COLONIAL PLAZA
East Colonial Drive and Bumby Avenue
Orlando, Florida

In late 1962, the Sunshine State's first and second enclosed shopping malls were nearing completion; these were CORAL RIDGE PLAZA {in Fort Lauderdale} and Orlando's COLONIAL PLAZA. The latter would be the first to open for business.

COLONIAL PLAZA, originally an open-air, strip center, was built on a 45 acre tract, located 1.7 miles northwest of downtown Orlando. The T.G. Lee Dairy had occupied the site previously.

A Publix supermarket in the strip center opened February 2, 1956. Other charter stores included Walgreen Drug, W.T. Grant, a J.G. McCrory 5 & 10 and 2-level (83,800 square foot) Orlando-based Belk-Lindsey ("Belk's").

A fully-enclosed mall corridor, developed by Plaza Realty Associates, was added in the center of the center. It extended southward to a 4-level (215,700 square foot) Jordan Marsh of Florida, which was dedicated October 22, 1962. This was the third store in the Miami-based division of Allied Stores.

Retailers in the new, climate-controlled concourse included Edna's ladies' wear, Lane Bryant, Mode O' Day Frock Shop, Rutland's men's wear and Plaza News.

The Florida State Theatres Plaza Theatre, a western outparcel of the shopping hub, showed its first feature November 23, 1963. The original movie house was a nine hundred-seat, single-screen operation. Eventually made into a multiplex, it was converted into a live performance venue in 1993.

The second enclosed shopping center in Central Florida, WINTER PARK MALL {3.3 miles northwest, in Winter Park}, was dedicated in 1964. This was followed by ORLANDO FASHION SQUARE {.3 miles southwest of COLONIAL PLAZA, in Orlando}, which opened in 1973.

As a competitive measure with the up-and-coming FASHION SQUARE, the mall at COLONIAL PLAZA was extended southward in 1972-1973. The existing Belk-Lindsey (at the northeast corner of the site) moved into a newly-built, 2-level (153,000 square foot) store. Dedicated October 15, 1973, it anchored a new South Mall addition. The original Belk was divided into smaller store spaces, with the largest being occupied by a Miami-based J. Byron.

A third COLONIAL PLAZA expansion, dedicated August 3, 1983, added a 2-level (79,400 square foot), Charlotte-based Ivey's. This 6.5 million dollar store was built in the north parking lot, facing East Colonial Drive. The mall now encompassed approximately 967,000 leasable square feet.

Newer shopping centers began to be developed in the outer ring suburbs. THE FLORIDA MALL {7.5 miles southwest, in Orlando} was completed in 1986. Within a few years, COLONIAL PLAZA was in a downward spiral. Meanwhile, Ivey's was rebranded as a Dillard's, on June 4, 1990.

The decline of Orlando's "first and foremost" mall continued unabated. Jordan Marsh closed for good October 1, 1991, with Dillard's shuttering their store in January 1995. Belk-Lindsey, the final operational anchor, went dark March 15, 1995.

As the anchor exodus was playing out, Atlanta-based Cousins Properties purchased the complex. The last remaining inline stores closed, with a power center-type redevelopment getting underway in mid-1995. Four structures were retained and renovated, with the remainder of the mall being bulldozed.

Part of the original (circa-1956) Belk-Lindsey became Shoe Carnival. The former Publix was retenanted by Barnes & Noble. Walgreen Drug moved into a new store in the front parking area, with its former location being occupied by Petco. The circa-1973 Belk-Lindsey was divided into a Marshalls and Rhodes Furniture.

COLONIAL PLAZA MARKETPLACE was dedicated in November 1996. Encompassing 487,700 leasable square feet, it included big box stores such as a (44,000 square foot) Circuit City, (28,000 square foot) Ross Dress For Less and (36,000 square foot) Stein Mart.

The power center soon encountered several competitors. WEST OAKS MALL {9.8 miles west, in Ocoee}, was completed in 1996. OVIEDO MARKETPLACE {10 miles northeast, in Oviedo} was dedicated in 1998. WATERFORD LAKES TOWN CENTER {8.5 miles east, in Orlando} made its debut in 1999. THE MALL AT MILLENIA {6.5 miles southwest, also in Orlando} opened in 2002.

Nonetheless, COLONIAL PLAZA MARKETPLACE persevered. It was sold in April 2001; the buyer being Houston-based Weingarten Realty Investors. They soon rechristened the shopping venue with its original moniker. It would be known, henceforth, as COLONIAL PLAZA.

Two major tenants were lost due, in part, to The Great Recession. Linens-N-Things went dark in December 2008 and re-opened, as a Big Lots, October 1, 2009. Circuit City was shuttered in March 2009, with Hobby Lobby opening September 13, 2010.

The Babies "R" Us chain did not go out of business, but its COLONIAL PLAZA location closed in October 2011. A large section of its store space opened, as a (29,600 square foot) Bealls, September 28, 2013.

Sources:

Malls Of America Blogspot / Keith Milford webmaster
www.cinematreasures.org
Comment posts by James, Randy and "Anonymous"
www.cousinsproperties.com
www.weingarten.com