end.  Despite these losses, Dillard’s and Belk still draw plenty of patrons and the interior shops boast a relatively high occupancy rate with a number of national names still in the mix.  I’m hoping that its location as the lone enclosed retail facility between Huntsville and Memphis will see it through a few more years, but unfortunately, I think sharing the same fate as nearby Decatur Mall is inevitable.

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