Exploring the Northside: Gateway Mall Photo TourApril 4, 2007 17 comments Print Article
Opened in the mid 1950's, and after going through a period of decline from 1988 to 1994, the 630,000sf Gateway Mall is well on its way to making a comeback. While you won't find the Gaps and Cheesecake Factories of the world here, you will discover a center that has been recreated to serve the needs of the surrounding communities.
Gateway is located on Norwood Avenue, just east of I-95. The complex consists of an enclosed mall to the south and a outdoor shopping center to the north. The center is also another Northside destination within close walking distance of the city owned S-Line right-of-way, a piece of property the Metro Jacksonville Group has been pushing hard as an alternative to JTA's bus rapid transit north route.
Before larger centers like the Avenues came on line, Gateway was one of Jacksonville's major enclosed malls. During its heyday, Morrison's Cafeteria was located in the space occupied by Ice Lady, while the major anchors, JCPenney and Montgomery Wards supplied pedestrian foot traffic and visibility to the specialty shops between them. Today, the mall lives on as a center dominated by businesses that cater to the surrounding inner city neighborhoods.
This 130,000 sf space was originally occupied by JCPenney, which was the last large national chain anchor to leave in 1992. Today the space has been subdivided into apparel shops and a Supervisor of Elections center.
The interior of the mall still resembles a 1980s/early 1990s type of feel. Most of the occupied retail spaces are located closer to the Norwood Avenue end. Naturally, without major anchor destination on the I-95 section, many of those storefronts remain vacant. However, as developers look to capitalize on the center's location, it's I-95 frontage presents a great opportunity for additional development.
The Shopping Center
The shopping center portion has undergone several changes since developer Carlton Jones took over in the late 1990s after Canadian based Royal Canadian Bank let the center fall into despair. At one time, all storefronts turned their back to I-95. Now this set of retailers have direct visible access to one of Jacksonville's most traveled highways.
After over 50 years of serving Northside residents, the center is still a work in progress.
The Gateway Walgreens is one of the few inner city stores operating 24 hours a day/7 days a week.
Gateway is also the home to a 28,000 sf Publix supermarket, which is a rarity in the Inner Northside (south of Trout River, north of Beaver). While other older retail centers of similar size have passed on, Gateway serves as an example of what can happen when creativity takes over and the focus is changed to accommodate a niche market that typically has been overlooked in the metropolitan area.