CUTLER RIDGE REGIONAL CENTER
South Dixie Highway / US 1 and Caribbean Boulevard
Dade County (Cutler Bay), Florida

Greater Miami's eighth regional-class shopping mall had humble beginnings as an open-air strip plaza of thirty-two stores and services. Built by Miami's Joshua J. Segal and David Blumberg, CUTLER RIDGE REGIONAL CENTER was designed by the Gamble, Pownall & Gilroy firm of Fort Lauderdale.

Named for the Cutler Bay limestone ridge it sat upon, the original 230,000 square foot retail facility was a single-level structure. It occupied the western edge of an 80 acre parcel, located 17 miles southwest of Miami's CBD. The site was in an unincorporated section of Dade County known as Cutler Ridge.

The first stores opened their doors in November 1959, with the official dedication being held on February 3, 1960. The grand opening was typical of those held in America's mid-century years. It was a festive, 4-day-long event, complete with glamour girl models, pony rides, band music, parading elephants and shows featuring the wild animals of Borneo.

Charter stores included Western Auto, Liggett Rexall Drug, Weinkles Liquors, Cutler Ridge Bowling Lanes, a Food Fair supermarket, W.T. Grant variety store and Neisner's 5 & 10. Anchoring the complex was a 2-level (110,000 square foot), Miami-based Richards, that was dedicated October 13, 1960.

The Richards chain was a division of Philadelphia-based City Stores. With the completion of the CUTLER RIDGE REGIONAL CENTER store, there were four Dade County locations; Downtown Miami, 163rd STREET CENTER, LINCOLN ROAD MALL {Miami Beach} and CUTLER RIDGE.

The General Cinema Corporation Cutler Ridge Cinema showed its first feature April 4, 1963. The single-screen venue was twinned in 1975, quaded in 1983 and shuttered in 1991.

The primary rivals of CUTLER RIDGE REGIONAL CENTER were DADELAND CENTER (1962) {8.3 miles northeast, in Dade County} and THE FALLS (1979) {4.9 miles northeast, also in Dade County}.

CUTLER RIDGE REGIONAL CENTER was expanded with a 2-level (180,000 square foot) Sears. This store, built as a freestanding structure on a pad southwest of the shopping hub, held its grand opening April 11, 1972. By this time, the Food Fair, at the north end of the center, had been rebranded as a Pantry Pride.

In 1977, Youngstown, Ohio's Edward J. DeBartolo came on the scene. His company formed a joint venture with the shopping center's original developer and devised a two-phase redevelopment plan.

Phase One entailed the construction of a fully-enclosed mall. Built in space between the existing Richards and Sears stores, it opened for business in 1978. Charter tenants included Morrison's Cafeteria, Garden Ridge Pottery, Size 5-7-9 Shops, Whatchamacallit, Wicks 'n Sticks, Spencer Gifts and an Orange Bowl snack bar. With completion of this project, the official name of the retail hub was changed to CUTLER RIDGE MALL.

The second stage of redevelopment added a Southeast Wing to the new enclosed mall. The structure, which opened in August 1981, was eventually anchored by three department stores; a 1-level (93,000 square foot) Lord & Taylor, 2-level (133,500 square foot) J.C. Penney and 2-level (146,000 square foot), Miami-based Jordan Marsh of Florida.

Jordan Marsh became the first new anchor to open, in 1981. Lord & Taylor debuted February 1, 1982. J.C. Penney's dedication took place in the spring of 1983. During the reconfiguration of the shopping center, its first anchor rebranding had transpired. Richards closed, along with the entire chain, January 11, 1980. Miami-based Burdines set up shop in the vacant CUTLER RIDGE store in 1981.

Pantry Pride closed in August 1984, being replaced by PharMor Drug. Miami Lakes-based L. Luria & Son (a Service Merchandise-like catalog showroom) opened their first store at CUTLER RIDGE MALL in 1986.

A second phase of anchor rebrandings commenced with the closing of Lord & Taylor in December 1990. The store re-opened, as a Hayward, California-based Mervyn's, July 11, 1991. Jordan Marsh, an operative of Allied Stores, was merged with Cincinnati-based Federated Stores in 1988.

Miami-based Burdines was also a division of Federated Stores. It assumed operation of the Jordan Marsh Florida division. The CUTLER RIDGE Jordan Marsh was shuttered September 30, 1991. Burdines moved from its original spot (in the old Richards) into the vacant Jordan Marsh.

On August 24, 1992, South Florida was decimated by Hurricane Andrew. CUTLER RIDGE MALL, situated only 7 miles north of the storm's epicenter, was battered by 150 mph winds and torrential rain. When the weather cleared, three feet of water stood in Center Court, the roof was smashed and J.C. Penney had been reduced to rubble.

The DeBartolo Corporation made it clear that the hurricane-ravaged retail center would be rebuilt. A 50 million dollar rehabilitation began with the demolition of what remained of J.C. Penney. Structures dating back to the circa-1960 strip center were also razed.

New mallways were landscaped with towering palms, a 10-bay Treats Food Court was created and the 1981 section of the mall (which incurred the most damage) was totally rebuilt. CUTLER RIDGE MALL was re-dedicated March 24, 1994.

A new 1-level (81,200 square foot) J.C. Penney opened July 2, 1994. This was joined by a freestanding (120,300 square foot) Big Kmart, on November 17. This store was built on the site of the old Food Fair / Phar-Mor Drug.

A third wave of anchor rebrandings transpired in early 1997, following the closing of Mervyn's. Dillard's opened a store in the vacant space on October 14, 1997. It was shuttered a little more than 4 years later, in February 2002.

CUTLER RIDGE MALL never truly recovered from its hurricane hit. With the Simon Property Group / DeBartolo Corporation merger of 1996, it became a Simon DeBartolo holding. Simon eventually defaulted on their loan payments. The lender, the West Palm Beach-based Ocwen Federal Bank, assumed ownership of the property.

In an attempt to reposition the struggling shopping center, a name change -to SOUTHLAND MALL- was done in November 2003. This was accompanied by a face lift of the interior. Stone columns and graceful archways were installed, with spaces redecorated in a tropical island motif.

Local artisan Ilana Lilienthal created huge sculpted flowers that were used throughout the complex. With this renovation, SOUTHLAND MALL enveloped 986,700 leasable square feet and contained over one hundred stores and services.

Talisman Companies, of Coral Ridge, Florida, acquired the newly-renovated complex in 2004. It was sold, again, in January 2007; the buyer being New York City-based Investcorp. Fort Lauderdale-based Grumberg Asset Management was enlisted to lease and operate the shopping center.

Burdines was rebranded as Burdines-Macy's on January 30, 2004 and as a full-fledged Macy's on March 6, 2005. SOUTHLAND MALL, originally within unincorporated Dade County, was enveloped by the newly-created city of Cutler Bay in November 2005.

An abandoned Lord & Talor / Mervyn's / Dillard's building met with a wrecking ball in February 2005. The Regal Southland Mall Stadium 16 was built in its place. The megaplex made its debut on March 30, 2007.

Meanwhile, new T.J. Maxx, Old Navy and DSW stores had opened in the fall of 2006. The newest junior anchor, Bally's Total Fitness, began business in the summer of 2008. It morphed into an LA Fitness in December 2011.

Sources:

The Miami News
The Miami Herald
preservenet.cornell.edu/publications/Longstreth Branch Store.doc
www.cinematreasures.org
http://www.filmjournal.com
www.mysouthlandmall.com


FAIR USE OF CUTLER RIDGE REGIONAL CENTER IMAGES:

The graphics from The Miami News illustrate a key moment in the mall's history that is described in the article. The images are of lower resolution than the originals (copies made would be of inferior quality). The images are not replaceable with free-use or public-domain images. The use of the images does not limit the copyright owners' rights to distribute the images in any way. The images are being used for non-profit, informational purposes only and their use is not believed to detract from the original images in any way.