A recent aerial view of Georgia's second shopping mall. Far from the destination center it was in the 1960s, it now operates in a state of retail twilight. A good-sized portion of the complex (area on the left) was demolished in 2006.
Original photo from www.bing.com 


STEWART-LAKEWOOD CENTER
Stewart Avenue / US 19 and 41 and Lakewood Avenue
Atlanta, Georgia

A decaying and virtually forgotten structure on Atlanta's south side holds the distinction of being the city's -and state's- second mall-type shopping venue. LAKEWOOD CENTER, a small strip plaza developed by Atlanta's Adams-Cates Company, was completed in 1952.

The retail hub was situated on 26 acres, 4 miles south of downtown's Five Points. The site was one block west of an interchange on the city's South Expressway, which was opened to traffic in 1955. This highway was eventually designated as the routes of Interstates 75 and 85.

The original strip shopping center center featured a Jacobs Drug, Colonial supermarket and approximately four other tenants. Between 1959 and 1960, the strip complex was enlarged into an open-air mall, known as STEWART-LAKEWOOD CENTER.

The primary stores were the aforementioned Colonial, plus Western Auto, Rhodes Furniture, W.T. Grant, Lerner Shops and a dry goods only J.C. Penney. The tenant list also included Lee's Men's Shop, Dipper Dan's Ice Cream, Bell Brothers Shoes, the Stewart-Lakewood Fabric Center and a National Shirt Shop. At the time of the mall's grand opening in 1960, there was talk of Atlanta-based Rich's building a location at STEWART-LAKEWOOD CENTER. However, this never came to pass.

The opening of GREENBRIAR CENTER {4.6 miles east, in Atlanta} in 1965 was the first blow to STEWART-LAKEWOOD CENTER. GREENBRIAR was much larger and fully-enclosed. The Penney's at STEWART-LAKEWOOD was replaced by a full-line store at GREENBRIAR. The STEWART-LAKEWOOD location would operate as an Outlet Store until 1969.

A second expansion of STEWART-LAKEWOOD CENTER had been added to the north end of the structure in 1967-1968, which was anchored by a 1-level (96,700 square foot) Woolco discount mart. An outparcel movie house, the single-screen Stewart-Lakewood Cinema, opened in 1969. It was twinned in the early 1970s and remained in business until 1989.

By the late 1970s, the demographics of the area surrounding STEWART-LAKEWOOD CENTER had changed dramatically. The Lakewood Freeway, a segment of the abandoned Interstate 420 project, opened, which provided improved access. However, the neighborhood was quickly becoming a very rough area, populated by prostitutes, pimps and pushers.

It may have been during this time frame when the name of the shopping complex was changed to CROSSROADS CENTER. Unfortunately, this did not stop its decline from a regional complex, leased to several nationally-known mall merchants, into a rather decrepit, nearly abandoned, community-type shopping center.

In an attempt to dispel the negative image of the area, the City of Atlanta changed the notoriously-named Stewart Avenue to Metropolitan Parkway. This effort created mixed results.

Today, STEWART-LAKEWOOD CENTER lingers on. Some of the abandoned store spaces in the mall were demolished in 2006. The structures that remain were tenanted by businesses such as Metro Fitness (in the old Woolco), Family Dollar and Rent-A-Center.

Sources:

www.southsideatlantamemories.typepad.com
 http://skycity2.blogspot.com/2007/02/stewart-lakewood-mall_26.html / "J.T. webmaster
Fulton County Georgia tax assessor website
Cinema Treasures

10 comments:

Ken said...

Stewart-Lakewood included a Kroger supermarket much like its sister Ansley Mall. The Kroger relocated in 1980 to a store that now is an Autop Zone, but recognizably early 80's Kroger south on Stewart Avenue, now Metropolitan Parkway. IIRC a SupeRx Drug store filled the Kroger slot as at Ansley, only it didn't survive until becoming a Revco, much less a CVS. Proximity to the Atlanta airport and a redevelopment of the former Ford assembly plant nearby promise potential for the site that is as yet unrealized.

The Curator said...

Ken,

Thanks for the info on the most mysterious (and forgotton) of Atlanta's early malls.

Cheers,

Anonymous said...

The JC Penney continued into the 1970s and later was operated as an outlet store for a number of years.

The section between the former Woolco and Colonial has been at least partially demolished. There is what appears to be a warren of small shops and offices there. It's unclear if they were part of the original construction or not and they are only partially occupied. The make the place look very odd.

This is one of several dead or dying complexes on Atlanta's inner souuthern fringe. Tri-Cities Plaza (visible from the Marta rapid transit and not far away) is another.

Stewart-Lakewood has an odd location--it's near a major freeway interchange, but not visible from it. It's close to an industrial area that is just starting to bounce back (the old Colonial Ditribution Center now has a few tenants) and the nearest businesses tend to used car lots and things like the carcass of the Kroger that relocated from S-L. On the bright side, there has been significant gentrification in the nearby town of East Point and some in the neighborhhods adjacent to and North of S-L. Successful redevelopment of Fort McPherson might also give it a shot in the arm. OTOH, the decline of Delta Airlines has probably slowed gentrification as many of the gentrifiers were Delta folks who wanted to live close to the airport. The Lakewood Heights area (aka SW Atlanta) on the other side of I-85 has been touted as the next big thing for gentrification for over a decade and still hasn't taken off, so it may be a wile before this area becomes desirable for retail. Kroger moved to a new location not too far away, with one of its "Citi Center" format stores.

Anonymous said...

Another "relative" or at least contemporary of Ansley & Stewart-Lakewood is Moreland Plaza (Moreland Ave & Custer Ave) at the SE edge of Atlanta proper. There is a 1956 photo of it from the Atlanta library that I haven't been able to find recently. It was built as an open L-shaped plaza with Kroger, FW Woolworth, WT Grant, and a JC Penney dry goods store (they were all dry goods stores until about 1964). I'd guess that bthey also had a Colonial. The plaza remains pretty full with a thrift store and a mix of businesses that appeal to the mostly Hispanic nearby residential areas. Kroger moved to a nearby freestanding location in the super store or greenhouse era and then relocated to a new plaza a few years ago. The City of Atlanta is considering various plans to upgrade the nearby retail areas, which are functional, though somewhat rundown. There's been significant genetrification N of Moreland Plaza, but the area to the south is filled with toxic waste dumps and truck service areas, and gentrifiers have not yet discovered the neighborhoods immediately East of the Plaza.

My earlier post is right about Lakewood Heights being considered "SW Atlanta", at least by real estate people, even though it is in the SE quadrant of the city. Just one of many local quirks.

The Curator said...

Anon,

Looking at 1955, 1960 and 1968 aerials of STEWART-LAKEWOOD CENTER, I do believe that the office structure you mention was part of the original (1955-1968) construction.

A more recent aerial (from the early 2000s....before some of the mall was demolished) looks just like an aerial from 1968.

Thanks much for posting.

Happy Holidays

Ashley Harry said...

Does anyone know what was in the shop directly behind the Family Dollar/ Colonial? My father rented that space for most of the 90's and I've always been curious about what was there originally.

The Curator said...

Hi.

That may be hard to determine...Maybe researching old Atlanta newspapers might turn up something.

Cheers,

Anonymous said...

I was the manager of the Butler's shoe store at this center in 1973-74. Butlers was located just down from the grocery store, on the opposite side, right next to Woolworths and across from Lerners Shops. At that time most of the national retailers mentioned were still open, but the center was really struggling as most shoppers had gravitated to Greenbrier and the mall west end.

The Curator said...

Anon,

Thanks so much for posting. This helps complete the history of Atlanta's most forgotten "Lost Mall". Cheers.

Anonymous said...

SupeRx Drug store was not located in the Kroger vacated space. It was located just north of the center in the Zayre shopping center between Zayre and Winn Dixie supermarket.