Savannah Mall in Savannah, GA: From Retail Heaven to Uncertain Future

The Glory Days of Savannah Mall

In 1990, Savannah Mall opened its doors to the public, instantly becoming a hub of activity and commerce.

Located on Abercorn Street, the mall was anchored by big-name stores like Montgomery Ward, Belk, Parisian, and J.B. White, drawing in crowds from all over the city.

During the 1990s and early 2000s, the mall was the place to be, especially during weekends and holidays.

The mall quickly became more than just a shopping destination; it was a community gathering spot.

Families would spend their Saturdays wandering the aisles, teenagers would hang out after school, and older people found it a comfortable place to walk and socialize.

The food court was always bustling, and special events, from fashion shows to holiday celebrations, were frequent.

Savannah Mall before closure

During these peak years, the mall boasted high foot traffic and a wide range of stores, from high-end boutiques to popular chain stores.

It was a one-stop shop for all your needs, from fashion and electronics to groceries and home goods.

The mall was so popular that it was often hard to find parking, especially during the holiday season.

However, like all good things, this period of prosperity couldn’t last forever. As the years passed, the retail landscape changed, and Savannah Mall was not immune to these shifts.

The first signs of decline started to appear, and the once-bustling mall began to lose its luster.

The Architectural and Aesthetic Appeal

One of the standout features of Savannah Mall was its architectural design. The mall was laid out in a way that made it easy to navigate, with wide corridors and plenty of natural light. The interior was adorned with tasteful decorations that changed with the seasons, making each visit a unique experience.

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Over the years, the mall underwent several renovations to keep up with modern tastes. New flooring was installed, lighting fixtures were updated, and seating areas were added for shoppers to rest. These changes were not just cosmetic; they were part of a broader strategy to keep the mall appealing to a new generation of shoppers.

The mall’s architectural and aesthetic elements remain a testament to its former glory. They serve as a nostalgic reminder of what once was, capturing the essence of a bygone era in retail history.

Savannah Mall in 2021

Savannah Mall: Two Decades of Change

The late 1990s were pivotal for Savannah Mall in Savannah, GA. The mall was still riding the wave of its initial success, with anchor stores like Dillard’s and Montgomery Ward drawing in crowds. However, the retail landscape was beginning to shift, and the mall had to adapt to stay relevant.

1998, Montgomery Ward and J.B. White announced its closure, leaving a significant vacancy in the mall. This was a sign of the challenges to come. However, the mall management quickly acted, bringing Dillard’s as a new anchor in 1998 and Target in 2004. The addition of Target was a strategic move aimed at attracting a younger, more budget-conscious demographic.

The 2000s were a mixed bag for Savannah Mall. While the early 2000s saw steady foot traffic and regular community events like Easter egg hunts and Halloween costume contests, the latter half of the decade was less kind. The mall added a Bass Pro Shops Outdoor World in 2003, which became a significant draw for outdoor enthusiasts.

Savannah Mall
Savannah Mall” by MikeKalasnik is licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0

The 2008 financial crisis hit the retail sector hard, and Savannah Mall was no exception. Several stores, including some long-standing tenants like RadioShack, closed their doors.

By the late 2010s, the mall was showing signs of struggle. Foot traffic had declined, and many smaller stores had shuttered. However, there were attempts to revitalize the mall, including adding the Live Oak Public Library.

This was a unique move to make the mall a multi-purpose community space. Yet, despite these efforts, the mall couldn’t escape the broader trends affecting brick-and-mortar retail. Stores like Burlington Coat Factory, which had been a part of the mall since 2006, closed in 2020, leaving another large vacancy.

The late 1990s to the 2010s were years of triumph and challenge for Savannah Mall. The mall has seen everything from the highs of adding Target to the lows of losing long-standing tenants. As the 2010s ended, the mall was at a crossroads, facing an uncertain future but holding onto its rich history as a community hub in Savannah, GA.

Savannah Mall
Savannah Mall” by MikeKalasnik is licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0

The Decline and Struggles

The decline of Savannah Mall can be attributed to several factors. The rise of online shopping has had a significant impact, as consumers find it more convenient to shop from the comfort of their homes. Additionally, changing consumer behaviors and preferences have led to a decrease in foot traffic. The last straw was the restrictions during the Covid-19 pandemic.

Financial struggles have also plagued the mall. In October 2022, the property was auctioned to BCHM Investment Group for nearly $8.44 million. This sale marked a significant turning point for the mall, as it indicated a shift in ownership and, potentially, a change in direction.

The mall’s decline has had a ripple effect on the local economy. Jobs have been lost, and the decrease in foot traffic has impacted surrounding businesses. Once a bustling hub of activity, the mall has become a shadow of its former self.

Yet, despite these struggles, the mall remains open. It is a stark reminder of the challenges facing brick-and-mortar retail spaces in the digital age. The question that looms large is: what comes next?

Recent Controversies and Tenant Evictions

After the mall sale, news broke that several tenants were given a 30-day eviction notice, causing a stir in the community. Businesses like Dance Savannah, a six-year tenant, were forced to vacate without apparent reason. This abrupt decision left many store owners and community members frustrated and angry.

The eviction notices came as a surprise to many, including local authorities. Alderman tried to inquire about the issue but was told it was private. This lack of transparency has led to speculation and concern among locals, who are worried about the mall’s future.

The mall was initially scheduled to close on January 12, 2023, with only the anchor stores remaining open. However, in a surprising turn of events, the alderman of Savannah announced on the same day that the mall would not be closing. As of March 2023, the doors to the mall, except for the anchors, were locked, and the in-line mall was closed.

The mall’s new owners, BCHM Investment Group, had remained tight-lipped about their plans. The community wondered what would happen to the businesses told to go and what this means for the mall’s future.

The Tenants: From Retail Giants to Local Businesses

Savannah Mall has always been home to a diverse range of tenants. From retail giants like Target to local businesses, the mall offered something for everyone.

The mall also had specialty stores that catered to niche markets. Whether you were looking for sporting goods at Bass Pro Shops or fashion at Dillard’s, Savannah Mall had it all. The variety of stores made it a popular choice for things to do in Savannah, Georgia.

However, the tenant landscape has been changing, especially in recent years. Many stores have closed their doors, leaving empty storefronts that once thrived. As of 2023, the mall still houses Bass Pro Shops Outdoor World, Dillard’s, Target, call center OnBrand24, and Live Oak Public Library.

Despite these challenges, the mall continues to serve as a retail space for the community. While it may not have the same range of options as before, it still offers essential services and retail outlets for locals.

Savannah Mall
Savannah Mall” by MikeKalasnik is licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0

The Uncertain Future

The future of Savannah Mall remains uncertain. The mall is at a crossroads with new ownership and recent tenant evictions. While it continues to operate, the lack of a clear direction has left many in the community concerned about what lies ahead.

Despite the challenges and uncertainties, Savannah Mall still holds a special place in the hearts of many locals. It serves as a reminder of when malls were the epicenters of community life and social interaction.

As we look to the future, the mall stands as a symbol of both the challenges and opportunities facing retail spaces in the modern age. Only time will tell if Savannah Mall can adapt and thrive or if it will become another casualty in the ever-changing retail landscape.

Other Malls in Georgia

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Comments: 2
  1. Avatar of JC
    JC

    Do not be fooled. Long before Savannah Mall was sold, the owners had been purposely raising rent on the businesses within the mall to force them out so they could sell after making as much profit as possible before doing so. The owners stopped fixing known issues like leaks throughout the building, once beautiful street signs to fall apart, during this rate hike. Shameful business practices are the reason for this malls demise. Savannah Mall could/should have easily weathered the tribulations brought about by financial and biological challenges. For owners to allow a mall who bears our cities name to intentionally decay should have been investigated by city council, at least.

    Reply
    1. Avatar of Spencer Walsh
      Spencer Walsh (author)

      Your comment is a compelling call for greater scrutiny of business practices that affect community assets like Savannah Mall. It’s a perspective that should be part of any comprehensive discussion about the mall’s future.

      Reply
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