The Vibrant Pulse of Lake Wales
It was not just a shopping center. It was a hub of community, a gathering place, a playground for children, and a memory maker for families. The Eagle Ridge Mall in Lake Wales, Florida, has been the heartbeat of the local community since its opening in 1996.
Developed by General Growth Properties and now owned by Stockbridge Madison LLC, this regional, enclosed shopping mall stands on the north side of Lake Wales, Florida, United States.
The mall boasts a total retail floor area of 625,000 square feet and houses 40 stores and services. Among its main attractions, you will find an Escape Room X, a Regal Cinemas with twelve theaters, and a large entertainment center, Lake Wales Bowling, which is not just a bowling alley but also hosts a large video arcade, a restaurant, and meeting rooms.
The Anchor that Steadies the Ship
Eagle Ridge Mall once had three anchor tenants as a regional shopping mall. But as of May 2023, only one of those anchors remains – Dillard’s. This stalwart establishment has stood the test of time and continues to draw shoppers from near and far. The other two anchors, unfortunately, stand vacant.
Despite the vacancies, the mall tries to endure a vibrant spirit. On the mall’s north side, a food court feeds hungry shoppers, and a carousel spins with the joyful laughter of children.
Sinkholes and Resilience: A Tale of Two Challenges
In 1998, just two years after its grand opening, the Eagle Ridge Mall faced a severe test of its resilience. In the heart of the central pedestrian thoroughfare, right within the children’s play area, a gaping sinkhole suddenly formed, spanning a staggering 80 feet in diameter and plunging 14 feet into the earth.
While efforts to stabilize this sinkhole were underway, a second sinkhole developed in the Sears store, these were serious challenges, but the mall did not falter.
These sinkholes were fixed with determination and skill, and all mall areas were reopened. The accomplishment in mending these sinkholes was so remarkable that it found its way into the American Society of Civil Engineers’ publication in October 1999, highlighting the success of these repair efforts.
A Journey Through Time: Transitions and Changes
The Eagle Ridge Mall has seen a myriad of changes throughout its history. Back in 2000, Belk toyed with moving its operations to Eagle Ridge Mall from its former location at Northgate Shopping Center in Winter Haven. However, it instead built a store on the former Winter Haven Mall site after it was torn down.
In 2009, the company which then owned Eagle Ridge Mall filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy, marking a significant point in the mall’s timeline.
Following this, the mall saw a couple of ownership changes, passing through the hands of Madison Marquette and Tabani Group before finally landing with its current owner, Stockbridge Madison LLC.
|Belk proposed to relocate but eventually didn’t
|Mall’s then-owner filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy
|Mall was sold to the Tabani Group
|Sears closed its Eagle Ridge Mall store
The Challenge of Change: Saying Goodbye to JCPenney
On June 4, 2020, another significant change occurred. JCPenney, one of the mall’s anchor tenants, announced it would close its doors by around October 2020. This was part of a nationwide plan to close 154 stores.
The departure of JCPenney left Dillard’s as the one and only anchor store left in the mall. Yet, while the loss was felt throughout the community, the resilient spirit of Eagle Ridge Mall continued to shine.
When Challenges Turn Into Opportunities
Despite the closure of anchor stores and the ongoing challenges, the Eagle Ridge Mall has remained resilient. It serves as a testament to the perseverance of the local community and a beacon of hope for other malls facing similar challenges.
In January 2018, the mall had another unexpected event. Two signal flares were ignited inside the mall, causing much smoke. Fortunately, no injuries were reported. While it was a scare, it also served as a testament to the mall’s preparedness and the quick response of local emergency services.
More Than Just a Mall
Today, Eagle Ridge Mall stands as a symbol of resilience and community spirit. While it may be considered a mall going through tough times, it continues to serve the local people of Lake Wales, Florida. It remains a place of gathering, shopping, eating, playing, and making lasting memories.
Despite its challenges, the mall still attracts visitors with its variety of stores, food court, and entertainment facilities. With its solitary anchor tenant, Dillard’s, leading the way, the Eagle Ridge Mall is far from being just another shopping center.
Ultimately, Eagle Ridge Mall’s story is about resilience, community, and adaptation. From sinkholes to store closures, the mall has weathered numerous challenges.
Yet, it stands tall as a testament to the resilience of the Lake Wales community. It is more than just a mall. It is a vibrant part of Lake Wales’ history and its future.
The story of Eagle Ridge Mall is not over. It remains vital to Lake Wales, Florida, as it adapts.