Zooming through time over 40 years, we come to a circa-2014 physical layout of the retail hub. The original mall structures are shown in black, with those built as part of a 2009 renovation shown in light gray.


A strip of stores was built onto the southeast side of the complex in 2009. These front on South College Road.
Photo from http://www.provisionarchitecture.com


LONG LEAF MALL
Shipyard Boulevard / US 117 and South College Road
Wilmington, North Carolina

This Port City shopping hub was one of the few new open-air malls built in the United States during the 1970s. Constructed on 25.1 acres, located 3.3 miles southeast of center city Wilmington, LONG LEAF MALL was developed by Charlotte-based Lat Purcer & Associates.

The mall's grand opening, held May 14, 1973, was officiated by Mayor John C. Symmes, who cut the ceremonial ribbon. Phyllis Griffin, "Miss Wilmington 1973", was also on hand. Music was provided by the New Hanover High School Band.

There were twenty-two stores in operation at the dedication. When fully leased, LONG LEAF MALL housed forty-eight. A single-level structure, the shopping hub encompassed 205,800 leasable square feet and was anchored by a 1-level (80,000 square foot) Woolco discount mart.

Charter tenants included Eckerd Drug, Balentine's Buffet, Cloth World, The Stork Shop, Wig Affair and a (26,400 square foot) Winn-Dixie supermarket. On the north end of the mall site was a 29,200 square foot annex building with a Firestone Tire & Auto Center and twin cinema. The Stewart & Everett Theaters Long Leaf Mall Cinemas I & II showed its first features April 19, 1973.

Commercial competition came along in 1979, with the inauguration of INDEPENDENCE MALL {1.2 miles northwest, in Wilmington}. The shuttering of Woolco, in January 1983, was the first major vacancy at LONG LEAF MALL. It was filled by a Henderson, North Carolina-based Roses, which opened June 1, 1983. This variety store store was in business until July 1991.

A temporary tenant, American All-Star Gymnastics, was signed. Then, a Canton, Massachusetts-based Hills renovated the store and opened October 25, 1995. In the late 1990s, the Hills chain was absorbed by Rocky Hill, Connecticut-based Ames. They rebranded the LONG LEAF MALL Hills in October 1999 and were in business there until September 2001.

A Home Accents Superstore took the empty space in May 2003. This store was replaced by Buy-Rite Furniture, which was shuttered in August 2005. The latest tenant in the old Woolco space, Murfreesboro, Tennesse-based Old Time Pottery, began business in the spring of 2006.

Meanwhile, the mall, itself, was to undergo several changes. A 500,000 dollar renovation in 1984-1985 had added new landscaping and lighting and removed the original Moorish Modern mall entrance. The center was also renamed LONG LEAF PLAZA.

The metamorphosis was successful for a few years, but by the early 1990s, the complex was over fifty percent vacant and in need of maintenance. Wilmington-based Zimmer Development purchased the property in December 1999, becoming its fourth owner. They began a demalling in August 2000, with the eastern half of the shopping center being demolished.

This redevelopment stalled out soon after. It would not be completed until the fall of 2009. Meanwhile, a Harris Teeter supermarket had assumed the Winn-Dixie space, vacated in 1986. They relocated into a newly-built (52,000 square foot) store, that was officially dedicated September 23, 2009.

A strip of inline stores was also built on the southeast end of the shopping hub. Tenants included Jimmy John's Gourmet Sandwiches, Great Clips, LongLeaf Nails, Rita's Italian Ice, Miyako Express and Mattress Capital.

The old Harris Teeter space was taken by Columbus, Ohio-based Big Lots, who held a grand opening on November 12, 2010. The remodeled shopping complex, which housed 172,800 leasable square feet, was known -once again- as LONG LEAF MALL.

Sources:

The Wilmington Star News
http://www.myreporter.com / Judy Royal
New Hanover County property tax assessor website
www.cinematreasures.org
www.wilmingtonbiz.com


FAIR USE OF LONG LEAF MALL IMAGE:

The rendering from The Wilmington Star 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 image. 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.