The Inception and Early Days of Brandon Mall
The Brandon Mall has been a cornerstone of local life for decades in the Tampa suburban community of Brandon, Florida. The story of this bustling shopping center began in the late 1980s when the idea of a comprehensive shopping hub was conceived.
Initially christened Brandon Town Center, the mall opened its doors in 1995. The grand opening was a spectacle, with the mall serving a staggering one million shoppers in its first seventeen days of operation.
The original mall anchors, Sears, JCPenney, Burdines, and Dillard’s, were the main attractions, drawing in crowds from all over the region. These stores were the pillars of the mall, offering a wide range of products that catered to the diverse needs of the shoppers. With its 974,000 square feet of retail space, the mall was a beacon of commerce in the area.
The Land Before the Mall: A Glimpse into the Past
Before the mall’s construction, the land was home to the Carrey Cattle Company’s farm. This cattle farm was a familiar sight for locals, symbolizing Brandon’s rural past.
The transformation of the land from a cattle farm to a bustling shopping center marked a significant shift in the community’s landscape.
This change was a reflection of the rapid urbanization of the area, a testament to the community’s growth and development.
The Westfield Era: A Period of Transformation
The dawn of the new millennium brought significant changes to the Brandon Mall. In 2002, the Westfield Group, a global leader in shopping center management, acquired the Town Center. The mall was renamed “Westfield Shoppingtown Brandon,” aligning it with other Westfield centers nationwide.
This period saw a shift in the mall’s aesthetic, with the distinctive fountains featuring metal sculptures of Florida wildlife being replaced with vendor kiosks. This change was a strategic move to maximize the mall’s retail space and offer shoppers a wider variety of products.
In 2005, the Burdines store was renamed Macy’s, a change accompanied by a subtle architectural shift. The palm tree columns, a unique feature of the “Burdines style” of architecture, were retained, adding a touch of Florida’s charm to the mall.
The same year, the “Shoppingtown” was dropped from the mall’s name, simplifying it to Westfield Brandon.
Expansion and Growth: The Mall Evolves
The mid-2000s marked a period of expansion and growth for the mall. In 2006, Westfield announced a 150,000-square-foot addition, which included a new anchor, Dick’s Sporting Goods, and additional retail outlets and restaurants.
The expanded wing welcomed a variety of new stores, including the Apple Store, Sephora, Books-A-Million, Tillys, DSW, Torrid, Fossil, and The Walking Company.
This expansion brought a new vibrancy to the mall, attracting a more comprehensive range of shoppers and enhancing the shopping experience. The addition of these stores diversified the mall’s offerings, ensuring that it catered to its patrons’ evolving needs and preferences.
Recent Developments and Changes: A New Chapter
The past few years have seen significant changes at the mall. In 2021, Sears, one of the original anchors, closed its doors as part of a nationwide plan. This closure marked the end of an era, as Sears had been a part of the mall since its inception.
The most significant change, however, came in May 2023, when the mall was sold to the North American Development Group for $220 million.
This sale marked the end of the Westfield era, with the Westfield branding being dropped from the mall’s name. The mall, now known as Brandon Mall, embarked on a new chapter under the stewardship of its new owners.
The Mall Today: A Hub of Activity
Today, the Brandon Mall continues to be a bustling hub of activity. With an 84.5% store occupancy rate, it remains one of the busiest malls in the region. The mall boasts a total retail floor area of 1,100,000 square feet, housing over 170 stores and services.
The current anchors of the mall are a mix of retail giants and popular specialty stores. These include Dillard’s, JCPenney, Macy’s, Books A Million, Dick’s Sporting Goods, and DSW. Each store brings a unique offering to the mall, catering to a wide range of shopper preferences.
Despite the changes it has undergone, the mall continues to serve as a central gathering place for the community, a testament to its enduring appeal.
Conclusion: Reflecting on the Journey
The Brandon Mall’s journey from a cattle farm to a bustling shopping center reflects the community’s growth and transformation. Today, the mall is more than just a shopping center – it’s a piece of local history, a symbol of the community’s evolution, and a gathering place that continues to create shared experiences and memories.
As the mall embarks on its new chapter under the North American Development Group, it carries a rich history and a promise of continued service to the community.