PALM BEACH MALL
North Congress Avenue and Palm Beach Lakes Boulevard
West Palm Beach, Florida

The Edward J. Debartolo Corporation's PALM BEACH MALL was the company's second Sunshine State shopping hub. It followed Melbourne's BREVARD MALL, which had been dedicated in 1963. PALM BEACH MALL was designed by Herbert Johnson and was the seventh mall developed by DeBartolo.

Plans were announced in September 1965. A sprawling, single-level shopping facility would be built on a 76.5 acre parcel, located 2.6 miles northwest of downtown West Palm Beach. The site was adjacent to the future route of the Interstate 95 expressway.

At its formal dedication on October 26, 1967, the 860,000 square foot shopping venue was touted as the largest interior mall in the Southeast. It was anchored by a 2-level (220,000 square foot) J.C. Penney, 3-level (210,000 square foot), Miami-based Jordan Marsh of Florida and 2-level (125,000 square foot), Miami-based Richards.

A triple ribbon-cutting ceremony was officiated by Governor Claude R. Kirk, Jr. (R), Reid Moore, Jr. (Mayor of West Palm Beach) and Cheryl Ann Paton, "Miss USA 1967". An initial sixty-one stores opened for business.

The 20 million dollar mall's interior spaces were landscaped with 11,000 tropical plants, including 100 palm trees. A waterless "falling glycerin" (or "Wonderfall") fountain was the highlight of Center Court.

By early 1968, the retail roster listed eighty-six inline stores, including Walgreen Drug, Lerner Shops, a Food Fair supermarket and (63,000 square foot) F.W. Woolworth 5 & 10. The CinemaNational Mall Cinema 1-4 showed its first features on December 22, 1972.

A major expansion and renovation of PALM BEACH MALL was completed in 1980, with two anchor stores having been added. A 2-level (188,600 square foot), Miami-based Burdines was dedicated November 30, 1979. Lord & Taylor's 2-level (118,000 square foot) store, its first in Florida, held its grand opening February 1, 1980. A parking garage was also constructed on the northwest corner of the mall, which connected into the new Burdines.

Anchor store rebrandings commenced with the 1980 remodeling. Richards was shuttered and re-opened as a Sears. Eventually, a freestanding Auto Center was demolished, making way for an expansion of the store into a 163,400 square foot structure.

Retail rival malls soon appeared. The first, GARDENS OF THE PALM BEACHES {8.2 miles north, in Palm Beach Gardens} was dedicated in 1988. West Palm's CITY PLACE, a center city shopopolis, was completed in 2000. MALL AT WELLINGTON GREEN {8.7 miles southwest, in Wellington} made its debut in 2001.

Soon after the 1988 dedication of THE GARDENS mall, Burdines at PALM BEACH MALL was demoted to a Clearance Center. The second anchor rebranding at the shopping hub involved Jordan Marsh. The store was vacated in September 1991 and re-opened, as a Hayward, California-based Mervyn's, in early 1992.

With the merger of the DeBartolo Realty Corporation and Simon Property Group, in 1996, the mall became a Simon DeBartolo holding. It reverted to Simon Property Group ownership when that company dropped the DeBartolo subheading in 1998. 

PALM BEACH MALL emerged from a 40 million dollar renovation on April 6, 2000. The facility had been remodeled using an 1880s Henry Flagler hotel motif. Mervyn's, shuttered during the chain's retail retreat of 1997, had been razed in February 1998. A new 2-level (203,000 square foot) Dillard's, was built in place of the old Jordan Marsh / Mervyn's. It had been dedicated on February 23, 2000.

Woolworth's, shuttered in July 1997, was sectioned into three store spaces. These were leased by Fort Lauderdale-based Mars Music, Columbus, Ohio-based DSW and Ann Arbor, Michigan-based Borders Books. Lastly, the cinema space was refitted as an Old Navy.

Unfortunately, the remodeled mall fell on hard times. A high-profile murder of the manager of the center's Chick-Fil-A, in May 1999, had lasting repercussions. The closing of Lord & Taylor, on September 10, 2001 only exacerbated the mall's decline. the L & Taylor structure was demolished in anticipation of a new anchor store that never materialized.

By 2002, a store exodus was underway. Walgreen Drug, a charter tenant, moved out in May. This was followed by Mars Music, Kay-Bee Toys, Old Navy and Borders. Eventually, what stores remained in the largely vacant mall were local mom & pop-type operations.

Naturally, plans for an open-air "power center" reconfiguration emerged. A plan put forth by the Simon Property Group in 2005 advocated demolishing the bulk of the mall, leaving Sears, Dillard's, J.C. Penney and Macy's (a recent rebranding of Burdines) standing.

Construction of a 290,000 square foot Ikea was to be included in these plans, along with 700,000 square feet of retail, 300,000 square feet of office space and five hundred residential units.

Implementation of this demalling was shelved due to The Great Recession, as well as the shuttering of Dillard's (in late 2008) and Macy's (in early 2009). In early 2010, the mall was foreclosed on, due to delinquent loan payments. The Simon Property Group decided to simply let go of the struggling shopping center and its upside down mall mortgage.

Sears shuttered their operation January 17, 2010. Stores along the interior mallway were vacated, with the complex officially closing January 31, 2010. Three stores remained open; the exterior-entranced Penney's, George's Music and Firestone Tire.

In the following year, three financial institutions fought over ownership of the shuttered shopping center and its prime real estate. Japan's ORIX company eventually prevailed and sold the property.

The buyer was a joint venture of New England Development, Eastern Real Estate and the Lubert-Adler Group. They announced plans for a long-awaited redevelopment of the moribund mall in October 2011.

It was to be renovated and renamed PALM BEACH FASHION OUTLETS. Tentative tenants included Nordstrom Rack, Bloomingdale's-The Outlet, Last Call From Neiman Marcus, Bass Pro Shops and Forever 21.

The redevelopment plan was altered considerably in January 2012. The prospective mall renovation was entirely scrapped. The retail hub would be razed, leaving several small outparcels, and J.C. Penney and George's Music, temporarily standing. Demolition of the mall commenced January 17, 2013.

An all-new shopping center, known as PALM BEACH OUTLETS, was built. With its completion, Penney's and George's Music were to relocate into new quarters. Their abandoned buildings would then be torn down. This plan was altered when J.C. Penney permanently closed its store, on April 21, 2013. Its building was razed in May of the same year.

The first stores at PALM BEACH OUTLETS opened for business February 16, 2014. The 500,000 square foot venue, which housed one hundred and seventeen stores and services, was entirely open-air. Tenants included Forever 21, Saks Off Fifth Avenue Outlet, Calvin Klein, Tommy Hilfiger, Nike Factory Store, Dress Barn and Under Armour.

Sources:

The Palm Beach Post
Malls of America Blogspot / Keith Milford webmaster
www.labelscar.com
"Palm Beach Mall" article on Wikipedia
"Urban Archeology - Palm Beach Mall, born 1967-Died 2008" John Hixenbaugh
www.simon.com (Simon Property Group)
Palm Beach County tax assessor website
http://www.movie-theatre.org / Mike Rivest
www.wptv.com
www.cbs12.com
www.madisonmarquette.com
www.wpbf.com
www.palmbeachoutlets.com