A Storied Past
In the heart of South Memphis’s Whitehaven neighborhood, the Southland Mall stands as a testament to the area’s vibrant history.
Constructed in 1966, this regional shopping mall proudly became the first enclosed mall in the Mid-South. With over 60 stores, it became a bustling hub of commerce and social activity.
The mall’s allure was its many shops and two anchor stores: Macy’s and Sears. With their wide-ranging wares and trusted brands, these flagship stores drew countless shoppers to the mall, ensuring a steady stream of foot traffic that benefitted the smaller businesses inside. But change, as it often does, eventually came knocking.
Vacancies and Challenges
In early 2015, Macy’s announced its departure from Southland Mall as part of a nationwide plan to close 14 stores. A few years later, in February 2019, Sears followed suit, leaving behind two vacant anchors and a significant void in the mall’s commercial landscape.
The departure of these two giants left more than 30,000 square feet vacant and raised concerns about the mall’s future.
Despite these challenges, Southland Mall remained resilient. Operating at 66% occupancy, the mall continued to house many independently owned stores.
Yet, the absence of the anchor stores undeniably affected the foot traffic, and the surrounding area began to show signs of neglect, with residents voicing concerns about the mall’s appearance and trash accumulation in the area.
The Promise of Revitalization
The tide started to turn for Southland Mall when Global Building, LLC purchased the Sears building with a plan to convert it into a Public Storage self-storage facility.
At the same time, the Shopping Mall Group took up the project of developing the abandoned Sears Auto Center, laying plans for a Starbucks and AutoZone to be built in its place.
These developments are not just about filling vacancies but also about spurring a more extensive transformation. There’s a significant call to action for new property development and infrastructure upgrades in neighborhoods such as Whitehaven.
Such areas brim with potential and await an influx of corporate interest. As developers undertake these improvements, they serve as a magnet for corporations, attracting them to invest and build. The renewed interest and investment can transform the community, reviving its economic vibrancy and appeal.
The new developments brought a sense of optimism to the community. Local business owners saw the potential for the incoming Starbucks, AutoZone, and Public Storage to boost foot traffic, much like Macy’s and Sears did in the past. They hope the increased business activity would, in turn, attract more national chains to the area.
For residents, the new developments represent more than just economic growth. They signify a renewed commitment to the community, with hundreds of jobs and an anticipated increase in community pride.
While acknowledging the ongoing challenges, the locals remained hopeful about the mall’s future and the broader revitalization of the Whitehaven area.
Crime in Southland Mall Area
Like many urban areas, Southland Mall has not been immune to the challenges posed by crime. Over the years, the mall and its surrounding areas have seen increased incidents, raising concerns among local businesses and residents. Crime has ranged from property damage to burglaries, creating a sense of insecurity in the community.
The Greater Whitehaven Economic Redevelopment Corporation is aware of this issue and is expanding grants to include exterior cameras. These cameras will be connected to the Memphis Police Department’s network. This move is designed to deter potential criminal activities and facilitate the resolution of crimes that do occur.
The journey towards a safer Southland Mall is ongoing, and the collective efforts of the community, law enforcement, and businesses will be crucial in achieving this goal.
As we look to the future, the narrative of Southland Mall is one of resilience and reinvention. It’s a story of a landmark navigating the retail industry’s ebbs and flows, a community grappling with change, and a neighborhood striving for progress.
As these new businesses prepare to open their doors, one can’t help but feel a sense of anticipation and excitement.
Despite the challenges and setbacks, Southland Mall symbolizes community strength and potential. As the community rallies around these new developments, there is real hope that Southland Mall will become a vibrant hub reflecting Whitehaven’s spirit again.
While the transformation may take time, the consensus is clear: next years from now, Whitehaven, TN, will look very different than it does today.