The Rise and Fall of Cortana Mall
Once a bustling shopping center in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, Cortana Mall opened its doors on August 4, 1976, at the site of the old Cortana Plantation.
Developed by Mall Properties and designed by architect Milton J. Womack, the mall initially boasted 100 inline tenants and a three-screen cinema operated by General Cinema Corporation. It soon became the largest shopping mall in the south and the 14th largest in the United States.
Throughout its early years, Cortana Mall saw the addition of several anchors, including Goudchaux’s/Maison Blanche, JCPenney, Dillard’s, Sears, H. J. Wilson Co., and Mervyn’s.
By the time Mervyn’s joined the mall in 1987, the mall had expanded to 1.6 million square feet of space and had room for about 140 stores. However, the mall’s movie theater closed in 1988 when its lease was not renewed.
Renovations and Decline
In the 1990s, Cortana Mall underwent renovations and rebranding efforts. The first renovation occurred in 1991 to update the interior and add security, followed by a 1997 exterior signage and landscaping update.
The mall was rebranded as the Mall at Cortana in 1997, but its decline had already begun with the opening of the Mall of Louisiana in South Baton Rouge that same year.
The situation worsened with the opening of Towne Center at Cedar Lodge in 2005, which led to many stores with exact Cortana locations closing or not renewing their leases. In addition, several of the mall’s anchor tenants also experienced name and location changes during this period, further contributing to its decline.
The Final Years: Anchor Tenants Close
As the mall struggled to maintain its tenants, several anchor stores began closing their doors. Mervyn’s closed in 2006, followed by Steve and Barry’s in 2009.
In 2016, Macy’s announced it would leave Cortana Mall, and in 2017, Sears and JCPenney followed suit. The only remaining anchor was the Dillard’s Clearance Center, which closed in April 2021.
By this time, only a handful of inline tenants remained in the mall, such as three jewelers, a hair salon, Bath & Body Works, a Philly cheesesteak grill, a church, a theatrical studio, and a small medical clinic. With over 90% of the available properties and five anchors vacant, the mall was ordered to close to mall walkers in September 2019.
Demolition and Amazon Redevelopment
Following the mall’s closure, the property was put up for sale for $4 million by Moonbeam Equities, the mall’s last owner. However, due to a lack of interest, the listing was taken off the market in October 2018.
The Baton Rouge Business Report later revealed that Amazon was considering moving its distribution center operations to the mall, which was confirmed in November.
The demolition of Cortana Mall began on March 22, 2021, and was completed in the late summer of the same year. By December 2021, the site was undergoing redevelopment into a distribution center for Amazon, bringing new life to the once-thriving shopping destination.
From Mall to Distribution Center: A New Beginning
After the closure of its last remaining tenants, Cortana Mall faced an uncertain future. However, a new opportunity arose when Amazon expressed interest in the property.
Demolition of the mall began on March 22, 2021, and by late summer of that year, the once-popular shopping destination had been completely leveled, making way for a new era in the site’s history.
By December 2021, the site was being transformed into an Amazon distribution center, bringing new life and economic opportunities to the area. The shift from a retail hub to a logistics center reflects the changing commerce landscape as online shopping grows in popularity.
The redevelopment of the former Cortana Mall site signifies a new beginning, not only for the property itself but also for the local community and economy.
The Unforgettable Story of Cortana Mall
Cortana Mall in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, has experienced a remarkable journey since its inception in 1976. Once a thriving shopping destination and the largest mall in the south, it became a victim of changing retail trends and increased competition. As anchors and inline tenants closed their doors, the mall struggled to survive, ultimately facing demolition in 2021.
However, the Cortana Mall site found new life as an Amazon distribution center, breathing new economic opportunities into the area. The transformation from a retail hub to a logistics center is a testament to the ever-evolving landscape of commerce and the resilience of the local community.
The unforgettable story of Cortana Mall is a powerful reminder of the potential for rebirth in the face of adversity.