Normandy Boulevard and Garth Avenue
Jacksonville, Florida

The first Florida shopping mall developed by Youngstown, Ohio's Edward J. DeBartolo Corporation was Melbourne's BREVARD MALL, which was dedicated in 1963. Then came South Florida's gargantuan PALM BEACH MALL, which welcomed its first shoppers in 1967.

From the looks of things, Mr. DeBartolo then set his sights on Jacksonville. A 1-level (107,400 square foot) Montgomery Ward was built, in the mid-1960s, as a stand-alone store. It was joined by the fully-enclosed NORMANDY MALL.

This complex was built on 32.7 acres, located 5.5 miles west of center city Jacksonville. Previous to the mall's construction, the site had been occupied by the Tropical Park (later Loew's) Normandy Outdoor Theater. The twin drive-in was in business between 1949 and 1964.

NORMANDY MALL opened for business in late 1970. The retail hub, which spanned approximately 371,300 square feet, was co-anchored by a 1-level (103,000 square foot) Woolco discount mart and 1-level (50,000 square foot), Henderson, North Carolina-based P.H. Rose ("Roses") variety store.

Charter tenants included Orange Julius, Hallmark Cards, Schwobilt Clothes, Singer Sewing Center and the Kent Theatres Normandy Blue & Gold. A freestanding Convenience Center, with a (26,000 square foot) Food Fair supermarket, was located west of the mall. Taking in said Convenience Center, NORMANDY MALL housed sixty-two stores and services.

Commercial counterparts were PHILLIPS HIGHWAY PLAZA (1960) {6 miles southeast, in Jacksonville}, GATEWAY CENTER (1958) {5.6 miles northeast, in Jacksonville}, ROOSEVELT SQUARE (1961) {2.2 miles southeast, in Jacksonville}, REGENCY SQUARE (1967) {10.6 miles east, in Jacksonville} and ORANGE PARK MALL (1974) {8 miles south, in Orange Park}.

The Roses variety store was the first NORMANDY MALL anchor to change nameplates. After Roses vacated the space, it was expanded into a (58,000 square foot) Murphy's Mart. This store was in business by 1975. Montgomery Ward morphed into a Jefferson Ward in 1980 and was converted back into a Montgomery Ward in 1986. This store closed for good in 1988.

Woolco, shuttered in January 1983, became a Sam's Club. This closed in March 1995. By the mid-1990s, NORMANDY MALL was in a downward spiral. Its last ten stores closed in March 1994, with the structure sitting vacant and decaying for several years.

In August 1996, Jacksonville-based Sleiman Enterprises acquired the vacant Montgomery / Jefferson Ward. Its space was renovated into a (63,400 square foot) Winn-Dixie Marketplace. Spaces for eight inline stores were created in the remaining area. The new shopping center, known as NORMANDY VILLAGE, was dedicated September 4, 1997.

The rest of NORMANDY MALL continued to languish until it was purchased by Jacksonville's Potter's House Christian Fellowship, in November 2003. The congregation invested 10 million dollars into a renovation of the structure.

The eastern third of the mall was demolished, leaving 177,000 square feet standing. Interior space was refurbished with new marble tile and indirect lighting. The old Woolco / Sam's Club was reconfigured as the 4,000-seat Potter's House Sanctuary. The exterior of all buildings were thoroughly renovated.

Rechristened KINGDOM PLAZA AT NORMANDY MALL, the non-secular shopping venue held its grand opening October 17, 2007. In addition to its Temple Builders Fitness Center, the complex featured King Pins Bowling, Soul Food Bistro and Glorious Tees & Totes. In all, there were twenty-five stores and services.

In the meantime, a (36,900 square foot) strip center had been added to the east side of KINGDOM PLAZA. A 1-level (19,900 square foot) A.J. Wright was dedicated June 17, 2006. The store was shuttered in 2011 and re-opened, as a Marshalls, March 17 of the same year.

First Coast News / Grayson Kamm
The Florida Times-Union (Jax property info)