One of Jacksonville’s oldest malls is getting a massive makeover. Modern Cities co-founder Ennis Davis said Roosevelt Square in Ortega is responding to changing trends.
Several times within its past it’s been converted, from the open-air center that opened in 1961 to a closed center in 1968, meant to compete with Regency Square Mall and Gateway. Then it was “de-malled” after the late 1990s, by demolishing parts of the center and retrofitting it to evolve into a new stage of life.
Davis said mall management, Atlanta-based Dewberry Capital, is receptive to adapting in ways that that “makes Roosevelt Square pretty much a special case.” Typically, with a lot of “dead,” struggling malls, they’ll have a lack of maintenance, a lack of investment. In a center like Regency, for example, developers are trying to incorporate new uses into spaces that don’t fit — for example, a church or an auto museum in a space where a department store has closed. Davis said anchor stores help smaller businesses survive, but if you have an anchor that doesn’t draw retail traffic, that pretty much means you’re making specialty retail places struggle to survive.
After the Belk department store recently closed at Roosevelt Square, a new plan is taking consumer trends into account. Knocking down the Belk building will clear the way for better traffic flow through the center and better access to shops. And several new retail spaces along Roosevelt Boulevard, as well as a more pedestrian-friendly mall entrance, are planned.
“So what you see is a transition from more of a neighborhood commercial center to what some refer to as a ‘lifestyles center,’” Davis said.
That’s a space that combines traditional retail with leisure amenities that can appeal to an upscale consumer base. Some plans that have surfaced include 300 apartment units.
Some of the earliest work will be the renovation of Stein Mart, which recently renewed its lease through 2029. Plans calls for an extensive renovation to the exterior and interior of that space following the holidays, plus the addition of PetSmart and Ulta Beauty nearby.
Ennis Davis is co-founder of Modern Cities.