06 February 2022

Riverbend Mall, Rome, GA

 A dead mall

Rome, Georgia is a quant little town in the northwestern mountains of the state.  Just a pit stop halfway along the back roads route from Huntsville to Atlanta, the town of 37,000 hasn't seen much growth over the last several decades.  But it has seen two indoor shopping malls opened in its market.  The first was Riverbend Mall.

Riverbend Mall opened in 1975 on the banks of the Etowah River just south of the downtown area of the city.   It opened with Miller Brothers and Belk Rhodes as the main anchors, though Miller's was later replaced with Hess's.  At its peak, a JCPenney, one of the smallest mall locations in the chain, was added.  

Riverbend Mall Mallmanac ca. 1975.  See the full PDF version here.

Though fairly successful in its day, it did endure a few hardships.  The infamous kidnapping and subsequent murder in 1982 of Lisa Ann Millican took place at Riverbend Mall.  Then in 1990, the Etowah River overflowed and flooded the property, leading to its closure for several months.  But it's death knell rang loudest with the opening of Mount Berry Square in 1991.  The 4 anchor mall debuted on the city's northern fringes to much fanfare.  Riverbend faded away in the shadow of its new, glitzier competition and in 2002 finally closed its doors.

Riverbend Mall satellite view. (Source)

Today on the banks of the Etowah River, Riverbend soldiers on as quite the successful power center.  Its proximity to the city gives it a big advantage over the curiously placed Mount Berry Mall.  The newer mall is seeing struggles of its own and has lost two of its anchors.  In addition to being built much too large for the small town, it was built in an area near Mount Berry College but not much else.  Funny how retail trends go and the killers of these first and second generation malls are fighting through struggles of their own.

Riverbend Mall on Wikipedia

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