01 May 2013

Montgomery Mall, Montgomery, AL

A dead mall

Ahh, Montgomery. Alabama's state capital and its second largest city. In the nineties, the city only existed to me as a stopover on family trips between Huntsville and Orlando. Later during college, it was simply a quick gas stop as I drove from the University of Montevallo to Auburn University to spend drunken weekends with my buddy.

The city always seemed a bit run-down and grimy. And boring; one of the biggest things I've heard people complain about was that there was nothing to do. Montgomery Mall was one of those few things, but once it closed in 2008, there was that much less excitement in the Capital City.

Montgomery Mall Mallmanac ca. 1996. View the full PDF version here.

Montgomery Mall opened in 1970 as the city's first enclosed mall and its second overall. It was your basic first generation straight-line dumbell with an anchor at each end. Responding to the competition from Eastdale Mall in 1988, an addition was built with quite the unusual footprint. The expansion's main concourse was built parallel to the existing mall, with a slight angle at the far end capped by a new anchor. This brought the number of department stores to three- JCPenney, Gayfer's and Parisian.

The mall held its own through the years and seemed bright and inviting, if not noteworthy, on my one visit in 1996. But I could see the decay in the surrounding community and knew what was coming. In the early 2000s, I was proven correct when Dillard's (originally Gayfer's) moved to a new "lifestyle" center in the exurbs and JCPenney moved to Eastdale. Adding further to the decline were a few well publicized incidents in and around the mall, including a Saturday night shooting in the food court. It seems that just the perception of crime is enough to kill a mall, and this one had the real thing. It finally succombed to market realities in 2008 and is presently being repurposed.

Montgomery Mall in the beginning (left) and at its height (right.)

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