SUNRISE CENTER
Sunrise Boulevard and Northeast 26th Avenue
Fort Lauderdale, Florida

The story of Florida's first shopping mall begins with the death of Hugh Taylor Birch, in 1943. A successful attorney and land speculator, he bequeathed a 140 acre mangrove swamp in the northern environs of Fort Lauderdale to his alma mater, Antioch College.

The southwestern Ohio university began filling in said swamp in 1950; selling some of the property for residential construction and reserving a 48.5 acre section for future development as a retail venue. Proceeds from land sales, totaling some 500 thousand dollars, were invested in the creation of the shopping center. Construction commenced in June 1953.

SUNRISE CENTER, designed by Fort Lauderdale's Gamble, Pownall & Gilroy firm, opened for business January 27, 1954. The dedication ceremony was attended by Antioch College officials, Malcom Carlisle (Mayor of Fort Lauderdale) and Magda Gabor (sister to Zsa Zsa and Eva).

Comprised of thirty-seven stores and services, the 2-level (266,000 square foot) complex included a (12,000 square foot) Saks Fifth Avenue, plus Thom McAn Shoes, Grayson, Allen-Frederick, Barclay's Limited, The Colony Shop, a Slenderella Figure Salon, F.W. Woolworth 5 & 10 and Food Fair supermarket.

Adjacent to SUNRISE CENTER, and bordering the Intracoastal Waterway, was the renowned Creighton's Restaurant. Its proprietor, Charles W. Creighton, acquired SUNRISE CENTER in late 1955 and orchestrated an expansion of the complex.

Plans were announced in February 1957 for a 3-level (170,000 square foot) Jordan Marsh of Florida. The store would be the second operative in the Miami-based division of Allied Stores (the first having opened in downtown Miami in February 1956).

Development of the Jordan Marsh at SUNRISE CENTER would be accompanied by construction of a northeast store block of 69,000 leasable square feet. This would house a new (30,000 square foot) Saks Fifth Avenue, as well as DePinna's and Bramson's of Chicago stores.

Jordan Marsh was officially dedicated October 3, 1960. With the completion of the additions, SUNRISE CENTER had grown into a 504,000 square foot, regional-class shopping hub. The General Cinema Corporation Sunrise Cinema I & II showed its first features December 18, 1963. Built as an eastern outparcel, the venue was one of America's earliest "mall" twin cinemas.

Major retail hubs in the SUNRISE CENTER trade area included CORAL RIDGE SHOPPING PLAZA (1962) {2.1 miles northwest, in Fort Lauderdale}, LAUDERHILL MALL (1966) {5.9 miles northwest, in Lauderhill} and LAKES MALL (1973) {6.2 miles northwest, in Lauderdale Lakes}.

The SUNRISE CENTER Jordan Marsh was expanded, with 4th and 5th levels, during 1966. With the completion of construction late in the year, the store encompassed 256,000 square feet. Pompano Beach-based Leonard L. Farber, Incorporated acquired SUNRISE CENTER in June 1977. Ground was broken in the following year for a four-phase redevelopment of the open-air complex.

The first phase involved construction of a 2-level (84,000 square foot) Saks Fifth Avenue, at the northeast corner of the site. This store, the third Saks location to operate in the complex, opened in July 1980.

Miami-based Burdines dedicated a 2-level (210,000 square foot) store, built at the northwest corner of the site, October 29, 1980. This resulted in the shuttering of the downtown Fort Lauderdale location, in business since 1947.

As new sections of shopping space were completed, old SUNRISE CENTER structures were demolished. The second phase of the new fully-enclosed mall, which had been named GALLERIA FORT LAUDERDALE, was dedicated November 5, 1980. The complex consisted of 2 retail levels, built over a 1-and-2-level parking deck.

As an adjunct of the massive renovation, the Sunrise Cinema I & II was quaded and renamed the Galleria Cinemas 1-2-3-4.

Phase three of the GALLERIA project consisted of the addition of a 2-level (80,000 square foot) Neiman-Marcus. This store held its grand opening September 13, 1982. The fourth, and final, GALLERIA phase concluded with the dedication of a 2-level (80,000 square foot) Lord & Taylor, in October 1983.

The metamorphosis from SUNRISE CENTER into GALLERIA FORT LAUDERDALE was now complete. The mall enveloped over one million leasable square, with a retail roster of one hundred and twenty-six stores and services.

Several works of art were used in the shopping center. These included Bruno Lucchesi's "After Shopping", Roy Butler's "Silent Flight", William McEicheran's "The Group" and "The Family" and "Mrs. & Mr.", by Chaim Gross.

The first anchor rebranding transpired after the September 1991 shuttering of Jordan Marsh. It re-opened as a Dillard's October 28, 1993. In the same year, the complex was purchased by Keystone-Florida Property Holdings, with Philadelphia-based Kravco Company (which eventually morphed into KravcoSimon) recruited to handle management and leasing.

By the late 1990s, GALLERIA FORT LAUDERDALE was losing ground as an upscale retail center. Commercial competitors, such as TOWN CENTER AT BOCA RATON (1980) {15.3 miles northwest, in Boca Raton} and AVENTURA MALL (1983) {12.4 miles south, in Dade County}, were drawing from the GALLERIA customer base.

Other local shopping venues, such as BROWARD MALL (1978) {9.5 miles southwest, in Plantation} and FASHION MALL AT PLANTATION (1988) {9.5 miles west, also in Plantation} were not serious rivals.

A 50 million dollar renovation commenced in November 2002. The '70s Brutalist-style GALLERIA exterior was reconstructed, giving it the look of an 1880s, Henry Flagler-type, Florida hotel. Interior spaces were remodeled and opened up with windows and vaulted skylights. New, glass-enclosed escalator lobbies connected parking decks with the Ground and Mall Levels above. Moreover, a new Palm Court was created and new flooring installed throughout the complex.

The renewed shopopolis was dedicated in 2005. There were now 1,047,500 leasable square feet and one hundred and fifty stores and services. By this time, the west anchor had gone through a few changes. It became a Burdines-Macy's January 30, 2004 and was fully "Macy-ated" March 6, 2005.

Unfortunately, store closings in the mall multiplied. Lord & Taylor had been shuttered February 5, 2002. Saks Fifth Avenue closed July 20, 2009, ending 55 years of operation at the SUNRISE CENTER / GALLERIA site.

In late 2014, a 750 million dollar, 7-year redevelopment of the shopping hub and adjacent acreage was announced. If the project is completed, up to seven residential and hotel structures could be built; some connecting directly into the mall. One tower would extend upward for 38 stories.

This redevelopment would follow tenets of the New Urbanism movement. Rooftop gardens would be created, with much of the surface parking lot transformed into walkable greenspace and bike paths. A regional bus transit hub would also be built beneath the mall.

As these plans were debated, the mall's Piazza di Giorgio Food Court was remodeled into the 7-bay Palm Court Market. A dedication of the culinary complex was held November 1, 2015. Swedish fashion retailer H & M opened a (28,000 square foot) GALLERIA store on July 7, 2016.

Sources:

The Miami News
The Boca Raton News
The Sun-Sentinel
http://flmag.com (Fort Lauderdale Magazine)
www.cinematour.com
http://gallerialoftsfl.com (Galleria Lofts)
http://www.galleriamallfl.com
Retail Traffic/ "Retail Rebirth" / February 1, 2006


FAIR USE OF GALLERIA FT. LAUDERDALE IMAGE:

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