STEWART-LAKEWOOD CENTER
Stewart Avenue / US 19 and 41 and Lakewood Avenue
Atlanta, Georgia

A decaying and virtually forgotten structure on Atlanta's south side holds the distinction of being the city -and state's- first mall-type shopping venue. Georgia's first shopping mall started out as LAKEWOOD CENTER, a strip plaza developed by Atlanta's Adams-Cates Company. This small retail complex was completed in 1952.

The strip plaza was situated on 26 acres, located 4 miles south of downtown Atlanta's Five Points, in the Sylvan Hills section of the city. The site was one block west of an interchange on the city's South Expressway, which had opened to traffic in 1955. This highway was eventually designated as the routes of Interstates 75 and 85.

LAKEWOOD CENTER housed Jacobs Drug, a Colonial Stores supermarket and F.W. Woolworth 5 & 10. An entity known as Tri-City Incorporated enlarged the strip plaza into an open-air mall, known as STEWART-LAKEWOOD CENTER. This "dynamic new concept in shopping" encompassed approximately 230,000 leasable square feet, housed twenty-four stores and services, and opened for business February 5, 1959.

Charter tenants included relocated Colonial and Woolworth stores, plus Western Auto, Rhodes Furniture, W.T. Grant, Lerner Shops, Lee's Men's Shop, Freidman's Jewelers, Adolphe's Beauty Salon, Boston Factory Shoe Repair, Economy Auto, Camera & Record Center, Dipper Dan Ice Cream Shoppe, Bell Brothers Shoes, Butler's Shoes, Stewart-Lakewood Fabric Center, National Shirt Shops, a Kroger supermarket and J.C. Penney.

At the time of the mall's grand opening, there was talk of Atlanta-based Rich's building a store at STEWART-LAKEWOOD CENTER. However, this never came to pass.

The completion of GREENBRIAR CENTER {4.6 miles east, in Atlanta}, in August 1965, was the first blow to STEWART-LAKEWOOD CENTER. GREENBRIAR was much larger and fully-enclosed. The "dry goods only" Penney's at STEWART-LAKEWOOD relocated to a full-line store at GREENBRIAR. The STEWART-LAKEWOOD location operated as a J.C. Penney Outlet Store until 1969.

A second expansion of STEWART-LAKEWOOD CENTER had been added to the north end of the structure in 1966-1967. It included the Storey Theatres Lakewood Theatre. The venue was divided into the Lakewood Twin in the early 1970s and was in business until 1989. A 1-level (118,000 square foot) Woolco discount mart, dedicated August 14, 1968, completed the basic footprint of the mall.

By the late 1970s, the demographics of the area surrounding STEWART-LAKEWOOD CENTER had changed dramatically. The Lakewood Freeway, a segment of the abandoned Interstate 420 project, opened, which provided improved access. However, the neighborhood was quickly becoming a very rough area.

It may have been during this time frame when the name of the shopping complex was changed to CROSSROADS CENTER. Unfortunately, this did not stop its decline from a regional complex, leased to several nationally-known mall merchants, into a nearly abandoned, community-type shopping center.

In an attempt to dispel the negative image of the area, the City of Atlanta changed the notoriously-named Stewart Avenue to Metropolitan Parkway. This effort created mixed results.

Today, STEWART-LAKEWOOD CENTER lingers on. Some abandoned store space in the mall was demolished in 2006. The structures that remain are tenanted by businesses such as Metro Fun Center (in the old Woolco), Family Dollar and Rent-A-Center.

Sources:

The Atlanta Journal Constitution
www.southsideatlantamemories.typepad.com
http://harriettgillham.blogspot.com
 http://skycity2.blogspot.com/2007/02/stewart-lakewood-mall_26.html / "J.T. webmaster
Fulton County Georgia tax assessor website
www.cinematreasures.org
http://movie-theatre.org / Mike Rivest