WESTGATE CENTER
Eisenhower Parkway / US 80 and Pio Nono Avenue / US 41
Bibb County (Macon), Georgia

Looking back over 50 years, it seems odd that the gigantic metropolis of Atlanta would not have had Georgia's first interior mall. Such is, however, the case. This distinction is held by a much smaller city situated 75 miles south.

WESTGATE CENTER was built on a 30 acre parcel, located 2 miles southwest of center city Macon, in unincorporated Bibb County. Encompassing approximately 165,700 leasable square feet, the single level complex was developed by the Macon-based Fickling & Walker Company and designed by Bernard Webb & Company. An official dedication was held in 1961.

The mall had no large, department store anchors. Its major tenant was a 1-level (39,000 square foot) J.J. Newberry 5 & 10. Two (16,000 square foot) supermarkets flanked the mall; Piggly Wiggly on the north and Colonial Stores on the south. The retail roster included Butler's Shoes, Gilberg's Fabrics, Sherwin-Williams Paints, Hefner's Bakery, an F.W. Woolworth 5 & 10, G & W Cafeteria and Liggett Drug.

A single-screen cinematic venue, the Georgia Theatre Company Westgate Theater, was added (as a northwestern outparcel) in 1966. It would operate as the Westgate Triple Cinema and Westgate 6 before being permanently shuttered in January 1996.

WESTGATE CENTER had begun to decline in 1975, after the completion of MACON MALL {1.5 miles northwest, in Bibb County (Macon)}. Its original developer sold the struggling shopping hub in December 1982.

By this time, the major stores at WESTGATE had gone through various permutations. Piggly Wiggly morphed into a Big Apple in the mid-1970s and later became a Food Giant. The Colonial grocery became a Big Star in the early 1970s. Liggett Drug was rebranded as an Eckerd's. The Woolworth and Gilberg's spaces were combined into a large Cloth World store.

By the 1980s, the complex had been renovated and renamed WESTGATE MALL, an outlet-type shopping center. The supermarket on the north end was razed and replaced by a 1-level (57,500 square foot) Scotty's Home Improvement Center.

A 7.9 acre parcel on the south end of the site was acquired and a 1-level (106,500 square foot) Wal-Mart constructed. It was joined to the existing mall by an extended South Wing, which included 23,500 square feet of new store space. When all modifications were completed in 1988, WESTGATE MALL housed approximately 332,500 leasable square feet.

Unfortunately, the transition into an outlet mall was not successful. By the early 1990s, the center was virtually vacant. By October 1994, half of its stores had closed in anticipation of a second retail reinvention. This time around, everything but Wal-Mart and five peripheral structures would be demolished.     

An entirely open-air power center -known as WESTGATE CENTER- was built. The first store in the 411,100 square foot complex, a 1-level (75,900 square foot) Burlington Coat Factory, opened for business in March 1995. This was followed by a 1-level (108,000 square foot) Home Depot, in October 1995. In the following November, this was joined by Media Play, PetSmart and Shoe Carnival.

This version of WESTGATE was successful for 6 years. It took a direct hit by the completion of a new power center, known as EISENHOWER CROSSING {2.6 miles northwest, in Macon}. Its first stores opened for business in August 2001.

Soon, the Wal-Mart at WESTGATE had been replaced by a new SuperCenter, built in the vicinity of EISENHOWER CROSSING. Further expansion at EISENHOWER CROSSING would snatch away several of the remaining stores at WESTGATE. Home Depot defected in 2005, followed by PetsMart and Shoe Carnival, in 2006.  

Atlanta's Safeway Group currently owns the complex. A short-lived name change, to THE SHOPS AT INTERNATIONAL PLACE, did not improve its fortunes. The shuttering of Burlington (Coat Factory), in the fall of 2015, left the shopping center without an anchor.

Sources:

Sky City: Southern Retail Now and Then / J.T. Webmaster
"Westgate Mall" article on Wikipedia
The Macon Telegraph
Bibb County, Georgia tax assessor website
www.safewaygrp.com (Safeway Group, Incorporated)
Comment post by Scott McElheney