NORTHSIDE CENTER
Northwest 27th Avenue and Northwest 79th Street
Dade County, Florida

Miami-Dade's second mall-type shopping complex was developed by a joint venture of Sears, Arthur Vining Davis and Miami's Allen Morris Company. Ground was broken, in January 1959, at a 45 acre site located 5.4 miles northwest of Miami's Central Business District. The mall site was in a section of unincorporated Dade County known as Liberty City.

NORTHSIDE CENTER, an open-air complex, was designed by Miami's Weed Johnson Associates. The original 15 million dollar complex enveloped 491,200 leasable square feet and housed forty-eight stores and services on a single retail level. There were also upper level sections which housed leased office spaces.

The official grand opening, held March 16, 1960, was attended by Mr. Davis, who arrived via helicopter. Stores and services beginning business that day included a (23,400 square foot) F.W. Woolworth 5 & 10, at the time, the chain's largest operation in the Southeast. The store featured an "Ultra-Modern Luncheonette", with seating for sixty-six.

S.S. Kresge's NORTHSIDE store encompassed 28,000 square feet, with its Dinette having seating for forty-eight. Walgreen Drug, housing 11,000 square feet, had its own Food & Fountain Luncheonette.

Other charter tenants included Thom McAn Shoes, Lerner Shops, Three Sisters ladies' wear, Royal Palm Clothes, Hartley's ladies' wear, a Grand Union supermarket and Harvest House Cafeteria. Within months of the center's dedication, St. Mary's Chapel (one of the the first Catholic churches in an American shopping center) was holding services.

A 2-level (183,900 square foot) Sears, anchoring the shopping hub, began business April 20, 1960. The second-largest Sears in Florida, it included a freestanding Service Station & Auto Center and detached Garden, Farm & Pet Shop.

NORTHSIDE CENTER was decorated with lush tropical plantings and several terrazzo animal statues. Created by Miami's Earl La Pan, they included a giant frog, turtle and alligator. The centerpiece of the mall's North Court was its "30 Fish on a Fountain" water feature. The most distinctive aspect of the shopping hub was its rooftop freight roadway, which serviced the various stores below.

Major shopping centers in the vicinity of NORTHSIDE CENTER included 163rd STREET CENTER (1956) {6.9 miles northeast, in Dade County}, MIDWAY MALL (1970) {7 miles southwest, in Dade County} and WESTLAND MALL (1971) {4.8 miles northwest, in Hialeah}. There was also the 79th STREET STAR MALL (1970), a 200,000 square foot (Woolco-anchored) mini-mall. It was situated directly west of NORTHSIDE CENTER, along Northwest 79th Street.

A cinematic venue was built on a pad north of NORTHSIDE CENTER. Originally known as the William Goldman Northside Theatre, it showed its first feature January 31, 1968. The venue re-opened, as the Northside Twin 1 & 2, September 8, 1970.

The only physical expansion ever done to NORTHSIDE CENTER consisted of the addition of a 1-level (49,700 square foot), Miami-based Jackson's-Byrons (later known as "J. Byron"), which opened in October 1969. With this store's completion, the mall housed approximately 540,900 leasable square feet.

NORTHSIDE CENTER started to decline in the early 1970s. This situation was exacerbated by the too close for comfort proximity of Hialeah's WESTLAND MALL, the proliferation of crime in the vicinity of the center and general decline of the surrounding neighborhood.

By late 1976, NORTHSIDE CENTER, which had been a regional-class complex, had evolved into a community-class operation. Its tenant list now included several mom & pop-type retailers. Out of its sixty-two store spaces, twelve were vacant. A 500,000 dollar renovation was done, which consisted of new store facades, paint, signage and a resurfaced parking lot. 

The shuttering of Sears, in July 1982, created a major vacancy that was difficult to fill. Rumors of a new Zayre came and went. An S.O.S. Clearance Center opened in July 1986, but didn't last for long. Eventually the space was leased as the Freedom Marketplace Flea Market. Walgreen Drug, a 1960 charter tenant, relocated into a (17,300 square foot) outparcel location in 1995.

In October 2002, a new owner came on the scene; New York City-based Urban America. They performed a 5 million dollar rehab of the property between late 2006 and mid-2007. New stucco, brick and ceramic tile facades were installed, surfaces were painted and the roof was replaced.

In October 2010, the shopping center was sold to North Miami's IMC Property Management, Incorporated. In August 2015, this entity changed its name to the IMC Equity Group.

Sources:

The Miami News
The Miami Herald
www.urbanamerica.com
http://presidentesupermarkets.com
http://imcequitygroup.com (IMC Equity Group)


FAIR USE OF NORTHSIDE 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.