Sharon and Fairview Roads
Charlotte, North Carolina

By the late 1960s, the Carolinas' Queen City had four shopping malls in its environs. These were CHARLOTTETOWN MALL (1959), COTSWOLD CITY (1963), TRYON MALL (1967) and TYVOLA MALL (1968). All were smaller, community-class facilities.

Charlotte's two major department stores, Belk and J.B. Ivey, joined forces and formed the BelVey Corporation. Planning was soon underway for a large-scale, regional-class complex for Greater Charlotte; this to be anchored by Belk and Ivey's stores.

A plot located 9 miles south of downtown Charlotte had been acquired in 1962. However, it was eventually dismissed for being too far out in the hinterlands. A second site, encompassing 95 acres -and located only 3.8 miles south of the center city- was purchased. Originally part of the 3,000 acre Morrocroft farm, the parcel had been owned by North Carolina Governor Cameron A. Morrison (D).

Construction on the new shopping hub commenced in 1969. Modeled after Dallas, Texas' NORTHPARK CENTER (1965), Charlotte's SOUTHPARK CENTER was designed by Atlanta's Toombs, Amisano & Wells firm. The original shopping hub encompassed 1,070,000 leasable square feet, housed seventy-seven stores and services, and provided parking space for 4,900 automobiles.

An official grand opening was held February 12, 1970. The 17 million dollar SOUTHPARK, consisted of a single retail level and 1-level subterranean parking deck. It was anchored by a 3-level (200,000 square foot) Belk, 3-level (150,000 square foot) Ivey's and 2-level (168,000 square foot) Sears.

Inline stores included Pet Bazaar, Kinney Shoes, Richman Brothers men's wear, Size 5-7-9 Shops ladies' wear, Docktor Pet Center, Eckerd Drugs, Brittain's, Morrison's Cafeteria and an F.W. Woolworth 5 & 10.

A northwest outparcel structure included a Colonial supermarket, Budget Uniform Shop, Hector's Restaurant and the General Cinema Corporation Southpark Cinema I & II. This venue showed its first features August 21, 1970.

The first regional-class competitor, EASTLAND MALL {5.6 miles northeast, in Charlotte} was dedicated in 1975. CAROLINA PLACE MALL {5.1 miles southwest, in Pineville} came along in 1991.

SOUTHPARK CENTER was not physically expanded until September 1986, when Belk completed a new fourth level, increasing its floor area to 260,000 square feet. With this renovation, the downtown location was shuttered and the SOUTHPARK store became the chain's flagship.

A subsequent mall enlargement, undertaken in 1987, added a 174,000 square foot Northwest Wing. It was anchored by a 2-level (140,000 square foot), Richmond, Virginia-based Thalhimers, which was officially dedicated August 25, 1988. A Food Court had also been installed in the West Court of the existing shopping center. SOUTHPARK now encompassed 1,244,000 leasable square feet.

Anchor store rebrandings commenced at SOUTHPARK on June 4, 1990. Ivey's morphed into a Dillard's. The second conversion, which transpired on February 2, 1992, rebranded Thalhimers as an Arlington, Virginia-based Hecht's. This store received a Macy's nameplate February 1, 2006.

The ownership of SOUTHPARK changed in November 1996, when Rotterdam, Holland's Rodamco acquired the shopping venue. They announced a major expansion in March 1998. The project became a bitterly-contested issue. A rezoning battle between Rodamco and area residents was fought over the next 3 years.

Rodamco prevailed in March 2001. A three-phase renovation and expansion of the SOUTHPARK property got underway soon after. Phase One consisted of a thorough interior remodeling and second expansion of the Belk store. A 34 million dollar addition was built on its south-facing front and the interior and exterior were refurbished. The store was re-dedicated October 25, 2002. It now encompassed 329,000 square feet.

Phase Two of the renovation was comprised of a 34,300 square foot addition to the east side of the mall proper, which included Maggiano's Little Italy and Cheesecake Factory. These opened in late 2002.

In the midst of all the SOUTHPARK construction was a second change in ownership. The Indianapolis-based Simon Property Group bought the mall in April 2002.

Phase Three of the remodeling was the most ambitious aspect of the three-pronged project. A 374,000 square foot Southwest Wing was built, anchored by a 2-level (144,000 square foot) Nordstrom. This store held its grand opening March 12, 2004.

A 2-level (80,000 square foot) Neiman Marcus held its grand opening September 15, 2006. Among the forty inline stores in the new wing were Janie & Jack, Lucky Brand Jeans, L'Occitaine En Provence, Sur La Table and Brighton.

Sears, who had been outpositioned by the upscale shift of the shopping hub, closed their store June 28, 2003. The building was demolished, with an open-air Lifestyle Plaza built in its place. This included Urban Outfitters, Joseph Beth Booksellers and California Pizza Kitchen; these opening for business in April 2005.

Across the way was a 2-level (79,000 square foot) Dick's Sporting Goods, which had opened in October 2004. The mall's circa-1988 Food Court was also relocated into a new 8-bay area, accessed from the Thalhimer's / Hecht's Wing.

Topping off the remodeling were three parking structures. A Southeast garage was completed in 2002, a Southwest in 2004 and Northeast in 2006. Adjacent to the Northeast parking structure was THE VILLAGE AT SOUTHPARK, a combination retail and residential complex. Its 2-level (35,000 square foot) Crate & Barrel was dedicated September 15, 2006.

The final facets of the mall's metamorphosis were expansions and renovations of two anchor stores. The Thalhimers / Hecht's / Macy's re-opened (with 201,000 square feet) March 10, 2004. Dillard's (now encompassing 270,000 square feet) held its official re-dedication in early 2007. With all construction dust finally settled, SOUTHPARK proper encompassed 1,794,400 leasable square feet and housed one hundred and thirty-five store spaces.

Upscale, destination-type malls such as SOUTHPARK exist in a near-constant state of renovation. The latest overhaul was done between June and November 2015. During this project, interior columns were refinished. Soft seating, landscaping, wi-fi service and new signage were installed. The mall's Circle Court was also remodeled and its existing Food Court upgraded to a "Dining Pavilion".

Sources: (Live Malls)
Info and photos from Pat Richardson
Malls of America Blogspot / Keith Milford webmaster
Mecklenburg County, North Carolina property tax assessor website / Charlotte-Mecklenburg Historical Landmarks Commission
"Southpark" article on Wikipedia