The Oaks Mall: A Storied Shopping Destination in Gainesville, FL

A Journey Through Time: The History of The Oaks Mall

The Oaks Mall, an enclosed shopping center in Gainesville, Florida, has a long and storied history. With its roots dating back to 1974, when it was first announced, the mall had served the Gainesville community since its opening in February 1978.

Developed by Alan Squitieri and David Hocker, the mall initially secured JCPenney and Belk-Lindsey as its first significant tenants. As Gainesville’s second major indoor mall, The Oaks Mall followed the Gainesville Mall, which operated from 1969 to 1993.

In 1983, Burdines, Sears, and Ivey’s all opened as part of the mall’s second and third stages. The Oaks Mall persistently flourished and expanded, attracting customers from a vast trading region encompassing 11 counties, where the population growth rate is almost twice the national average.

In 2015, Sears Holdings spun off 235 properties, including the Sears at The Oaks Mall, into Seritage Growth Properties. However, Macy’s and Sears eventually closed their locations in 2018.

Today, the mall’s anchor tenants include JCPenney, Belk, two Dillard’s stores, and the University of Florida Health.

The Shopping Experience: A Variety of Stores and Services

The Oaks Mall offers various shopping options for Gainesville residents and visitors. With over 119 stores, ranging from major department stores to specialty shops, there’s something for everyone, regardless of taste or budget.

The mall’s single-floor layout (with two floors in Belk and Dillard’s locations) provides easy navigation and a seamless shopping experience.

The shopping center also benefits from its proximity to Santa Fe College and the University of Florida, with over 64,000 students attending the nearby institutions. As of 2017, mall occupancy was 96%, and various improvements have been made to maintain an inviting atmosphere.

These improvements include installing rooftop solar panels to promote sustainability and energy efficiency and LED lighting fixtures for better illumination.

Dining Options: Something for Every Palate

Aside from its impressive array of stores, The Oaks Mall also offers several dining options to satisfy every craving. Visitors can choose from a variety of food court selections, as well as sit-down restaurants, for a more leisurely dining experience.

With options ranging from fast food to international cuisine, there’s something to suit every palate at The Oaks Mall.

UF Health at The Oaks Mall: Expanding Services to the Community

In June 2018, UF Health announced plans to lease and renovate the space previously occupied by Sears for 20 years. The new facility houses the ophthalmology and otolaryngology departments, offering valuable medical services to the Gainesville community.

UF Health further expands the mall’s offerings, creating a unique blend of retail, dining, and medical services under one roof. The UF Health clinics celebrated their grand opening on January 25, 2020.

Recent Incidents and the Resilience of The Oaks Mall Community

In January 2023, the Oaks Mall Plaza (building next to the main Oaks Mall) experienced a fire that authorities believe was intentionally set. Gainesville Fire Rescue (GFR) and Gainesville Police Department (GPD) are investigating the incident.

In addition to the fire, some businesses at the plaza had damaged windows and glass doors, with items stolen from the affected establishments.

Despite the recent incident, The Oaks Mall remains a cherished shopping destination for Gainesville residents and visitors. The mall’s rich history, diverse selection of stores, and convenient location make it an essential part of the local community.

The resilience of The Oaks Mall and its patrons demonstrates the enduring spirit of Gainesville as the shopping center continues to adapt and grow to serve its customers better.

Events and Entertainment: Bringing the Community Together

The Oaks Mall is also a hub for various community events and entertainment. Throughout the year, the mall hosts seasonal celebrations, family-friendly activities, and special promotions, creating memorable experiences for shoppers of all ages.

Accessibility and Convenience: A Mall for Everyone

The Oaks Mall strives to provide a comfortable and accessible shopping experience for all its visitors. The mall offers ample parking, including designated spots for individuals with disabilities and convenient entrances to accommodate shoppers.

Additionally, The Oaks Mall features family restrooms, nursing rooms, and a children’s play area, ensuring a pleasant experience for families with young children.

Embracing the Future: The Oaks Mall’s Commitment to Growth and Innovation

As The Oaks Mall looks to the future, it remains committed to growth, innovation, and adapting to the ever-changing retail landscape. By continuing to expand its range of stores and services, The Oaks Mall aims to provide a diverse and dynamic shopping experience for the Gainesville community.

With its rich history, an impressive selection of retail, dining, and medical services, and ongoing dedication to the local community, The Oaks Mall remains a cherished Gainesville institution. As the mall continues to evolve, it will remain a beloved destination for generations.

Year Event
1974 The Oaks Mall announced
1978 The Oaks Mall opened
1983 Burdines, Sears, and Ivey’s opened
2015 Sears spun off into Seritage Growth Properties
2018 Macy’s closed; Dillard’s expanded
2018 Sears closed
2020 UF Health grand opening
2023 Fire incident at Oaks Mall Plaza

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