Richmond's first mall was bulldozed in late 1999, with the vacant shopping center site left to grow weeds. Over the years, redevelopment scenarios have come and gone. The latest, for an AZALEA SQUARE mixed-use project, would be anchored by a 90,000 square foot supermarket, possibly a Publix.
Drawing from http://www.dewberrycapital.com


AZALEA MALL
Azalea Avenue / US 1 and Brook Road
Richmond and Henrico County, Virginia

The first fully-enclosed shopping complex in the "Old Dominion", Greater Roanoke's CROSSROADS MALL, was dedicated in July 1961. By this time, work had begun on Richmond's AZALEA MALL, which was being built on a 48 acre parcel, located 4.1 miles northwest of the Virginia State House. The mall site straddled the corporation line of the independent city of Richmond and Henrico ["hen-riy-ko"] County.

Designed by Raymond Johnson Browder, the single-level AZALEA MALL was to encompass approximately 400,000 leasable square feet. The first operational tenant, a 1-level (110,000 square foot) Woolco discount mart, held its grand opening in November 1962. This store, the first shopping mall-format Woolco, was the sixth unit opened by the New York City-based F.W. Woolworth Company.

Woolco was joined by a 1-level (30,000 square foot), Richmond-based, Thalhimers on May 3, 1963. The mall was officially dedicated May 9 of the same year. Stores and services included Peoples Drug, Thom McAn Shoes, Stuarts Ready-to-Wear For Ladies, The Home Shop, an F.W. Woolworth 5 & 10 and Food Fair supermarket.

Competing shopping venues in the "Northside" area included WILLOW LAWN CENTER (1956) {2.3 miles southwest, in Richmond}, which was the capital's first suburban retail complex. It was renovated into an enclosed mall, known as SHOPS AT WILLOW LAWN, in 1986.

There were also REGENCY SQUARE MALL (1975) {5.8 miles west, in Henrico County} and VIRGINIA CENTER COMMONS (1991) {4.9 miles north, also in Henrico County}. The opening of VIRGINIA CENTER COMMONS contributed to the decline of AZALEA MALL during the early 1990s.

The shopping center had been given an interior facelift in 1982. Store rebrandings got underway with Food Fair's conversion to a Pantry Pride, in 1981. Woolco was shuttered in January 1983. It re-opened, as a Rocky Hill, Connecticut-based Ames, in October 1984 but was permanently shuttered in March 1994. Thalhimers held on till May 1991, Woolworth until January 1994. The Azalea Garden Center, a southwestern outparcel of the mall, opened for business April 1, 1994.

With its two anchors sitting idle, the mall went under. Its owner, Holland-based DBA Associates, defaulted on their loan. The vacant complex was auctioned off in 1998; the buyer being Atlanta-based Dewberry Capital. They started demolition in November 1999, leaving the Garden Center and four small outparcels standing. The plan was to redevelop the site into a 460,000 square foot power center to be known as AZALEA SQUARE. This never came to fruition.

News concerning the abandoned mall site surfaced again in February 2014. Dewberry Capital released tentative details about AZALEA SQUARE, now envisaged as a mixed-use complex. The "upscale open-air" development was to include an 84,000 square foot Martin's Food Market, an additional 316,000 square feet of retail, and up to one thousand residential units.

These plans eventually fell through, as well. In October 2016, Arizona's Bromont Developments, Limited Liability Company submitted a bid to purchase the vacant mall site.

Sources:

B1Bob / Nat Atkins' Azalea Mall memories
http://vintagerva.blogspot.com (Vintage Richmond)
http://www.roadstothefuture.com/
Henrico County, Virginia tax assessor website
Ames Fan Club website
http://www.dewberrycapital.com/properties/richmond.html
Richmond Times-Dispatch