SUNSHINE MALL
South Missouri Avenue and Lakeview Road
Clearwater, Florida

Ground was broken for the Pinellas Peninsula's second enclosed shopping center on September 18, 1967. SUNSHINE MALL, developed by the New Haven, Connecticut-based Gambest Corporation, was designed by Clearwater's Frank Mudano.

Encompassing a single level of retail, the 345,000 square foot complex was officially dedicated September 26, 1968. It was built on a 45 acre parcel, located 1.8 miles southwest of center city Clearwater. SUNSHINE MALL was anchored by a 2-level (135,000 square foot) J.C. Penney.

Among the seventy-two stores and services were Fremacs for Men, Stuarts Ready-to-Wear For Ladies, Russell's ladies' wear, a Merle Norman Cosmetic Studio, SupeRx Drugs, Pantry Pride supermarket and J.G. McCrory 5 & 10.

At the center of the center (facing the Penneys mall entrance) was a large court area with two water-less Wonderfall Fountains. There was also a smaller court area, on the north end of the complex, facing the McCrory dime store entry.

A 1968 account of the shopping center's grand opening mentions that H. Everett Hougen (Mayor of Clearwater) and Sheri Kooken, "Miss Clearwater 1968", were on hand to cut the ceremonial ribbon. It goes on to say that "mini-skirted cowgirls" operated a shopper's shuttle between the parking lot and mall entrances and that traffic was backed up on South Missouri Avenue for 10 miles.

The Trans-Lux Theatre, a freestanding venue north of the mall proper, showed its first feature on December 20, 1968. It was renamed the Sunshine Mall Theatre and then divided into two auditoria. The cinema re-opened, as the Sunshine Mall Twin, on December 14, 1977. A 3-screen addition was built in 1986, with the venue known, henceforth, as the Sunshine Mall 5.

A Miami-based J. Byron had been built south of the mall proper, as a freestanding structure. The single-level (60,000 square foot) store was dedicated November 18, 1970, in conjunction with a J. Byron at GATEWAY MALL {in St. Petersburg}.

The SUNSHINE MALL store was joined to the mall by a thirty-three store addition, which was completed in mid-1972. With this expansion, the complex encompassed 470,000 leasable square feet and housed approximately one hundred and ten stores and services.

The halcyon days of SUNSHINE MALL, as the new mall on the block, were short. The center was joined by CLEARWATER MALL {3.6 miles east, in Clearwater} in August 1973. An even larger venue, COUNTRYSIDE MALL {5.2 miles northeast, in Pinellas County}, opened in September 1975. BAY AREA OUTLET MALL / CROSSROADS MALL {4.4 miles southeast, in Largo} made its debut in 1984.

In an attempt to keep SUNSHINE MALL competitive, a small face lift was done to the interior during 1981. Vacant space on the South Mall was refashioned into The Boardwalk, a 16-booth bazaar. The Community Room on the North Mall became The Marketplace, which housed 10 booths. Mirrored ceilings were installed in the central mallway. New stores also opened, including Toy King, Foster's Exotic Pets, Clearwater Sports Unlimited and Captain Tom's Restaurant.

Unfortunately, by the early 1990s, SUNSHINE MALL had declined into a dilapidated, virtually vacant property. The New Haven, Connecticut-based Fusco Corporation, who had acquired the shopping center in March 1972, proposed a retail-centered redevelopment in early-1995. However, their big box-based plan for a SUNSHINE PLAZA did not pan out.

The shopping center was shuttered and demolished in July 1998. Clearwater-based Gulf Coast Consulting, Incorporated replaced the mall with RENAISSANCE SQUARE, a six hundred and forty unit residential complex.

Sources:

St. Petersburg Times
The Evening Independent
Lisa Mudano-Dalton and George R. Miller
Comment post by "Anonymous"
http://www.clearwater-fl.com
www.cinematreasures.org


FAIR USE OF SUNSHINE MALL IMAGES:

The graphics and renderings from The St. Petersburg Times 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.