SPRINGDALE PLAZA
Government Street Road (Airport Boulevard) and Interstate 65
Mobile, Alabama

The first regional shopping center in the Azalea City was built on a section of reclaimed wetlands. Portions of Wragg Swamp were drained in the mid-1950s, with a 45 acre section, located 4 miles west of downtown Mobile, being set aside for a prospective retail complex. SPRINGDALE PLAZA would be developed by Mobile's Delaney Realty Company.

News of a 1.5 million dollar department store, to be built for Mobile's C.J. Gayfer & Company, was announced in December 1958. The new SPRINGDALE PLAZA Gayfer's would be the chain's third branch, following locations in downtown Mobile and Pensacola, Florida. It would be designed by Atlanta's John J. Hart firm and encompass 1 level and approximately 82,900 square feet.

Entirely open-air in format, SPRINGDALE PLAZA was officially dedicated November 19, 1959. Charter tenants included W.T. Grant, J.C. Penney, Elliot's Jewelry, Sally's Bridal Salon and Delchamps and National Stores supermarkets. Gayfer's held its grand opening in the summer of 1960.

The shopping hub became freeway-accessible on January 4, 1963, when a 6.8 mile section of Interstate 65, passing along the west side of the shopping center site, opened to traffic.

SPRINGDALE PLAZA served as a catalyst for the urbanization of the western environs of Mobile. In August 1967, the fully-enclosed BEL AIR MALL {.2 mile south} was completed. This was followed by various retail establishments that lined both sides of Government Street Road (later known as Airport Boulevard).

By 1973, both SPRINGDALE PLAZA and BEL AIR MALL were in the throes of expansion. A new wing was being added to the south side of BEL AIR MALL (which would snatch J.C. Penney from SPRINGDALE PLAZA). As a countermeasure, a fully-enclosed East Wing was built at SPRINGDALE PLAZA.

Anchored by a 2-level (140,900 square foot) Montgomery Ward, the East Wing included approximately forty-five stores and services. Its American Multi-Cinema Springdale Cinema 6 showed its first features June 18, 1974.

Following completion of the East Wing, the shopping hub was officially known as SPRINGDALE MALL & PLAZA, with this eventually truncated to simply SPRINGDALE MALL.

Store structures on the west end of the plaza were demolished in the early 1980s. A 2-level (160,000 square foot), Jackson, Mississippi-based McRae's was built, which held its grand opening in August 1984.

A new retail rival arrived soon after. MOBILE FESTIVAL CENTRE {.6 mile southwest, in Mobile} held its grand opening in 1986. In October 1988, a (33,600 square foot) Toys "R" Us opened at SPRINGDALE MALL. This was created out of the lower level northwest corner of Montgomery Ward, which had downsized into a Montgomery Ward Specialty Store.

By this time, demolition was underway on both sides of Gayfer's. The store was enlarged into a 3-level (280,000 square foot) operation. It became the Gayfer's flagship.

Simultaneously, a new section of enclosed mall, encompassing twenty-one store spaces, was built. It connected the expanded Gayfer's and existing McRae's. With the completion of all construction in November 1989, SPRINGDALE MALL encompassed 926,000 leasable square feet and housed eighty stores and services.

Between the mid-1990s and mid-2000s, SPRINGDALE MALL would be reconfigured with various big box-type retailers. The first of these, a (23,600 square foot) Barnes & Noble, opened in the spring of 1994. It had been created by merging three and a half store spaces in the South Wing. Next came a (16,000 square foot) Old Navy, which took two store spaces in the South Wing and opened in the fall of 1996.

In September 1997, a new owner came on the scene. Chattanooga's CBL & Associates Properties acquired SPRINGDALE MALL and immediately announced a "redeveloping, remodeling and retanting" of the complex. This would consist of the installation of new flooring, mall entrances, skylights and landscaping. The shopping center would also begin to be promoted as simply SPRINGDALE.

Included in the remodeling was a (26,000 square foot) Goody's Family Clothing. This store was dedicated in the spring of 1998. Six store spaces adjacent to the south end of Ward's were gutted, expanded and incorporated into a (24,100 square foot) Staples. It opened for business in the fall of 1999. Another store was built west of the new Staples, which housed Linens 'N Things.

Anchor rebrandings at SPRINGDALE MALL began in August 1998, when the Gayfer's store received a Dillard's nameplate. The Montgomery Ward Specialty Store shut down in early 1999, with its space soon being leased by Burlington Coat Factory. Within a few years, Toys "R" Us would also close. Burlington Coat Factory then expanded into its space.

A new century brought more redevelopment. The western half of the West Wing was gutted and rebuilt into a (46,900 square foot) Best Buy, which opened in the fall of 2001. Dillard's closed their SPRINGDALE store in early 2003. It was demolished in 2004, along with the remainder of the West Wing and a portion of the East Wing. A 1-level (139,500 square foot) Sam's Club opened, on the old Gayfer's-Dillard's spot, in 2005.

CBL & Associates Properties sold SPRINGDALE in April 2006; the buyer being a joint venture of Australia's Centro Properties Group and an American affiliate, Galileo America. The assets of Centro were sold to New York City-based Blackstone Realty Partners in June 2011, with a managing entity known as the Brixmor Property Group created in the following September.

By this time, several stores had come and gone at SPRINGDALE. McRae's was "Belked" in March 2006. Goody's shut down in early 2009, with a new Marshalls opening in its space in the fall of 2010.

Barnes & Noble pulled out of the mall in the summer of 2010, with Michaels taking its place in the fall of the same year. 36,000 square feet of the East Wing, including a shuttered Linens 'N Things, were gutted and reconfigured as a Big Lots. This store made its debut in the fall of 2010.

Best Buy and Old Navy closed their SPRINGDALE stores in January 2016. They moved to the trendy new McGOWIN PARK power center {1.6 miles southeast, in Mobile}. Belk shuttered their store and re-opened, in the old Sears space at SHOPPES AT BEL AIR (a reinvention of BEL AIR MALL), in September 2016.

As of mid-2017, Sam's Club, Marshalls, Michaels, Ulta Beauty, Big Lots, Burlington and Catharine's were the only stores still operating in the half-vacant SPRINGDALE MALL. Six peripheral businesses were still up and running. These were Piccadilly Cafeteria, Romano's Macaroni Grill, Bebo's Car Wash, David's Bridal, Raising Cane's restaurant and Logan's Roadhouse.

Sources:

"Springdale Mall" article on Wikipedia
The Gadsden Times
http://www.usouthal.edu/geography/fearn/480page/02Vernon/Vernon
Springdale Gayfer's Store Co. versus DH Holmes Co., Ltd., 201 So.2d 855 (1967)
http://www.aaroads.com/guide.php?page=i0065al (AA Roads: The State Series)
http://flickrhivemind.net/Tags/belairmall/Interesting
http://www.delaneyinc.net
Mobile Press-Register
http://nreionline.com/mag/development-digest-18 (National Real Estate Investor)
http://nreionline.com/mag/southeast-development-projects
Annual Report 2013 Brixmor, LLC
http://brixmor.propertycapsule.com/properties/5246/#overview