The Metrocenter Mall Experience: Nostalgia and Change in Jackson, MS

The Inception of Metrocenter Mall

The Birth of Mississippi’s Largest Shopping Center

On March 1, 1978, a significant addition graced Jackson, Mississippi – the Metrocenter Mall. At its opening, this mall wasn’t merely another shopping center but the largest enclosed shopping space in Mississippi.

Its impressive footprint spanned over a million square feet, offering a new world of retail possibilities.

The strategic position of Metrocenter Mall at the junction of Highway 80 and the newly constructed Interstate 220 played a crucial role in its accessibility, making it a prime destination for shoppers from across the state.

Anchoring Success with Key Stores

Metrocenter Mall initially housed three major anchor stores: McRae’s, Gayfers, and Sears. Each of these stores brought a unique flavor and audience to the mall.

McRae’s, a Jackson-based department store, offered a local touch, while Gayfers and Sears, with their broader regional appeal, drew in a diverse range of customers.

About a year later, D. H. Holmes joined the mix, bolstering the mall’s status as a major retail hub.

The presence of these anchors was a testament to the mall’s potential as a bustling commercial center.

Competition and Coexistence in Retail

While Metrocenter Mall was a new entrant in Jackson’s retail landscape, it wasn’t the only player. Jackson Mall, which opened in 1970, was its predecessor and competitor.

However, both malls managed to thrive, carving out their niches in the local economy. The opening of Northpark Mall in Ridgeland in 1984 expanded the region’s retail offerings.

Despite the growing competition, Metrocenter maintained its prominence, underlining the vitality and diversity of Jackson’s retail scene.

In a city like Jackson, Mississippi, finding things to do in and around the area includes exploring its rich retail history, where places like Metrocenter Mall have played a significant part.

The Golden Era of Metrocenter Mall

A Hub for Shoppers and Entertainment Seekers

The 1980s marked the golden era for Metrocenter Mall. During this period, the mall truly flourished, establishing itself as a go-to destination for shopping, dining, and entertainment.

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The addition of the New Orleans-based D.H. Holmes store in 1979 further elevated the mall’s status.

Inside the mall, visitors could enjoy a variety of dining options, including the Potpourri Restaurant in D.H. Holmes and Widow Watson’s in McRae’s, offering a delightful break from their shopping adventures.

Metrocenter Mall Retail and Entertainment Riches

Beyond the anchor stores, Metrocenter Mall was home to many specialty shops, a testament to its retail diversity.

These stores catered to various interests and needs, making the mall a comprehensive shopping destination.

Additionally, the mall featured Mississippi‘s only General Cinema theater, becoming a central point for movie enthusiasts.

This blend of shopping and entertainment options made Metrocenter not just a mall but a vibrant social space for the community.

Metrocenter Mall in Jackson, MS
Metrocenter Mall in Jackson, MS

Standing Strong Amidst Rising Competition

Despite the emergence of new malls like Northpark Mall in Ridgeland, Metrocenter Mall held its ground.

Its success during this time was indicative of its strong appeal and the loyalty of its customer base.

Despite increasing competition, the mall’s ability to sustain its business underscored its significance in the region’s retail landscape.

This era showcased Metrocenter Mall as a resilient and beloved part of Jackson’s commercial history.

Changes and Challenges in the 1990s and 2000s

Transition of Anchor Stores

The 1990s and 2000s brought significant changes to Metrocenter Mall, marked by shifts in its anchor stores. D.H. Holmes, a staple of the mall since 1979, was acquired by Dillard’s in 1989, altering the mall’s retail landscape.

Similarly, Gayfers was absorbed into Dillard’s in 1999. These acquisitions reflected the evolving nature of retail chains and had a noticeable impact on the mall’s dynamics.

Meanwhile, McRae’s was sold and rebranded as Belk in 2006, introducing a new phase for the mall.

Adapting to a Shifting Retail Environment

Dillard’s closed its store in the mall in 2006 and Belk in 2009. The closure of Sears in 2012 was a significant moment, marking the end of an era for Metrocenter Mall.

This period saw a broader shift in the retail industry, with increasing competition from suburban shopping centers and online platforms.

Despite these challenges, the mall continued to host a variety of stores and eateries, adapting to the changing preferences of consumers.

Metrocenter Mall in Jackson, MS
Metrocenter Mall in Jackson, MS

The late 1990s and early 2000s were times of uncertainty for Metrocenter Mall. The changing landscape of retail, coupled with the economic shifts, posed challenges to the mall’s traditional business model.

Despite these hurdles, the mall strove to reinvent itself and remain a key player in Jackson’s retail scene.

Decline and Closure

The Beginning of the End

As the new millennium unfolded, Metrocenter Mall faced its most demanding challenges.

The decline began in earnest in 1999, with the closure of the first anchor department store, marking a turning point for the once-thriving mall.

Having acquired two of the mall’s anchor spaces, Dillard’s continued operating in the former D.H. Holmes space but closed the Gayfer’s location.

This closure was a significant blow, signaling the start of a steady pattern of vacancies that would plague the mall for years to come.

Attempts at Revival and the Ultimate Closure

Efforts to revive the mall were evident. In 2007, Burlington Coat Factory opened in the former Gayfers property, drawing crowds from miles away and momentarily boosting foot traffic.

Despite this addition, the mall struggled with substantial vacancies and changing demographics in the Jackson area.

The closure of Belk in 2009 and the city council’s decision to purchase the former D.H. Holmes/Dillard’s property for revitalization efforts were part of a desperate bid to save the mall. However, these efforts were insufficient.

The Aftermath of the Closure

In August 2018, Metrocenter Mall in Jackson, MS, ceased operations, although Burlington and certain sections occupied by city offices continued to operate.

However, on February 9, 2022, an announcement was made that Burlington would shut down at this location, leaving the mall without any retail stores.

The closure of Metrocenter Mall was more than just the end of a shopping center; it marked the end of an era for Jackson’s retail landscape.

The former McRae’s/Belk property was sold in 2010, with plans for mixed-use redevelopment, but these plans did little to restore the mall’s former glory.

The mall’s decline and eventual closure were emblematic of the broader challenges traditional malls face in the age of online shopping and shifting consumer preferences.

The Current Status and Community Perspectives

A Quiet Present for a Once-Bustling Mall

Today, Metrocenter Mall stands as a shadow of its former self. The bustling crowds and vibrant retail scene have given way to a largely unused space.

The few operational businesses, such as the city offices and a handful of small outlets, are scattered remnants of its past.

The once-popular gathering spot for shopping and socializing now sees only a fraction of its previous activity, mirroring the challenges faced by traditional malls across the country.

In 2023, Metrocenter Mall in Jackson, MS, became embroiled in a legal conflict when Retro Metro, LLC filed a lawsuit against the City of Jackson.

This action followed the city council’s termination of a 20-year lease agreement with Retro Metro, signed in 2011 for using parts of the mall as city offices.

Retro Metro claims the city’s decision caused irreparable harm, countering complaints about poor conditions, such as mold and pests, by highlighting lease terms that put maintenance responsibilities on the city.

Concurrently, the city slashed the asking price for the mall’s old Dillard’s building from $700,000 to $350,000, signaling a move to sever ties with the mall.

This price reduction underlines the challenges in attracting buyers for parts of the once-thriving mall.

The future of Metrocenter Mall remains uncertain. The termination of the lease and ongoing legal tussles reflect the complexities of repurposing such large commercial spaces.

Community Hopes and Collective Efforts

The community around Metrocenter Mall still holds a glimmer of hope for its revival. Residents reminisce about the mall’s heyday and express a desire to see it bustling once again.

The idea of community support being crucial for the mall’s revival is often discussed, with many believing that collective efforts could potentially breathe new life into this iconic space.

This sentiment reflects the community’s attachment to the mall, not just as a shopping center but as a part of their collective memories and local identity.

Metrocenter Mall in Jackson, MS
Metrocenter Mall in Jackson, MS

Reflecting on the Mall’s Journey

Reflecting on Metrocenter Mall’s journey, it’s clear that it has been a significant part of Jackson’s commercial and social fabric.

From its days as a thriving shopping center to its current state of quiet existence, the mall’s story is intertwined with the broader narrative of changing retail trends and consumer behaviors.

Its evolution from a bustling hub to a subdued space speaks volumes about the shifting dynamics of retail and community engagement in modern times.

Conclusion

As we reflect on the story of Metrocenter Mall in Jackson, Mississippi, we see a microcosm of the American shopping mall’s life cycle.

From its grand opening in 1978 as a beacon of modern retail through its golden era to its gradual decline and eventual closure in 2018, Metrocenter Mall has mirrored the broader shifts in consumer habits and the retail landscape.

Its current state, a blend of sparse activity and unfulfilled redevelopment plans, speaks to the challenges of reviving such large commercial spaces.

However, the mall’s history remains a significant chapter in Jackson’s story, a testament to the evolving nature of commerce and community.

Metrocenter Mall’s legacy continues to linger in the memories of those who frequented its stores and walked its halls, reminding us of the ever-changing world of retail and community spaces.

Metrocenter Mall in Jackson, MS
Metrocenter Mall in Jackson, MS

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