GATEWAY MALL
9th Street North and 83rd Avenue North
Saint Petersburg, Florida

The Florida Suncoast's second fully-enclosed shopping center was developed by New York City's Winston-Muss Corporation.  The complex rose up on a 50 acre site, located 6 miles north of downtown Saint Petersburg.

The mall had a very bumpy beginning. At times, it seemed that it might never be completed. First conceived in 1956, its construction commenced in 1961, with the building of a freestanding Publix supermarket. This store opened for business in 1963.

An enclosed mall, tentatively known as WINSTON PLAZA, was to be added on the north side of Publix and be anchored by a Woolco discount mart. Work got underway in February 1966. In May, the official name of the shopping center-to-be was changed to GATEWAY MALL.

Soon, the project encountered a major delay, caused by the Woolworth parent company. Their lease stipulated that the Woolco did not have to open until a certain percentage of inline mall tenants were signed. More were secured, the snag was worked out, and construction resumed in April 1967.

GATEWAY MALL was designed by Clearwater's Frank Mudano. The complex, built in two phases, originally encompassed approximately 340,000 leasable square feet. It was anchored by the aforementioned Woolco. This 1-level (115,000 square foot) store welcomed its first shoppers March 13, 1968.

The mall proper was officially dedicated April 6, 1968. Charter tenants included Eckerd Drug, Thom McAn Shoes, Morrison's Cafeteria, Lerner Shops and a J.G. McCrory 5 & 10.

A contemporary account of the GATEWAY grand opening describes the mall as "a controlled environment with constant temperatures, shade and shelter, (where) music will fill the mall area (and) artistic lighting and design will induce a mood of relaxation and pleasure." One might note how, in the present day and age, these qualities are viewed in a negative light.

There were two entertainment facilities at the original GATEWAY MALL. The 400-seat Country Dinner Theatre was a live-performance venue. The 1,100-seat Century's Mall Theatre , a single-screen movie house, was dedicated June 4, 1968. It was acquired by General Cinema Corporation in mid-1973 and renamed the Gateway Cinema. In May 1976, the venue re-opened as the Gateway Cinema I & II.

Meanwhile, a second mall construction phase had added a 1-level (60,000 square foot), Miami-based J. Byron. This store began business November 18, 1970 and expanded the mall's GLA to approximately 400,000 square feet.

The first anchor rebranding took place after Woolco closed its doors on January 31, 1983. The store was divided between a Framingham, Massachusetts-based Zayre and Winter Haven, Florida-based Scotty's Lumber. These opened in August 1983.

Zayre received a Rocky Hill, Connecticut-based Ames nameplate in early 1989 and closed for good in 1990. The Byrons store was shuttered in July 1996. It was remodeled and re-opened, as a Norcross, Georgia-based Uptons, August 9, 1996.

By this time, GATEWAY MALL was showing its age. The fountains that once graced its interior had been shut down and made into planters. Commerce had moved to newer and larger malls on the Suncoast, such as TYRONE SQUARE (1972) {6.2 miles southwest, in St. Petersburg}. PINELLAS SQUARE (1977-2004) {2.3 miles southwest, in Pinellas Park} presented a bit of competition in its earlier days, but was in a downward spiral by 1996.

A 20 million dollar redevelopment, conducted by a joint venture of Atlanta's MetroGroup and Branch Capital Partners, got underway in February 1998. The bulk of GATEWAY MALL was leveled, leaving Uptons, a bank and Burger King standing.

A 353,100 square foot power plaza, known as GATEWAY MARKET CENTER, was created. Its primary anchor, a 1-level (122,000 square foot) Target, was dedicated March 7, 1999. Publix built a new (37,800 square foot) store, which began business July 29, 1999. Other original stores included PetSmart, Office Depot, Waccamaw's HomePlace and T.J. Maxx.

In the midst of the renovation, the Uptons chain went belly-up. The store space was retenanted, by Manatee County, Florida-based Bealls, in November 1999.

The Oak Brook, Illinois-based Inland Group acquired GATEWAY MARKET CENTER in August 2000. In February 2007, a joint venture of Beachwood, Ohio's Developers Diversified Realty and the New York City-based Teachers Insurance & Annuity Association-College Retirement Equities Fund (TIAA-CREF) bought the shopping hub.

In March 2010, GATEWAY MARKET CENTER was sold to -none other than- the Oak Brook, Illinois-based Inland Retail Real Estate Investment Trust, a subsidiary of the Inland Group. A new subsidiary, known as InvenTrust Properties, was formed in March 2014.

Sources:

The St. Petersburg Evening Independent
www.crazedfanboy.com
www.ddr.com (Developers Diversified Realty)
Comment posts by Ken and "T"
www.cinematreasures.org



FAIR USE OF GATEWAY MALL IMAGES:

The graphics from The St. Petersburg Evening Independent illustrate a key moment in the mall's history that is described in the article. The images are of lower resolution than the originals (copies made would be of inferior quality). The images are not replaceable with free-use or public-domain images. The use of the images does not limit the copyright owners' rights to distribute the images in any way. The images are being used for non-profit, informational purposes only and their use is not believed to detract from the original images in any way.