The Esplanade Mall, Kenner, LA: What the Future Holds for This Retail Space?

The Birth of a Shopping Landmark

On October 9, 1985, The Esplanade Mall opened its doors in Kenner, Louisiana, marking a significant addition to New Orleans‘s suburban landscape.

Developed by Cadillac Fairview, a renowned real estate company, the mall initially aimed to attract diverse shoppers through its variety of stores and services. This opening represented a new shopping option and a pivotal development in Kenner’s commercial growth.

In its inaugural year, the mall featured anchor tenants like D. H. Holmes, a local department store chain, and Mervyn’s, a mid-range department store from California.

These anchors were pivotal in drawing initial crowds and setting the mall’s reputation as a key retail destination. The following year, in 1986, Macy’s opened its first Louisiana store at Esplanade, elevating the mall’s status and broadening its appeal.

The design of Esplanade Mall, characterized by spacious walkways and a modern aesthetic, catered to the tastes and preferences of the mid-1980s consumer.

Its two floors of retail space became a hub for shopping, social encounters, and things to do in New Orleans, Louisiana.

The strategic selection of anchor stores and an inviting architectural style helped establish the mall as a go-to location for local shoppers and visitors from surrounding areas.

Current Anchors

  • Dillard’s Clearance Center (1989–present)
  • Target Corporation (2011–present)

Former Anchors

  • D. H. Holmes (1985–1989)
  • Leon Godchaux (1985–1992)
  • Macy’s (1986-2006, 2008–2017)
  • Mervyn’s (1985–2006)
  • 3.6.5+ by image (2016–2021)

The Esplanade Mall: Expansion and Changes in the 1990s

The 1990s brought changes to Esplanade Mall, reflecting the shifting retail dynamics in the United States.

In 1989, Dillard’s acquired the former D. H. Holmes store, introducing a new men’s store to the mall. This expansion aimed to diversify the shopping experience and cater to a broader audience.

By the time 1992 rolled around, another major shift occurred as Leon Godchaux’s store closed its doors, a change that reshaped the tenant mix and altered foot traffic patterns within the mall.

Throughout the decade, mall management has actively sought to enhance the retail mix, responding to shoppers’ evolving tastes.

These efforts often involved negotiating with potential new tenants and redesigning spaces to accommodate modern retail demands. The strategy was clear: keep the mall attractive and competitive in a rapidly changing retail landscape.

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By the end of the 1990s, Esplanade Mall had expanded its offerings and solidified its place as a key player in Kenner’s retail scene.

The changes throughout the decade marked a period of adaptation and growth, setting the stage for the challenges and opportunities of the new millennium.

The Esplanade Mall Kenner Louisiana
The Esplanade Mall Kenner Louisiana” by Jeff Hitchcock is licensed under CC BY 2.0

Weathering Storms – Hurricane Katrina

Hurricane Katrina in August 2005 dealt a severe blow to Esplanade Mall, compelling a temporary shutdown due to significant damage.

This event tested the mall’s resilience, as businesses and the community faced extensive recovery challenges.

However, the mall’s response was swift, with reopening efforts completed by October 2005, just two months after the disaster.

The management and store owners worked closely during this period, coordinating repairs and communicating with the public about the progress.

Their efforts highlighted a commitment to restoring service and support to the community, which relied on the mall for various needs.

This phase was crucial, not only for economic reasons but also for restoring a sense of normalcy for the residents of Kenner.

Reflecting on this, the quick recovery of Esplanade Mall post-Katrina underscores the importance of preparedness and resilience in the face of natural disasters.

It stands as a testament to the strength of the community and the management’s dedication to the mall’s role in Kenner’s social and economic fabric.

The Esplanade Mall Kenner
The Esplanade Mall Kenner Louisiana” by Jeff Hitchcock is licensed under CC BY 2.0

The 21st Century Decline

The early 2000s marked a downturn for Esplanade Mall, beginning with its acquisition by The Mills Corporation in 2003.

This change promised new developments, including introducing anchor stores like Target and Bass Pro Shops and a modern movie theater. However, these plans fell through due to financial troubles, impacting the mall’s growth and appeal.

Several anchor stores closed during this period, starting with Macy’s in 2006, which had been a draw since its opening.

Mervyn’s also shut down the same year, leaving a significant vacancy that disrupted visitor flow and reduced sales.

Dillard’s adapted by transitioning one of its locations into a clearance center in 2012, altering its retail strategy to cope with declining foot traffic and changing consumer behaviors.

Store closures and shifting consumer shopping habits to more online platforms contributed to decreased visitor numbers, challenging the mall’s traditional retail model.

These changes reflect broader retail trends and underscore the challenges faced by physical malls in adapting to the new retail landscape.

Recent Developments and the Future

In recent years, Esplanade Mall has faced challenges, particularly with its closure due to Hurricane Ida in late 2021.

This event added to the already complex financial issues, including significant back taxes owed, which were reported in 2021.

The Esplanade Kenner
The Esplanade Mall Kenner Louisiana” by Jeff Hitchcock is licensed under CC BY 2.0

These financial burdens have made it difficult for the mall to maintain operations and attract new business.

In response to these challenges, the community and potential investors have shown interest in revitalizing the mall.

As of June 2021, plans were being discussed to transform Esplanade Mall into a mixed-use development, potentially incorporating residential spaces and new retail concepts.

This shift aims to adapt to the evolving needs of the Kenner community and the broader retail market, which increasingly favors versatile spaces over traditional shopping models.

The future of Esplanade Mall hinges on these redevelopment efforts. Success will depend on innovating and reimagining the space as a community hub that meets modern consumer expectations. These efforts could restore the mall’s role as a key retail and social venue in Kenner.

Stalled Progress and Renewal Hopes

Over a year has passed since the Illinois-based Windfall Group acquired Esplanade Mall for $10 million in early 2023, with ambitious plans to transform it into a mixed-use development.

These plans included building hundreds of apartments alongside retail spaces to rejuvenate the struggling mall.

Despite these intentions, there has been little visible progress; the property remains unchanged, with no construction activity observed.

The large “CLOSED” signs on the sliding glass doors near the former Macy’s building symbolize the mall’s current state—a stark reminder of its once bustling past.

The nearby Dillard’s and Target stores, having different owners, continue to operate, providing a glimmer of normalcy amidst the stagnation.

The Esplanade Kenner
The Esplanade” by Arbron is licensed under CC BY 2.0

Kenner City officials have met with the developers, yet updates on the project remain sparse. Windfall Group has deferred all communications about the project’s developments.

Despite these delays, the Jefferson Parish Economic Development Commission (JEDCO) remains involved. It has met with the developers to discuss plans and offer potential incentives.

They aim to attract major retail prospects to the site, though final plans for redevelopment are still pending.

This ongoing interaction indicates that local authorities and economic bodies are still hopeful about turning around the mall’s fortunes, drawing parallels to successful redevelopment projects like the transformation of Clearview City Center in Metairie into a vibrant lifestyle center.

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