Florin Road and Franklin Boulevard
Sacramento County, California

1961 was a year of much malling in California's capital. COUNTRY CLUB PLAZA and ARDEN FAIR CENTER, both added to previously-existing stores, were dedicated in March and August. SOUTHGATE CENTER, the third of Sac-Town's circa-1961 malls, was built in one stage, with its stores beginning business between January and August of 1961.

The shopping hub was situated on 60 acres, located 6.4 miles southeast of the center city. It was developed by a joint venture of Sacramento's James J. Cordano Company and San Francisco's Blumenfield Enterprises. The open-air mall was just west of an intersection with the Golden State Highway / US 50 & 99. This roadway was redesignated as California Route 99 in July 1964.

SOUTHGATE CENTER was situated on a single retail level, with some inline stores having upper floors. The mall encompassed approximately 620,000 leasable square feet and was anchored by a 2-level (137,800 square foot), Tacoma-based Rhodes. This store was dedicated in January 1961.

Among the mall's thirty-eight charter tenants were Roos-Atkins, Martin's Cake Box bakery, Karmelkorn, Eagleson's men's wear, Kay Jewelers, Fabric Center, Flagg Brothers Shoes, National Shirt Shops, Farmers & Merchants Bank, Marlene's ladies' wear, West Coast Savings, Sacramento Electric, a Lucky Stores supermarket and W.T. Grant variety store.

Soon after the mall's completion, the Cordano- Blumenfield joint venture sold it. They embarked on the development of a much larger, fully-enclosed complex. FLORIN CENTER {only .8 miles northeast, in Sacramento County} opened in February 1968.

Within months, the new retail center was usurping the older, open-air SOUTHGATE. It began to experience vacancy problems and eventually earned the dubious distinction of being the first dead mall in Greater Sacramento.

Rhodes Western, the Rhodes parent company, was acquired by Honolulu-based AMFAC in November 1969. The SOUTHGATE PLAZA Rhodes was rebranded as Liberty House / Rhodes, which was shortened to simply Liberty House in late 1974.

In a severe state of decline, the shopping center was sold to Sacramento's Marvin "Buzz" Oates in 1983. A 9 million dollar renovation was underway by early 1984. 130,000 square feet were renovated, some demolition of structures done and 20,000 square feet of new retail added. Liberty House, which had been shuttered in the summer of 1984, re-opened as an All American Sports Club. Other new tenants were The 5 & 10 Cent Store and Fashion Gal.

Basically, the mall was reconfigured as a strip-format, off-price outlet. The renewed venue, renamed SOUTHGATE PLAZA, was dedicated in October 1986. In December, it was sold to Los Angeles-based Powers Perez Associates. By 1989, stores were vacating once again. The center limped into the 1990s.

A second -more complete- demalling got underway in 1997. The two vacant store blocks in the rear of the complex, including Lucky Stores, were demolished, along with a portion of the northwest block. A (65,000 square foot) Lucky / Sav-on was built, which opened in August 1998. It was rebranded by Albertsons in November 1999.

A second phase of renovation commenced in the spring of 2000. The old Rhodes / Liberty House was razed, along with half of the store block to the west. These were replaced by a 1-level (133,600 square foot) Wal-Mart, which made its debut in October 2001.

For a time, it appeared that things were looking up, lease-wise. The center had changed hands three times between the early 1990s and early 2000s. Englewood, Colorado-based Hill Companies took possession in August 2007 but defaulted on their loan in August of 2010.

The lender, Chicago-based Wrightwood Capital, took over. They enlisted Woodland Hills, California's NewMark Merrill to oversee a renovation and repositioning of the property. New facades were installed. A name change was also considered but wasn't implemented. Wrightwood Capital's holdings were acquired by New York City-based Ares Management in August 2011. 

Meanwhile, Albertsons had pulled out of the shopping center in 2008. On November 12, 2010, a Buena Park, California-based 99 Ranch Market opened in the vacant store space. Wal-Mart shuttered their SOUTHGATE PLAZA store in June 2009 and relocated into a new SuperCenter at FLORIN TOWNE CENTRE, a redevelopment of FLORIN CENTER.

The former SOUTHGATE Wal-Mart would sit empty for 6 years. The Bentonville-based retailer decided to continue leasing the vacant building instead of allowing it to be offered to a possible competitor.  This stalemate was finally resolved in mid-2014, when it was announced that WalMart would open a (52,200 square foot) Neighborhood Market grocery in the space. It welcomed its first shoppers July 8, 2015.

NewMark Merrill, who had been managing SOUTHGATE PLAZA since September 2010, ended up buying the property outright in November 2016.

Sacramento Business Journal
Retail Trade
"BigMallRat" / Scott P.
Malls of America Blogspot / Keith Milford webmaster / Comment post by "Hushpuppy"
Comment posts by Randy