The Grand Opening and the Dawn of a Retail Era
In Norfolk, Virginia, Military Circle Mall emerged as a bustling hub of commerce and social interaction in 1970.
Developed by the visionary Harvey Lindsay Jr., this mall was more than just a collection of stores; it was a cornerstone of community life.
“Remember when shopping malls were the town squares of our childhoods?”
With original tenants like JCPenney, J.B. Hunter, and Smith & Welton, the mall quickly became a go-to destination.
Not just a place for shopping, it also hosted a Sheraton hotel and a 6-screen AMC Theatres multiplex, offering a full spectrum of entertainment options.
The presence of Leggett, a division of Belk, further solidified the mall’s status as a retail powerhouse.
“The joy of movie nights and the thrill of shopping sprees, all under one roof!”
Over time, Military Circle Mall saw several changes. Thalhimer’s, initially occupying the space of J.B. Hunter, transformed into Hecht’s in 1992 and later into Macy’s in 2006, reflecting the evolving retail landscape.
The closure of Smith & Welton in 1990 marked the end of an era, but the mall continued to adapt and thrive.
A significant renovation in 1996 brought fresh life to the space, introducing skylights, modern entrances, and a 600-seat food court, breathing new energy into the mall’s ambiance.
AMC Theatres, once a central attraction, closed in the mid-90s, but the cinematic spirit lived on with the opening of Cinemark in a different section of the mall.
“Military Circle Mall, where memories were made and moments were shared.”
Things to do in Norfolk, Virginia, often included visiting Military Circle Mall, which encapsulated the essence of shopping, entertainment, and community bonding for over five decades.
Shifting Scenes: Military Circle Mall’s Era of Transformation
Military Circle Mall continued to evolve as the years rolled on, mirroring the changing retail and consumer preferences trends.
1998, a notable shift occurred when Belk vacated the former Leggett building. This event paved the way for significant changes, including Urban Retail’s renovation efforts in 1999.
These efforts brought a new vitality to the mall with the addition of a Sears store, rejuvenating a space previously occupied by Smith & Welton.
“Every corner of Military Circle Mall whispered a story of change and adaptation.”
The new millennium ushered in another exciting development: opening an 18-screen Cinemark movie theater in 2000, standing proudly on the former Leggett/Belk site.
This addition not only enhanced the entertainment offerings of the mall but also symbolized the continual reinvention of the space.
Thor Equities’ mall acquisition in 2002 marked another chapter in its story. Renamed The Gallery at Military Circle, the mall underwent mall-wide renovations, further modernizing its appearance and appeal.
Among the new arrivals was Ross Dress for Less in 2004, taking over the space once occupied by McCrory’s dime store.
“A tapestry of shops and entertainment, constantly weaving new patterns.”
The Winds of Change: Store Closures and Ownership Transitions
Military Circle Mall faced several challenges that reshaped its retail landscape in the following years.
The closure of Sears in 2012 was a significant blow, followed by the announcement in 2014 that JCPenney would also be closing its doors.
These closures were a nationwide trend affecting many malls and big-box retailers.
“An era was fading, but the memories lingered on.”
The Norfolk Economic Development Authority intervened in December 2014, purchasing the vacated anchor space.
This strategic move signaled the city’s investment in and commitment to the mall’s future and surrounding area.
Once bustling with shoppers and brimming with energy, the mall was now grappling with the reality of changing retail landscapes and consumer habits.
This shift was a testament to the broader trends in the retail industry, where traditional malls faced growing challenges.
A Turning Point: The Foreclosure and Auction of Military Circle Mall
In 2015, Military Circle Mall reached a critical juncture. The entire property was placed under foreclosure on April 16, signaling a major shift in its destiny.
A few months later, on July 15, the mall was put up for public auction, underscoring its uncertain future.
“From a bustling center of commerce to a symbol of shifting retail trends.”
Despite these challenges, the mall persevered for a short while longer. However, the closure of Macy’s in January 2016, as part of a massive restructuring, marked another step towards the mall’s eventual decline.
This closure was a local event and a broader pattern affecting Macy’s locations across the region and the nation.
The End of an Era and the Promise of Renewal
By the end of 2022, it was clear that the story of Military Circle Mall as a retail destination was ending.
The Norfolk Economic Development Authority voted for its demolition in early 2023, paving the way for a new chapter in the area’s development.
“A chapter closes, but the story of Military Circle continues.”
As the mall closed, a plan for robust tenant relocation was implemented, reflecting a commitment to supporting the community through this transition.
Interestingly, the Norfolk Economic Development Authority acquired most of the shopping center property by 2020, indicating plans for significant changes.
The future of the Military Circle area is now the subject of much anticipation and speculation. Proposals for redevelopment, including those from notable figures like musician Pharrell Williams and NFL Hall of Famer Emmitt Smith, hint at a vibrant and dynamic future.
“Military Circle Mall’s legacy paves the way for new dreams and developments.”
Reflecting on Military Circle Mall: A Legacy of Community and Change
As we look back on the history of Military Circle Mall, it’s clear that it was more than just a shopping center.
It was a vibrant part of Norfolk’s community, where memories were made and trends were set. Its story reflects the broader narrative of retail evolution and community development.
Now, as we anticipate its transformation, the legacy of Military Circle Mall remains a testament to the enduring spirit of Norfolk – a city that embraces change while honoring its past.
The future redevelopment promises to continue this legacy, offering new opportunities and experiences for future generations.
“Military Circle Mall: A chapter concludes, but its story continues to inspire.”
Military Circle Mall Timeline
|1970||Military Circle Mall Opens|
|1996||Renovations: Skylights, New Entrances, and Food Court|
|2002||Mall Renamed to The Gallery at Military Circle|
|2021||Cinemark 18 Closes|
|2023||Military Circle Mall Closes Permanently|