An Iconic Past
Columbia Place Mall has been a significant part of the Columbia community since it opened its doors in 1977. This behemoth of retail space, stretching over nearly 1.1 million square feet, was initially anchored by beloved stores like Belk, JCPenney, Sears, and Rich’s, which opened a few months later.
Over the years, it changed to keep up with the times, like adding an 8-unit food court in 1997 and a renovation in 2002.
Nestled comfortably off Interstate 20 and Interstate 77 on Two Notch Road, the mall had a magnetic pull on shoppers from across the region. Its Macy’s store, the only one in a 50-mile radius, particularly helped to cement the mall’s presence and position in the market.
But like many shopping centers in South Carolina, Columbia Place Mall faced significant challenges in the new millennium, with major retailers leaving and shopping habits changing.
The Tides of Change
The first signs of trouble came when JCPenney left for a new lifestyle center, Village at Sandhill, 10 miles away, in 2007. Next, Dillard’s, which had replaced Belk in 1995, closed its doors in 2008. Next, Sears announced its closure as part of a national plan in 2017, and by 2018, Burlington also decided to shut down.
The property itself changed hands over the years. Built by the Kahn Development Company and the Richard E. Jacobs Group, it was bought by CBL & Associates Properties in 2001.
After foreclosure, the mall was temporarily managed by the Spinoso Real Estate Group of North Syracuse, New York. But it was in 2014 that a new chapter began for the mall when Las Vegas real estate investor, Moonbeam Capital Investments, acquired the property.
A New Lease on Life
Fast forward to today, and Columbia Place Mall is in the throes of a significant transformation. In an ambitious move, Richland County is investing up to $40 million to build a new public safety complex at the mall.
This new facility, planned to be set up in a vacant mall department store at 7201 Two Notch Road, will house emergency dispatchers, a state-of-the-art forensic crime lab, and the S.C. Department of Probation, Pardon, and Parole.
Looking to the Future
The county is not stopping at the public safety complex. As part of an ongoing dialogue about utilizing county facilities effectively, the county is considering building a new home for the S.C. Department of Social Services within the mall and possibly relocating the S.C. Department of Health and Human Services and a nonprofit health clinic from a county administration building to the mall.
With the country’s ambitious plans, Columbia Place Mall is set to transition from a traditional shopping hub to a community resource center. This transformation, born out of necessity and ingenuity, is a testament to the resilience and adaptability of the Columbia community.
Despite the changes, the memory of the mall as it once was – a bustling hub of commerce and social interaction – will continue to live on in the hearts of those who spent time there. Columbia Place Mall is more than just a building; it’s a piece of Columbia’s history, evolving with the times and finding new ways to serve its community.
A Thriving Ecosystem
Despite the significant changes, Columbia Place Mall continues to serve as a hub for numerous businesses. Columbia Mall Boulevard, the road looping the mall’s parking lot, is the address for many outlying companies, including McDonald’s, Providence Health Connection, and Southeastern College.
These establishments, while not technically within the mall’s walls, contribute to the ecosystem that the mall has created and sustained over the years.
The presence of these businesses around the mall is a testament to the mall’s past influence and ongoing relevance. In addition, they serve as a reminder that while the mall’s form and function may change, its role as a focal point for the community remains steadfast.
A Nostalgic Journey
The Columbia Place Mall was more than just a shopping destination for many Columbia residents. It was a place to meet friends, spend time with family, and create lasting memories. The aroma of freshly brewed coffee, the buzz of conversations, and the joy of a new purchase are memories ingrained in the minds of those who frequented the mall.
Even today, as the mall undergoes significant changes, these memories link to the past. Walking through the mall, you can almost hear the echoes of laughter and feel the pulse of the community that once thrived there.
The Road Ahead
As Columbia Place Mall adapts to the times, it remains a testament to Columbia’s vibrant history and bright future. Its evolution reflects the resilience and adaptability of the Columbia community, and it serves as a beacon of hope for other retail centers facing similar challenges.
Whether you remember the mall as it was or are eager to see what it will become, Columbia Place Mall holds a special place in the heart of Columbia. As it evolves, it continues to be a reminder of our shared past and a symbol of our collective future.