BUFORD-CLAIRMONT MALL
Buford Highway NE / US 23 and Clairmont Road
Dekalb County, Georgia

On June 5, 1968, ground was broken for a new Greater Atlanta "shopper mall". This was being built on a 31 acre site, located 9.6 miles northeast of the center city, in a section of unincorporated Dekalb County known as Buford-Dresden.

Developed by Atlanta-based Sunshine Department Stores, BUFORD-CLAIRMONT MALL was added to a Woolco discount mart already under construction. This 1-level (103,000 square foot) store opened for business in the fall of 1968. The adjoining retail complex was dedicated in 1969. It encompassed a single level, contained approximately 345,400 leasable square feet and included a fully-enclosed shopping concourse.

In addition to the aforementioned Woolco, the center was anchored by a 1-level (30,000 square foot) Sunshine Department Store. This was the Atlanta-based chain's fifth branch. Other charter tenants included Jacobs Drug, Friedman's Jewelers, Hirch's men's wear, Thom McAn Shoes and a (25,000 square foot) A & P supermarket.

On February 10, 1971, the Loews Twelve Oaks Theatre showed its first feature. It was a 1,200-seat, single-screen venue and the second of two Gone With The Wind-themed theaters in Greater Atlanta. It was a sister cinema to Atlanta's Loews Tara, which had been dedicated in July 1968. The Twelve Oaks Theatre was divided into the Twelve Oaks 2 in 1975, the Twelve Oaks 4 in the 1985, and was shuttered in 1998.

Meanwhile, the Sunshine Store at BUFORD-CLAIRMONT MALL had closed in October 1978 and been replaced by a Massachusetts-based Marshalls. Woolco went dark June 28, 1980 and re-opened, as a Burlington Coat Factory, August 1st of the same year.

Major shopping hubs in the vicinity of BUFORD-CLAIRMONT MALL included NORTH DEKALB CENTER (1965) {4 miles southeast, in Dekalb County} and NORTHLAKE MALL (1971) {3 miles southeast, also in Dekalb County}.

Maryland's James Rouse Company acquired BUFORD-CLAIRMONT MALL in July 1983 and reconfigured it as OUTLET SQUARE. The grand opening of Atlanta's  "first off-price shopping center" was held November 3, 1983. Inline stores during this time frame included Georgia Girl ladies' wear, Famous Footwear, Big & Tall Shop and a Winn-Dixie supermarket (in the old A & P space).

OUTLET SQUARE was initially successful, but was in decline by the early 1990s. The complex was sold twice in 1996. It was reinvented as ATLANTA ORIENTAL MALL, which was marketed to the area's Asian community. This Hong Kong Streets-motif mall opened for business in February 1997.

In addition to Burlington Coat Factory and Marshalls, the "vibrant oriental bazaar" included the Hong Kong Supermarket, which had taken the place of Winn-Dixie. Unfortunately, ATLANTA ORIENTAL MALL failed to catch on.

A third mutation of the retail center took place in the late 1990s. Atlanta's Vincent Riggio and Doug McMurrain (under the auspices of the Ram Development Group) acquired the struggling retail center. Their original plan was to demolish the complex and replace it with a Home Depot or Wal-Mart.

Instead, they installed a Latin-style mercado in the existing structure. Atlanta-based Ozell Stankus Associates Architects envisaged the transformation. An 11 million dollar renovation project installed two hundred and fifty vendor stalls in the mall's gutted interior and repainted its exterior in bright, vivid colors. The renewed retail hub, known as PLAZA FIESTA, debuted in May 1999.

Retail stalls were located in four "Market" areas. Stores included Discolandia (a music store), the Carnitas Mexican restaurant and Laredo Western Wear. The cinema was repurposed as a nightclub and live performance venue and operated as Dekalb Atlanta Center (Atlanta Live), Deamz ATL and Mansion Elan over the ensuing years.

Burlington Coat Factory closed its PLAZA FIESTA store in the early twenty-tens. The space was divided into four sections; Market 5, Planet Fitness, Children's Health Care and a (50,000 square foot), New York City-based Shoppers World. These tenants were in business by the spring of 2013. Marshalls closed its doors in early 2010 and was replaced by Ross Dress For Less.

Today, PLAZA FIESTA is managed by Montebello, California's Legaspi Company. The mall houses three hundred and thirty-three vendor stalls, thirty-four inline stores and services, an 8-bay Food Court and thirty kiosks.

Sources:

www.creativeloafing.com
www.bizjournals.com
The Atlanta Journal Constitution
http://nreionline.com (National Real Estate Investor)
www.cinematreasures.org
Comment posts by "TenPoundHammer", Clay and Troy Hester
www.plazafiesta.net
Dekalb County Georgia tax assessor website