Old-timers (that its, pre-Olympics metro Atlanta residents) fondly recall an early 1980s version of Gwinnett Place Mall that's hard to imagine today: The drive-to Duluth shopping center was the premiere mall in the region, the marquee retail district in one of America's fastest-growing counties. It drew shoppers from as far as South Carolina. The subsequent three decades have brought significant slippage. Gwinnett Place is more than 50 percent empty and has struggled to attract new tenants. This week the ailing mall was dealt a significant blow when one of four major anchors, Belk, announced it will shutter in August, the AJC reports. A third of the mall's remaining leases will be up for renewal soon, and one official told the newspaper the likelihood of losing more storefronts in the commercial ghost town is high.
Gwinnett Place, the county's first mall, debuted in 1984 with anchors Rich's, Sears and Davison's. By all accounts, the mall's early years were a raging success. But challenges came with the openings of two more Simon malls, Mall of Georgia (1999), and Discover Mills (2001), that siphoned off the Gwinnett Place customer base. A growing number of open-air shopping districts, the AJC notes, have been worthy competition. And the area's vastly changed demographics are also thought to have affected its appeal.
After this summer, Belk's departure will leave Sears, JC Penney and Macy's as major anchors, in addition to a Mega Mart food and apparel center. A Belk spokesperson told the AJC the company has no plans to close its other Gwinnet stores in Buford and Norcross.
Lore has it that Gwinnett Place, built in a time when Duluth was rural, replaced a massive trailer park that fronted Pleasant Hill Road, now a traffic-clogged headache. Please, feel free to share your sweet reminiscences about this shopping mecca, and thoughts on why it isn't working anymore ...