Inside Lakeland Square Mall: Evolution of Shopping in Lakeland, FL

The History and Development of Lakeland Square Mall

Lakeland Square Mall opened in 1988 and quickly became a key place for shopping in Lakeland, Florida. It was a big deal for the area because it introduced a new, modern way to shop that met people’s different needs and wants.

The mall was made to be a go-to spot for buying things, having fun, and meeting up with others. This showed how shopping and hanging out with friends and family were changing at the time.

From its inception, Lakeland Square Mall was home to a diverse mix of retail stores, including notable names such as Sears, Mervyn’s, and Belk, which anchored the mall and drew significant foot traffic.

These anchor stores were complemented by various specialty shops, offering everything from fashion and electronics to home goods and beauty products. The mall’s design and layout were crafted to provide an inviting and convenient shopping experience, with ample space for promotions and events that added to its appeal.

Over the years, Lakeland Square Mall faced the challenges of an evolving retail industry, including the rise of e-commerce and changing consumer behaviors. In response, the mall underwent several renovations and welcomed new tenants to stay relevant and competitive.

Despite these efforts, the mall has experienced the departure of key retailers, reflecting broader trends affecting brick-and-mortar retail spaces nationwide. However, it has also seen the introduction of non-traditional tenants, such as Urban Air Adventure Park, adding a new dimension to the mall’s offerings.

These shifts underscore the mall’s ongoing adaptation to the changing retail landscape, striving to meet the needs and interests of the Lakeland community.

Amid these changes, Lakeland Square Mall remains a focal point for shopping and entertainment, embodying the resilience and adaptability required to navigate the retail sector’s challenges.

When we look at things to do in Lakeland, FL, Lakeland Square Mall stands out as a big part of the area’s economy and community life. It changes to match what shoppers and stores want.

The story of the mall’s growth tells us a lot about how shopping has changed. It also shows that being creative and ready to adapt is important for keeping malls interesting today.

The Evolution of Lakeland Square Mall After Opening

The 1990s brought significant changes to the mall’s retail mix. J.C. Penney was introduced in 1990, enhancing the mall’s appeal with its wide range of merchandise. In 1994, Burdines, a name well-known in Florida, joined the mall, relocating from downtown Lakeland.

This move reflected the shifting retail focus from city centers to suburban malls. Dillard’s made a significant entry in 1997 by taking over the space left by Mervyn’s, introducing a higher-end shopping experience to Lakeland Square Mall’s patrons.

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Ownership and management transitions marked the mid-1990s to early 2000s. In 1995, General Growth Properties acquired Homart, the company that co-developed the mall, taking over its management. This change promised new strategic directions for the mall’s development.

The retail landscape continued to evolve with Maison Blanche’s transformation into Burdines-Macy’s in 2004, eventually becoming Macy’s in 2005. That same year, Belk closed its doors at the mall, coinciding with opening a new Belk store in Lakeside Village.

The space vacated by Belk was full for a while, as Burlington Coat Factory opened there in the fall of 2007, offering a wide selection of off-price apparel and home goods.

The 2010s were a period of both growth and challenges. Dillard’s closed one of its locations in 2012, consolidating its operations into a single store within the mall.

The same year, the former Mervyn’s building was demolished to make way for a new development, including a 12-screen Cinemark Theaters and a Sports Authority store, which opened in 2013.

However, the retail industry’s broader struggles were reflected in Sports Authority’s closure in 2016 following the company’s nationwide shutdown.

Urban Air Adventure Park took over the space in 2018, introducing an entertainment option that diversified the mall’s attractions beyond traditional retail.

The departure of Sears in 2018, as part of a broader closure of Sears stores nationwide, marked another turning point for the mall. Yet, the mall continued to adapt, with Charlotte Russe reopening in 2019 as part of its plan to establish 100 stores.

The closure of Burlington in 2022, which moved to a nearby location, indicated ongoing shifts in retail preferences and strategies.

Throughout its history, Lakeland Square Mall has mirrored the broader trends in the retail industry, from the rise of suburban malls to the challenges of the digital age.

Its ability to evolve and adapt to changing consumer preferences and economic conditions speaks to this Lakeland landmark’s resilience and ongoing relevance.

Current Anchor Stores at Lakeland Square Mall

Lakeland Square Mall’s anchor stores have been pivotal in its development and appeal to shoppers. JCPenney, one of the original anchors since 1990, has been a cornerstone, offering a wide range of clothing, home goods, and beauty products.

Despite the retail industry’s challenges, JCPenney has managed to maintain its presence, adapting to consumer trends and preferences.

JCPenney - Lakeland Square Mall Lakeland, FL
JCPenney – Lakeland Square Mall Lakeland, FL” by MikeKalasnik is licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0

Another key anchor, Dillard’s, joined the mall in 1997, bringing a selection of higher-end clothing, accessories, and home decor.

Dillard’s has contributed to the mall’s appeal to a broad demographic, providing an upscale shopping experience that complements the offerings of other stores within the mall.

Its commitment to quality and customer service has made it a destination for shoppers seeking brand-name products and the latest fashion trends.

Re-Sale America represents a departure from traditional anchor stores, offering a unique concept focusing on thrift and consignment goods.

This store has tapped into the growing trend of sustainable shopping, attracting customers interested in finding special items and bargains while supporting recycling and reuse.

Its presence highlights the mall’s adaptability and willingness to diversify its retail mix in response to changing consumer interests.

Urban Air Adventure Park, a non-traditional anchor, has introduced an entertainment component to the mall, offering trampolines, climbing walls, and obstacle courses.

This addition has transformed the mall into a destination for families seeking leisure and entertainment options, broadening the mall’s appeal beyond shopping.

Cinemark Theatres, the entertainment anchor, has provided a cinematic experience for mall visitors, featuring the latest movies in a state-of-the-art environment.

The theater has been an essential aspect of the mall’s entertainment offerings, drawing moviegoers and enhancing the overall visitor experience by providing an additional activity option.

Within Lakeland Square Mall, a diverse array of popular stores complements the anchor tenants, catering to various consumer needs and interests.

Apparel stores such as Aeropostale and American Eagle Outfitters offer trendy clothing options for a younger demographic, staying current with fashion trends and providing affordable style.

These brands have been instrumental in attracting teens and young adults, contributing to the mall’s vibrant atmosphere.

Kay Jewelers and Zales Jewelers stand out in the jewelry realm. They offer a range of fine jewelry, including engagement rings, necklaces, and watches. These stores appeal to shoppers looking for quality and craftsmanship.

They provide personalized services such as custom designs and jewelry repair, enhancing the shopping experience for those seeking special gifts or personal indulgences.

Specialty stores add to the mall’s diverse retail landscape, with Hot Topic and Spencer’s offering niche products ranging from pop culture merchandise to novelty gifts.

These stores have cultivated a loyal customer base by catering to specific interests and trends, contributing to the mall’s eclectic retail offerings.

Their presence underscores the mall’s commitment to providing a wide range of shopping experiences, appealing to a broad spectrum of consumers.

These popular stores are crucial in defining Lakeland Square Mall’s identity. They offer a blend of fashion, entertainment, and specialty retail that meets visitors’ evolving needs and preferences.

Dining Destinations at Lakeland Square Mall

Lakeland Square Mall offers a variety of dining options that cater to a wide range of tastes and preferences, making it a shopping destination and a place to enjoy diverse culinary experiences.

Asian Chao Oriental Eatery provides mall-goers with a taste of Asian cuisine, offering popular dishes such as stir-fried vegetables, rice, and noodle dishes. Its presence enhances the food court’s international flavor, attracting customers looking for quick and flavorful meals.

Mummy Candy adds a sweet touch to the mall’s dining scene. It specializes in candies and sweet treats that appeal to shoppers of all ages. From classic candies to exotic flavors, Mummy Candy is a destination for those looking to satisfy their sweet tooth or find unique gifts.

Teppan Express stands out for its interactive dining experience, where chefs prepare meals on a teppanyaki grill right before customers’ eyes.

This engaging approach, combined with the fresh and customizable meal options, makes Teppan Express popular for those seeking a quick yet entertaining dining option.

Angela’s Pizza and Auntie Anne’s offer familiar comforts, serving up classic pizza slices, pretzels, and assorted snacks that provide a quick and satisfying bite for shoppers on the go. These establishments are staples within the mall, offering convenience and the appeal of well-loved flavors.

For those seeking a more sit-down dining experience, Boriken Restaurant introduces a taste of Puerto Rican cuisine with a menu that includes traditional dishes and tropical beverages. Its vibrant atmosphere and authentic flavors offer a culinary escape within the mall’s confines.

Charleys Philly Steaks, Chick-fil-A, and Dippin’ Dots round out the mall’s food offerings, each providing signature dishes that have become favorites among mall visitors.

From classic Philly cheesesteaks to iconic chicken sandwiches and unique ice cream treats, these dining spots contribute to the mall’s appeal as a place to shop, dine, and unwind.

Community and Cultural Events at Lakeland Square Mall

Lakeland Square Mall has strategically positioned itself as more than just a shopping destination; it has become a vibrant community hub, hosting a variety of events that cater to the cultural and social interests of the Lakeland community.

These events range from holiday celebrations, such as Christmas tree lightings and Easter egg hunts, to cultural festivals that showcase the community’s diversity.

By doing so, the mall has strengthened its connection with residents, offering spaces beyond retail where people can gather, celebrate, and engage with one another.

The mall also serves as a venue for local artisans and entrepreneurs to showcase their products and services through pop-up shops and craft fairs.

These events allow local businesses to reach a wider audience and add to the mall’s unique offerings, drawing shoppers interested in supporting local crafts and businesses. The success of these events highlights the community’s desire for experiences that reflect local culture and creativity.

Educational workshops and charity events further exemplify the mall’s role in community engagement.

Partnering with local organizations and schools, Lakeland Square Mall has hosted events focusing on health awareness, environmental conservation, and educational enrichment for children and adults alike.

These initiatives demonstrate the mall’s commitment to contributing positively to the community’s well-being and fostering a sense of social responsibility among its visitors.

Spinoso Real Estate Group’s New Vision for Lakeland Square Mall

The Spinoso Real Estate Group announced its new property assignment in a significant development for Lakeland Square Mall in the autumn of 2023. This move is poised to substantially impact the property and the Lakeland community through strategic leasing, property management, and marketing efforts.

This announcement comes when the mall is looking to innovate and adapt to the changing retail landscape. With a focus on enhancing the shopping experience and diversifying the tenant mix, Spinoso Real Estate Group’s involvement could herald a new era for Lakeland Square Mall.

The group’s expertise in revitalizing shopping centers across the country suggests that we may see new brands and concepts entering the mall alongside improvements to the mall’s aesthetics and functionality.

Furthermore, the news of developing the former Sears into 320 urban apartments indicates a broader vision for the mall’s ecosystem, integrating residential living with retail and entertainment—a trend catching on nationwide.

This mixed-use approach could bring new life into the mall, creating a vibrant community space offering more than just shopping.

The Future Outlook for Lakeland Square Mall

As Lakeland Square Mall navigates the challenges and opportunities of the retail landscape in 2024, its future outlook remains cautiously optimistic.

The mall’s efforts to diversify its offerings, enhance the customer experience, and strengthen its role as a community hub are critical strategies to ensure its relevance and sustainability.

The mall may explore further innovations in retail and entertainment to attract a broader audience. This could include integrating technology to create interactive shopping experiences, expanding dining and entertainment options, and partnerships with online retailers to offer unique pick-up and return services.

Such initiatives would enhance the convenience and enjoyment of visiting the mall and position it as a forward-thinking player in the retail sector.

The future of Lakeland Square Mall will also depend on its ability to continue adapting to economic trends and consumer behaviors.

As e-commerce continues to grow, the mall’s success will hinge on its ability to offer something that online shopping cannot replicate: a sense of community, unique experiences, and personal interactions.

By focusing on these strengths, Lakeland Square Mall can look forward to a future where it remains a cherished part of the Lakeland community, offering a dynamic and engaging space for shopping, entertainment, and socializing.

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Comments: 2
  1. Avatar of Sharon Gray
    Sharon Gray

    Why did you not mention GnG Delights Caribbean restaurant in the mall. They serve delicious Stew brown chicken, oxtails, jersey pork, escovitch, cabbage as well as tropical drinks. Did you not know they were in the mall? They are 2 spaces away from the Puerto Rican restaurant that also has delicious authentic food. :?:

    1. Avatar of Spencer Walsh
      Spencer Walsh (author)

      Thank you for highlighting G&G restaurant at Lakeland Square Mall. It’s important to acknowledge all the diverse dining options the mall offers, including delicious Caribbean cuisine. Your mention helps bring attention to these culinary gems.

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