Northlake Mall, Atlanta, GA: From Bustling Hub to ‘Dead Mall’?

The Inception of Northlake Mall

In the heart of the Northlake community of northern DeKalb County, near Atlanta, Georgia, a significant establishment was born on October 6, 1971.

This was the Northlake Mall, a project the Simon Property Group brought to life. The mall was not just a shopping center but a hub of community activity and a symbol of economic prosperity.

The mall was designed to be a one-stop shopping destination, housing over 100 stores and services. It was anchored by three major department stores: Davison’s, Sears, and JCPenney.

These stores were the pillars of the mall, drawing in customers and providing a diverse shopping experience. The mall was also home to various smaller stores, offering everything from clothing and electronics to home goods and specialty items.

The Era of Prosperity

A vibrant retail environment marked the early years of the Northlake Mall. The mall was a hive of activity, with families exploring the vast array of stores, teenagers meeting up after school, and holiday seasons, transforming the mall into a festive wonderland. During this time, the mall indeed established itself as a central part of the Northlake community.

In 2014, the mall underwent a significant change in ownership. The Simon Property Group transitioned the mall into a newly established real estate investment trust, the Washington Prime Group.

This transition marked a new chapter in the mall’s history, but the mall continued to be a key player in the local retail landscape.

The Onset of Decline

However, the retail landscape began to shift with the advent of online shopping. As more consumers turned to the convenience of online stores, foot traffic in malls across America started to decrease. Northlake Mall was not immune to this trend.

The closure of major anchor stores further exacerbated the decline. JCPenney, Kohl’s, and Sears, once bustling centers of activity, shut their doors one after the other. These closures left a significant void in the mall, decreasing foot traffic and overall business.

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

Davison’s (1971-1986): Davison’s was one of the original anchor stores when Northlake Mall opened its doors in 1971. Known for its wide range of merchandise, Davison’s 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 range, 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 at the mall.

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.

Efforts Towards Revitalization

Despite the challenges, there were concerted efforts to revitalize the mall. The Tucker-Northlake Community Improvement District completed its Master Plan for the Tucker and Northlake area 2015.

The plan envisioned transforming Northlake’s regional commercial and industrial centers into mixed-use, walkable destinations. This bold vision aimed to adapt the mall to the changing retail landscape and breathe new life into it.

One of the most notable developments was the occupation of the former Sears building by Emory Healthcare.

The building became a mass distribution site for COVID-19 vaccinations, serving as Emory Healthcare’s largest off-site vaccination center. This move signaled a shift in the mall’s function from a retail space to a community service hub.

The Current State and Future Prospects

Today, Northlake Mall stands at a crossroads. With Macy’s as the only remaining anchor store, the mall is a shadow of its former self. However, recent developments suggest a potential resurgence.

The fully leased Hugh Howell Marketplace project in Tucker, developed by Summerhill Station developers, is a testament to the area’s enduring commercial potential.

The future of Northlake Mall remains uncertain, but there is hope. The mall’s story is a testament to its community’s resilience. As the mall continues to evolve, it remains a symbol of the community’s past, present, and future.

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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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