PANAMA CITY MALL
North Highway 231 / US 231 and North Cove Boulevard
Panama City, Florida

The first -and only- enclosed shopping center in Greater Panama City was designed by Detroit's Charles N. Agree and developed by Troy, Michigan's Robert B. Aiken and the Kimberly Scott Corporation.

PANAMA CITY MALL was built on a 54 acre site, located 1.7 miles northeast of the downtown area, that had been annexed into the city in September 1974. Ground was broken for the single-level retail complex in May 1975.

The first operational store, a 1-level (139,000 square foot) Sears, was dedicated July 28, 1976. Its freestanding, 16-bay Auto Center had been open for business since July 12th.

A mall-wide grand opening was held August 10, 1976. Charter stores included Father & Son Shoes, Casual Corner, Camelot Records, World Bazaar, Sir Pants-A-Lot, Craftsmens Cove, Riles Junior Shoe World, Hy's Toggery men's wear, Sound Shop, Morrison's Cafeteria, Foxmoor Casuals, and a Merle Norman Cosmetic Studio.

A 1-level (90,000 square foot), Mobile-based Gayfer's opened, as the mall's second anchor, on August 11, 1976. The American Multi-Cinema Panama City Mall 4 Theatres showed its first features August 20th.

Encompassing approximately 450,000 leasable square feet, the 4-wing mall radiated from a carpeted Center Court, which featured a fountain, waterfall and children's puppet theater and play area.

An East Wing, anchored by a 1-level (85,000 square foot) J.C. Penney, was dedicated November 3, 1982. With its completion, PANAMA CITY MALL enveloped approximately 555,100 leasable square feet and contained around one hundred retail spaces.

Gayfer's is the only mall anchor to have switched nameplates. This store, which had been expanded to 140,000 square feet, was rebranded by Dillard's in October 1998. Gayfer's had also been operating a small Home Store in the mall. It was apparently shuttered as part of the Dillard's takeover.

Chattanooga's CBL & Associates Properties added PANAMA CITY MALL to their retail portfolio in June 2002. Soon after, they embarked on a 10-month refurbishment of the property, which included new interior lighting, ceiling treatments, flooring and a renovated Food Court.

New stores opened inside the mall. Moreover, an 8 acre section, situated on a northeastern pad, was developed as the SHOPPES AT PANAMA CITY MALL. This open-air strip complex spanned 56,000 leasable square feet and was anchored by a (30,100 square foot) Best Buy.

An official grand opening for the renovated and expanded mall, and its associated strip center, was held August 26, 2004. The mall proper now encompassed 605,100 leasable square feet.

For its first 31 years in business, PANAMA CITY MALL was in the enviable position of being the only shopping mall within a large radius. Its nearest counterpart, SANTA ROSA MALL, was located 60 miles west, in the vicinity of Fort Walton Beach. In the summer of 2007, the first phase of the PIER PARK lifestyle center {13.6 miles west, in Panama City Beach} was completed.

CBL & Associates Properties sold PANAMA CITY MALL in August 2013, with the buyer being a joint venture of Atlanta's Hendon Properties and an unnamed "offshore investor".

The mall's 4-plex movie theater was acquired -and rebranded- by the Carmike chain in 1995. The venue had started out, in 1976, as an AMC (American Multi-Cinema) operation. As an interesting turn of events, it was rebranded as part of AMC's late 2016 acquisition of Carmike Theatres. In March 2017, the 40-year-old venue was renamed the AMC Classic Panama City Mall 4.

Sources:

The Panama City News-Herald
http://www.baycounty100.com
http://www.floridamemory.com (State Library and Archives of Florida)
http://www.panamacity-mall.com
Bay County, Florida property tax assessor website
http://www.cinematreasures.org
http://www.cblproperties.com (CBL & Associates Properties)
http://hendonproperties.propertycapsule.com (Hendon Properties)