Behind the Scenes at Northlake Mall, Atlanta, GA

The Rise of Northlake Mall

Northlake Mall opened its doors on October 6, 1971, in the heart of the Northlake community in DeKalb County, Georgia. This event marked a significant milestone in Atlanta‘s northeast suburban expansion. The mall initially boasted a vast retail space, attracting shoppers from all over the region.

Simon Property Group, a giant in the retail real estate sector, originally managed Northlake Mall. This management brought prestige and confidence to the mall’s operations.

However, the retail landscape began to shift, and in 2014, the mall’s ownership transitioned to Washington Prime Group. This change was part of a broader strategy as Simon Property Group spun off several properties.

In 2015, Washington Prime Group merged with Glimcher Realty Trust, forming WP Glimcher, which took over the mall’s management and operational responsibilities.

But the changes didn’t stop there. By February 2016, ATR Corinth Partners, a Texas-based firm, had acquired Northlake Mall. This acquisition marked a new chapter in the mall’s history, as ATR Corinth Partners brought new visions and potential revitalization strategies.

The mall initially flourished with four anchor tenants, attracting a wide range of smaller stores and businesses.

Over the years, these included well-known names such as Macy’s, JCPenney, Kohl’s, and Sears. Each store contributed to the mall’s status as a shopping destination, drawing in customers for various things to do near Atlanta, Georgia.

However, as the retail industry evolved, Northlake Mall faced challenges. The rise of online shopping and changes in consumer behavior began to impact foot traffic and sales.

Despite these challenges, Macy’s has remained the sole anchor store, continuing to draw a dedicated customer base.

The early years of Northlake Mall set the stage for its role in the DeKalb County retail scene. The shifts in ownership and management reflect the changing dynamics of the retail real estate market.

As we look back on the mall’s inception and growth, we see a reflection of broader retail trends and the impact of economic shifts on local communities.

Anchor Stores and Their Fate

The Pillars of Northlake Mall: A Look at the Former Anchor Stores

Davison’s (1971-1986): When Northlake Mall opened its doors in 1971, Davison’s was one of the original anchor stores.

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Known for its wide range of merchandise, it was a favorite among shoppers for many years. In 1986, the store was rebranded as Macy’s, marking the end of the Davison’s era at Northlake Mall.

JCPenney (1971-2020): JCPenney was another of the original anchor stores at Northlake Mall. JCPenney was a popular choice for many shoppers, offering a wide range of merchandise, including clothing, footwear, and home goods.

However, the store closed its doors in 2020, marking the end of nearly five decades of operation at the mall.

Sears (1971-2018): Sears was a staple of Northlake Mall from its opening day in 1971 until its closure in 2018.

Known for its appliances, tools, and clothing, Sears was a go-to destination for many shoppers. Its closure in 2018 marked the end of an era for the mall.

Parisian (1994-2007): Parisian joined Northlake Mall in 1994, adding a touch of elegance to the mall’s retail offerings.

Known for its upscale clothing and home goods, Parisian was a popular addition to the mall. However, it closed its doors in 2007, leaving a void in the mall’s retail landscape.

Kohl’s (2008-2016): Kohl’s joined Northlake Mall in 2008, taking over Parisian’s previously occupied space.

Known for its affordable clothing, home goods, and accessories, Kohl’s was a popular addition to the mall. However, it closed in 2016, marking the end of its eight-year run.

Each of these stores played a significant role in the history of Northlake Mall. They attracted shoppers, contributed to the mall’s bustling atmosphere, and left lasting memories in the minds of many community members.

Their closures marked significant turning points in the mall’s history, bringing new challenges and changes.

Current Anchors and Their Story Inside Northlake Mall

Macy’s remains the stalwart anchor at Northlake Mall, continuing its long-standing presence since 1986 when it replaced Davison’s.

This department store has weathered the retail storm that saw its fellow anchors depart. As the sole survivor among the original anchors, Macy’s has adapted to changing consumer behaviors and economic conditions.

It has managed to maintain a loyal customer base by offering a mix of affordable and upscale products, seasonal promotions, and special events.

The store’s resilience is a testament to its brand strength and management’s ability to navigate the challenging retail landscape.

Emory Healthcare has emerged as a new anchor for Northlake Mall, taking over the space left vacant by Sears in 2018.

This transition from traditional retail to healthcare services represents a significant shift in the mall’s direction and reflects broader trends in mall repurposing.

Emory Healthcare’s decision to establish a mass distribution site for COVID-19 vaccinations at the mall brought a new purpose to the space and increased foot traffic, providing a lifeline to the remaining stores.

The healthcare facility has become a community asset, offering vital services and contributing to the mall’s ongoing transformation.

Challenges and Decline

The decline of Northlake Mall mirrors a national trend affecting many traditional shopping centers. Economic shifts, the rise of online shopping, and changes in consumer preferences have all contributed to this decline.

The mall has faced increasing challenges as shoppers turn to the Internet for convenience and variety, leading to decreased foot traffic and sales.

Competition has also intensified from other shopping destinations in the Atlanta area. The advent of lifestyle centers and open-air malls has drawn customers away from traditional indoor malls.

These newer shopping environments offer experiences and amenities that Northlake Mall struggles to match, contributing to its decline.

Visible signs of the mall’s struggles include empty storefronts and a noticeable visitor decrease. The once-bustling corridors now see fewer shoppers, and many local businesses within the mall have closed or relocated.

The decline has a ripple effect, impacting the mall, the surrounding community, and businesses reliant on its foot traffic.

The Community and Northlake Mall

For over 50 years, the Northlake Mall has been more than just a shopping center; it’s been a community hub for Tucker, Decatur, Stone Mountain, and other nearby areas.

The mall’s decline has left a void in these communities, affecting local traditions, shopping habits, and social gatherings.

Local businesses that relied on the mall’s foot traffic have felt the impact, with some having to close or move elsewhere.

Despite these challenges, the community has shown resilience and support for the mall. Residents and business owners have supported efforts to revitalize and repurpose the mall space.

They understand the mall’s importance not just as a retail space but as a community landmark.

Emory Healthcare’s move into the former Sears building is a significant development. This move has provided a vital service to the community and increased foot traffic to other parts of the mall, offering a glimmer of hope for its revival.

Revitalization Efforts and Future Plans

The Tucker-Northlake Community Improvement District (CID) completed its Master Plan for the area in 2015.

This plan outlines a vision for transforming the Northlake commercial and industrial centers into mixed-use, walkable destinations.

The plan includes the mall and aims to breathe new life into the area, addressing transportation improvements and land use modifications.

Current redevelopment proposals for Northlake Mall aim to convert it into a mixed-use complex that includes office, medical, and retail/restaurant spaces.

These plans reflect a growing trend in repurposing traditional malls to meet modern needs and preferences.

While specific details and timelines are still being developed, the community hopes these changes will revitalize the area.

The challenges facing the revitalization of Northlake Mall are significant. They include securing funding, attracting businesses, and adapting to the changing retail landscape. However, the opportunities are equally compelling.

A successful redevelopment could serve as a model for other struggling malls, boosting not only the local economy but also the community’s spirit and identity.

The Uncertain Future of Macy’s at Northlake Mall

In 2024, Macy’s announced plans to close 150 underperforming stores nationwide over the next three years due to declining sales and a fourth-quarter loss.

This decision has left the future of the Macy’s store at Northlake Mall in Atlanta, Georgia, in doubt.

While it remains unclear if this store is among those slated for closure, the uncertainty impacts employees and loyal customers.

The retail giant is shifting its focus towards luxury brands and smaller-format stores to adapt to changing consumer behaviors and intensify competition from online retailers.

However, the fate of Macy’s traditional department stores, like the one at Northlake Mall, is still being determined.

The company’s strategy to close 50 stores by the end of 2024 and another 100 in the following years is part of a broader effort to streamline operations and focus on more profitable locations.

This downsizing reflects traditional department stores’ challenges in an increasingly digital shopping environment.

For Northlake Mall, the potential loss of Macy’s could represent a significant blow, further complicating the mall’s ongoing struggles with tenant vacancies and reduced foot traffic.

As Macy’s evaluates its store portfolio, the Northlake Mall location must demonstrate its value to avoid closure.

The store’s performance, customer base, and alignment with Macy’s future retail strategy will likely be critical factors in determining its fate. The community’s response and support could also help keep the store operational.

The situation underscores brick-and-mortar retail’s broader challenges and the importance of adaptation and innovation in sustaining business.

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Comments: 2
  1. Avatar of

    Good article, sad but true. Emory hasn’t added anything to this property business-wise or aesthetically. It is a dark, foreboding dungeon-looking place allowed to deteriorate. At best, it is now a testament to decay and neglect. A set for a horror movie.
    Compare this to the planned redevelopment of nearby North Dekalb Mall: Bright future with luxury hotel, upscale dining, residential units, needed services and intelligent, visionary planning.

    1. Avatar of Spencer Walsh
      Spencer Walsh (author)

      Thank you for sharing your perspective on Northlake Mall. Your observations and comparisons provide food for thought. It’s an important conversation for the community.

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