North DeKalb Mall: An Iconic Piece of Decatur’s Retail History
Opened in 1965, North DeKalb Mall was a beloved shopping destination for residents of the DeKalb County area in Atlanta, Georgia.
Located in Decatur, this enclosed shopping mall boasted over eighty-five stores on a single level, including popular anchor stores Burlington Coat Factory and Marshalls. A food court and multiplex movie theater provided additional entertainment options for shoppers.
The mall’s popularity extended to Hollywood, as evidenced by the 2018 Clint Eastwood film The Mule, which featured scenes in the mall’s parking lot.
North DeKalb Mall remained a staple of the local community for years, drawing crowds and providing a hub for shopping and socializing.
However, as with many malls across the country, the changing retail landscape eventually took its toll on North DeKalb Mall.
In recent years, the mall struggled to maintain its tenant base and keep up with changing consumer habits. But the part of the former mall site sits empty, a nostalgic reminder of a bygone era in retail history.
Market Square at North DeKalb: The Mall’s Colorful History
North DeKalb Mall, formerly known as North DeKalb Center, has been a retail destination for the residents of Atlanta, Georgia, since its opening on July 29, 1965.
Designed by the renowned architectural firm Barrett + Associates, the mall debuted with fifty-four stores, with anchor tenants including the Atlanta-based department store, Rich’s, and a Woolworth dime store.
However, the mall faced an uncertain future in the late 1960s when plans for the extension of the Stone Mountain Freeway threatened to demolish the mall. Fortunately, the proposed demolition never came to fruition, and the mall continued to serve the community without any significant disruptions.
In 1986, the mall underwent a significant transformation by adding two new anchor stores: department store chains Mervyn’s and discount chain Lechmere.
This expansion and renovation signaled a new era for the mall, and it was subsequently rebranded as Market Square at North DeKalb.
North DeKalb Mall: Changing Faces of Retail
The mall’s changing fortunes continued in the late 1980s when Lechmere, a famous anchor tenant, shuttered its doors in 1989.
In its place came the discount pharmacy chain Phar-Mor, which operated briefly before closing in 1992. Eventually, the space was repurposed to house a movie theater and Rhodes Furniture.
Mervyns, another prominent anchor tenant at the mall, closed all its Georgia locations in 1997. The North DeKalb store was replaced by Uptons, which operated briefly before closing in 1999. Later, the space was occupied by Burlington.
Meanwhile, Stein Mart was added to the mall in the early 1990s, replacing a portion of a mall wing that once housed a Spinnaker’s restaurant, a Bonanza Steakhouse, and several smaller mall stores.
Old Navy was another notable addition to the mall in the 1990s, although the store later closed. Ross Dress later replaced it for Less.
Rhodes Furniture, which had been part of the mall’s retail mix for several years, was replaced by Shoder Furniture, which operated briefly before becoming Marshalls in 2010. A furniture store also took over the space formerly occupied by Stein Mart.
Hendon Properties, a real estate firm, acquired the mall for $25 million in 2003. The company planned to add a Costco to the mall, signaling a new phase in the mall’s development.
North DeKalb Mall: Struggles Amid Changing Retail Landscape
In May 2014, Lennar Corporation and Sterling Organization acquired North DeKalb Mall, an aging shopping center in Decatur, Georgia, with plans to modernize the property by converting the enclosed portion into an open-air concept. However, the mall’s prospects remained uncertain.
In the spring of 2016, Macy’s, one of the mall’s anchor stores, closed its doors, dealing a significant blow to North DeKalb Mall’s fortunes.
The mall has been waiting for Costco to become a store anchor for nearly a decade, but the popular wholesale retailer has yet to commit.
Despite its struggles, the mall still sees some traffic, primarily from Emory University employees who use the vast parking lots as a temporary location for ride-sharing into the university.
In addition, the AMC movie theater on the property also brings in limited traffic. These factors have helped keep the mall from going ultimately under.
North DeKalb Mall: Filming and Redevelopment Plans
In 2019, Edens, a real estate developer, purchased North DeKalb Mall with ambitious plans to convert the site into a mixed-use facility.
The mall had been a fixture in the DeKalb County community for decades, but it struggled with poor sales even before the COVID-19 pandemic hit.
As the pandemic dragged on, the mall’s fortunes continued to decline, and on October 1, 2020, it officially closed its doors, except for Marshalls and AMC Theatres.
In 2022, plans to redevelop the former North DeKalb Mall site were unveiled, revealing an ambitious mixed-use project. The project includes 320,000 square feet of innovative and creative retail and 180,000 square feet of Class A office buildings.
In addition, the project also features 1,700 multifamily units, 100 townhomes, and a 150-key hotel, providing various housing options.
The project also includes multiple connective green spaces, creating a vibrant and sustainable community. A 16-screen AMC theater is also set to be included in the development to provide entertainment options.
This plan promises to transform the site from a former mall into a dynamic and modern community hub for living, working, and recreation.