The Historical Significance of Orange Park Mall
Orange Park Mall opened its doors in 1975, becoming a cornerstone for retail and social activities on the St. Johns River western bank near Jacksonville, Florida. Initially, the mall featured three anchor stores: Sears, May Cohen’s, and Ivey’s. Over the years, these anchors have evolved, with Ivey’s changing to Dillard’s in June 1990 and May Cohen’s eventually becoming Belk.
In 1984, the mall expanded significantly, adding 300,000 square feet, including a new food court and a JCPenney anchor. Further changes occurred in the late ’90s when the mall built a 24-screen AMC Theatre. These expansions and renovations have helped the mall adapt to the changing retail landscape, ensuring its relevance and appeal to new generations of shoppers.
The mall has seen various ownership changes, the most recent being its acquisition by Washington Prime Group in 2014. Today, the mall is an impressive 953,000 square feet, housing over 110 stores and services. It continues to be the largest mall on the west side of the St. Johns River, a testament to its enduring significance.
One of the most notable events in recent history was the closure of Sears in April 2020. This was part of a nationwide plan to close 39 Sears stores, marking the end of an era for one of the mall’s original anchors. Despite this, the mall has continued to thrive, adapting to new consumer preferences and retail trends.
Current and Former Anchors of Orange Park Mall
The anchor stores have always been the backbone of Orange Park Mall, drawing in shoppers and setting the tone for the mall’s overall retail experience. Over the years, these anchor stores have changed, reflecting shifts in consumer preferences and retail trends. Let’s delve into the history and current status of these pivotal stores.
The mall currently boasts five major anchor stores, each offering a unique shopping experience:
- Dillard’s: Occupying 121,805 square feet, Dillard’s has been a part of the mall since June 1990, when it took over from Ivey’s.
- JCPenney: This store covered 137,232 square feet and was added during the mall’s 1984 expansion.
- Belk: With a retail space of 104,551 square feet, Belk came into the picture in late 1998, replacing Gayfers.
- Dick’s Sporting Goods: This store was added in 2006 and occupies 48,003 square feet.
- AMC Theatres: Covering 105,010 square feet, the AMC Theatres were built in 1997 and have been a major entertainment venue since.
The mall has also seen the departure of some notable anchor stores:
- Sears: One of the original anchors, Sears occupied 203,869 square feet before its closure in April 2020.
- Ivey’s: This store was one of the original anchors and occupied 121,805 square feet before converting to Dillard’s in 1990.
- May Cohen’s: Initially occupying 104,551 square feet, May Cohen’s was later converted to Maison Blanche and eventually to Belk.
- Maison Blanche: This store replaced May Cohen’s and occupied the same 104,551-square-foot space. It was a part of the mall briefly before being replaced by Gayfers.
- Gayfers: Taking over from Maison Blanche, Gayfers also occupied the 104,551-square-foot space. It was a famous department store until it was replaced by Belk in 1998.
Anchor Store Table
|Joined in June 1990
|Added in 1984
|Replaced Gayfers in 1998
|Dick’s Sporting Goods
|Added in 2006
|Closed in April 2020
|Converted to Dillard’s in 1990
|Converted to Maison Blanche
|Replaced May Cohen’s, then became Gayfers
|Replaced Maison Blanche, then became Belk
The anchor stores, both past and present, have been instrumental in shaping the mall’s identity and drawing in shoppers. While some have been longstanding fixtures, others have been replaced to meet consumers’ changing needs and preferences. Each has left its mark, contributing to the mall’s rich history and continued relevance in the Orange Park community.
A Walk Through the Current Tenants
Orange Park Mall has various tenants catering to different shopping needs. From fashion to specialty stores, the mall offers a comprehensive shopping experience. American Eagle Outfitters and Aeropostale are famous fashion boutiques that attract a younger crowd, offering trendy clothing and accessories.
For those interested in unique and specialized items, the African Art Marketplace provides a range of exotic goods that you won’t find in your average mall. Elektronix and Mobile Station are the go-to places for tech enthusiasts, offering the latest gadgets and accessories.
Books-A-Million is a haven for book lovers, offering various titles across various genres. Bath & Body Works and Perfume Gallery are perfect for those seeking beauty and fragrance products. Children are not left out either; stores like Laugh World Kids Boutique and The Children’s Place offer younger shoppers a range of clothing and toys.
When it comes to dining, Orange Park Mall offers a variety of options that cater to different tastes and preferences. Auntie Anne’s Pretzels and Charley’s Philly Steaks are ideal for quick bites. These eateries offer delicious snacks that are perfect for on-the-go shoppers.
Buffalo Wild Wings and TGI Friday’s offer a more relaxed dining experience if you want a sit-down meal. These restaurants provide various menu options, from appetizers to main courses and desserts.
For those who prefer international cuisine, Pei Wei Express and Sarku Japan offer Asian flavors, while Vietnam Palace provides a taste of Vietnamese dishes. And let’s not forget the dessert options: Marble Slab Creamery and Orange Parlor Ice Cream Shoppe are perfect spots to satisfy your sweet tooth.
In total, the mall currently houses a multitude of options for both shopping and dining, ensuring that visitors have a well-rounded experience. Orange Park Mall has something for everyone, whether you’re a fashionista, a tech geek, a foodie, or a parent shopping for your kids.
Entertainment and Leisure at Orange Park Mall
Regarding things to do in Orange Park, Florida, the mall is not just about shopping; it’s also a hub for entertainment and leisure activities. AMC Theatres – Orange Park 24 is one of the major attractions, offering the latest movies in a comfortable setting. The theater complex was added in 1997 and has been a popular destination for moviegoers ever since.
For families, the Play Area provides a safe space for children to have fun while adults can enjoy a moment of relaxation. If you’re looking for more adrenaline-pumping activities, the Bungee Jump offers an exciting experience. Dining options like Buffalo Wild Wings and TGI Friday’s complement the entertainment offerings, making planning a full day of fun easy.
The mall also features seasonal events and promotions, adding excitement for visitors. Whether it’s a holiday sale or a special movie screening, there’s always something happening to keep you engaged. The mall is a one-stop destination for various entertainment and leisure activities, making it a go-to place for residents and visitors.
Safety Concerns and Incidents at Orange Park Mall
Orange Park Mall in Orange Park, FL, has been a community cornerstone since 1975. Still, recent years have seen a rise in safety concerns and incidents that have raised eyebrows among residents and authorities.
The Clay County Sheriff’s Office closed the mall recently due to “juvenile disturbances,” which reignited safety concerns. This was not an isolated incident; similar disturbances have occurred.
In December 2021, a fight inside the mall led to confusion, with some thinking it was an active shooter. In August 2021, fights erupted during a carnival event at the mall, leading to widespread mess and concern among patrons and guests.
Local shoppers have expressed reservations about visiting the mall due to these incidents. Some residents have mentioned that they avoid the mall because they don’t find it safe for their children. The mall’s reputation has been affected, and county leaders are trying to improve the situation.
In response to these incidents, Orange Park Mall has stated that the safety of their guests, retailers, and employees is their top priority. They have a security force that operates 24/7 on foot and in vehicles. The mall also occasionally employs modern security procedures, special operations, and plain-clothes officers and conducts crisis planning and lockdown drills.
County leaders have been working on the “Gateway to Clay Initiative,” aimed at improving the Blanding Boulevard and Wells Road corridors, which include the mall. They have applied for grants to enhance security in the area, but these efforts have faced roadblocks, including issues related to drug use and homelessness.
While the mall has proactively addressed these issues, the challenges remain. The incidents have impacted the mall’s reputation and the community’s perception of safety in the area.
The Economic Impact of Orange Park Mall
The mall plays a significant employer in the Orange Park region. With over 110 stores and services, it provides numerous job opportunities for residents. This, in turn, contributes to the area’s economic stability, making the mall an essential part of the community’s financial ecosystem.
In addition to employment, the mall also contributes to local tax revenue. The sales generated from the various stores and services add to the town’s coffers, aiding in funding public services and infrastructure projects. This economic impact extends beyond the mall, benefiting the broader Orange Park community.
The mall has also formed partnerships with local businesses and community organizations. These collaborations often result in special events and promotions that attract more visitors to the mall, thereby boosting tenant sales. Such partnerships are a win-win situation, increasing foot traffic and providing local businesses a platform to reach a wider audience.
Navigating the Mall – Amenities and Services
The mall offers a range of amenities to enhance the shopping experience. Parking facilities are ample, ensuring that visitors can easily find a spot. For those who require assistance, the mall management office is readily available to address any concerns or provide information.
Convenience is a key focus, with services like Sunsure Insurance Solutions and Watch and Jewelry Repair Outlets available to shoppers. These services add a layer of comfort, allowing visitors to meet various needs without leaving the mall premises.
Accessibility features have been incorporated to cater to all visitors. Wheelchair-friendly entrances and elevators are available, ensuring the mall is accessible to people with mobility challenges. Signage is clear and easy to understand, aiding navigation and making the shopping experience more enjoyable.
The mall is designed to offer a comfortable and convenient shopping experience. Every aspect has been carefully planned to meet visitors’ needs, from ample parking to various services.
Orange Park Mall has stood the test of time, evolving and adapting to meet the needs of the community it serves. Its diverse range of tenants, entertainment options, and economic contributions make it a cornerstone of life in Orange Park, Florida. The mall’s proactive approach to change and commitment to community engagement ensures its enduring relevance.
From its historical significance to its current retail and entertainment hub status, the mall offers a rich tapestry of experiences. Whether you’re a long-time resident or a new visitor, the mall provides a one-stop destination for shopping, dining, and entertainment.
So, the next time you wonder what to do on a weekend or where to find that perfect gift, consider visiting Orange Park Mall. Its enduring appeal and community focus make it a place worth exploring, a true gem in the heart of Orange Park, Florida.