METROCENTER
US 80 West and Robinson Road
Jackson, Mississippi

The largest mall ever built in the Magnolia State was developed by Montgomery, Alabama's Jim Wilson & Associates. The super-sized shopping center occupied a 120 acre tract, located 4 miles west of the Mississippi State House.

METROCENTER, officially dedicated March 1, 1978, encompassed 1,250,000 leasable square feet and initially featured one hundred and twenty stores and services. When fully-leased, the dual level, fully-enclosed shopping hub housed one hundred and forty-nine.

The mall was anchored by four department stores. On the southeast was a 2-level (288,100 square foot), Jackson-based McRae's. On the northeast, a 2-level (176,800 square foot), Mobile-based Gayfer's. A 2-level (224,100 square foot) Sears was situated on the mall's northwest side. These three stores opened along with the mall, on March 1, 1978. A 2-level (178,000 square foot), New Orleans-based D.H. Holmes filled the southwest spot and welcomed its first patrons in October of the same year.

Charter inline stores included Camelot Music, Spencer Gifts, Tuxedo Junction Rentals and Diamond Jim's Arcade. The Metro Convenience Center, in the southwest section of the mall site, housed Service Merchandise and the United Artists MetroCenter Cinemas IV. This movie multiplex showed its first features December 15, 1978.

Access to METROCENTER was provided by the Interstate 220 loop expressway, which opened to traffic between 1979 and 1981. The mall was touted as the largest shopping complex between Atlanta and Dallas for many years. However, this distinction was relinquished to Birmingham's 1.2 million square foot RIVERCHASE GALLERIA, when it was dedicated in February 1986.

METROCENTER had quickly outpositioned its nearest competitor, JACKSON MALL (1970) {3.7 miles northeast, in Jackson}. That 900,000 square foot center languished in a state of retail twilight until it re-opened, as the JACKSON MEDICAL MALL, in January 1997.

A second retail rival of METROCENTER was NORTHPARK MALL (1984) {10 miles northeast, in Ridgeland}. Encompassing 958,000 leasable square feet, it eventually outpositioned METROCENTER, which had become rather notorious for thefts and burglaries by the 1990s.

Business at METROCENTER was impeded further by two new lifestyle centers. DOGWOOD FESTIVAL MARKETPLACE & PROMENADE {11 miles northeast, in Flowood} opened in 2002, with RENAISSANCE AT COLONY PARK {10.9 miles northeast, in Ridgeland} following in 2008.

Anchor rebrandings at METROCENTER had commenced in May 1989, when the Holmes store received a Dillard's nameplate. Mercantile Stores, the parent company of Gayfer's, was bought by Dillard's in August 1998. Instead of setting up a "double-header" (separate men's and women's store) operation, Dillard's closed the METROCENTER Gayfer's location in April 1999.

Dillard's then consolidated its Jackson locations into two stores at NORTHPARK MALL, with the METROCENTER operation being shuttered in November 2004. Burlington Coat Factory opened, in the first floor of the vacant Gayfer's, on August 31, 2007. An attempt, in 2009, to lease the second floor of the Gayfer's building as Metro Marketplace (a mall within a mall) was unsuccessful. McRae's was rebranded by Charlotte-based Belk in March 2006.

METROCENTER had been given a face lift renovation in 1993. A Food Court was installed on the Upper Level and entrances rebuilt. The center became a holding of Addison, Texas-based Coyote Management in August 1997. They sold the complex to a joint venture of Los Angeles-based Jackson MetroCenter Mall and MetroCenter Mall-Atlanta in 2003.

METROCENTER continued on its downward spiral. Los Angeles-based Cannon Commercial, Incorporated acquired the mall proper (sans anchors) in March 2005. Belk downsized into the first level of its store space in March 2008 and closed for good June 6, 2009.

The City of Jackson purchased the vacant Holmes-Dillard's in December 2009, with the hope of reselling the property to a redevelopment entity. By November 2010, the shopping center was ready to be foreclosed on. However, its owners avoided this action by catching up on delinquent mortgage payments. Soon after, management was entrusted to the Jackson-based Overby Company.

In April 2010, construction commenced on the initial stage of the so-called "Retro Metro" project. Spearheaded by Jackson's David Watkins, it entailed the renovation of the vacant Belk into a (60,000 square foot) Metro Office Park. This would be leased by the City of Jackson. Municipal offices moved in between February and November of 2012.

The mega mall was to become the epicenter of a 213 million dollar redevelopment enterprise. This was to include condominiums, four parking garages, a multiplex cinema, two hundred and fifty room hotel and indoor water park. The existing mallway was also to be rebuilt into a Bourbon Street-style shopping promenade ala Canada's WEST EDMONTON MALL.

Most of these features were to be situated along a boulevard, which would have been cut through the southeast end of the mall, just north of the Belk-Metro Office Park structure. Unfortunately, hopes for this reinvention of the shopping hub were derailed when Sears shuttered its METROCENTER store on May 7, 2012.

In 2013, the unsuccessful Metro Marketplace was reconfigured as La Plaza de MetroCenter, a Latin-themed mall within a mall. This opened on the heels of the shopping facility being placed on the open market, which took place in October 2013.

The complex was sold in November 2014. The buyer was a joint venture of Jackson's Overby Company, Colby Capital (of Overland Park, Kansas) and the Walter Morris Companies (of Wichita, Kansas).

An exterior renovation was proposed, but never came to fruition. In the meantime, new stores and restaurants opened in early 2017. These included Stamps, Big Apple Inn and Griffin's Fish House. Hinds Community College established an employment training center in the remainder of the McRae's / Belk building. The 2-level (160,000 square foot) educational facility opened in September 2018, soon after all inline mall tenants had been evicted.

Sources:

The Jackson Free Press
The Clarion Ledger
"Metrocenter Mall" article on Wikipedia
www.shopmetrocentermall.com
www.cannonmgt.com
www.metro-marketplace.com
Hinds County, Mississippi property tax assessor website
www.jacksonmedicalmall.org