NORTHWOOD MALL
North Monroe Street / US 27 and West Tharpe Street
Tallahassee, Florida

The first shopping mall in Florida's Panhandle region was developed by Lakeland-based Publix Supermarkets and built on a 34.1 acre plot, that was once a Native American burial ground. The site was located 1.8 miles northwest of the Florida State House and was entirely within the city limits of Tallahassee.

Publix had purchased the site in 1967, with the intention of building a supermarket-anchored strip center. Plans were already underway for the regional-class TALLAHASSEE MALL, which was to be primarily leased to major, national chain stores.

Tallahasse merchants, concerned that such big name tenants could put them out of business, came up with a preemptive plan. They went to Publix officials and implored them to develop the Publix strip center as an enclosed mall; this to be leased to local stores. Publix accepted this idea and altered the design of their prospective shopping center.

NORTHWOOD MALL opened for business September 30, 1969. The 544,200 square foot complex was predominantly an enclosed structure, with stores in a South Wing having only exterior entrances. The facility consisted of a main shopping level with a basement retail, entertainment and storage area.

The mall was anchored by a 1-level (67,500 square foot), Miami-based J. Byron, on its north end, and  (45,000 square foot) Publix grocery, which was housed in the South Wing. Charter inline stores included Arnold's men's wear, Gilberg's Fabrics, Little Folks Toys, Turner's apparel, Mendelson's apparel, Eckerd Drugs and an Ocala-based Rheinauers specialty store.

The Kent Theatres Northwood Mall Theatre was located on the basement level. It was dedicated as part of the center's late 1969 grand opening. Between the years 1974 and 1984, the mall housed the renowned Silver Slipper Steakhouse, a popular hangout for Sunshine State lobbyists and politicians.

Publix Supermarkets was, first and foremost, an operator of grocery stores. The company had no expertise in the management of shopping malls. As a result, NORTHWOOD MALL suffered. There was no established criteria for tenants. Stores had varying hours of operation, with some closing as early as 5 pm and others not being open on Sundays. There was also no set standard for store graphics and signage.

The glory days for NORTHWOOD MALL were short. TALLAHASSEE MALL {.4 miles northwest, in Tallahassee} opened in 1971. However, the initial impact of TALLAHASSEE MALL was blunted by an even larger -and more trendy- shopping center. GOVERNOR'S SQUARE {2.5 miles southeast of NORTHWOOD, also in Tallahassee} was dedicated in 1979.

Soon, the NORTHWOOD and TALLAHASSEE malls were both in decline. TALLAHASSEE MALL lingered on as a retail center and was redeveloped, as CENTRE OF TALLAHASSEE, in the Twenty-tens. NORTHWOOD followed a different course.

The property went through a succession of owners. The first sale, conducted in October 1983, was to a joint venture of Harold S. Wenal, of Fort Lauderdale, and the Zaremba Company, of Lakewood, Ohio. An exterior renovation was proposed.

In less than 2 years, NORTHWOOD MALL changed hands again. Mark Development, of Kingston, Pennsylvania, took possession in July 1985. The struggling shopping hub was renovated and remarketed as a office, data and storage facility. A new name was bestowed in 1989; NORTHWOOD CENTRE.

Mall space previously devoted entirely to retail was leased by several government agencies, including the Department of Business & Professional Regulation, Department of Children & Families, Department of Education and Department of Revenue. Publix, a tenant since the mall's inception, moved out in 2002.

By the year 2000, NORTHWOOD MALL / CENTRE had been sold four times. In June 2007, a sixth owner came on the scene; a joint venture of New York City-based Ajax Partners and Tallahassee's Talcor Commercial Real Estate Services.

Sources:

http://www.floridamemory.com / (State Library and Archives of Florida)
Leon County, Florida property tax assessor website
http://www.northwoodcentre.com
The Tallahassee Democrat