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Fashion Square Mall is too big to live and too big to die. What does that mean for its future?

Mall or nothing

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More mannequins than people - PHOTO COURTESY OF MIOSOTIS JADE VIA CREATIVE COMMONS LICENSE
  • Photo courtesy of Miosotis Jade via Creative Commons License
  • More mannequins than people

While there are still signs of life at Fashion Square – the pretzels at the snack kiosk still smell freshly baked, and the escalator stairs to the mall's second story are still running – Tran is likely better positioned than most of his fellow tenants.

Fashion Square isn't alone in its seemingly bleak situation. While large malls continue to thrive – e.g., the Florida Mall and the Mall at Millenia – small and midsize malls across the country have fallen on hard times over the last decade. In 2017, a record 6,985 retail stores closed in the U.S., according to retail analysis and advisory firm Coresight Research. This year, per the same data, retailers are on pace to close roughly 10,000 stores nationwide.

It's what many analysts refer to as the retail apocalypse. From 2002 to 2017, according to most estimates, department stores lost 448,000 jobs – a 25 percent decline. Meanwhile, a report from Consumer Intelligence Research Partners estimated that the number of Amazon Prime memberships in the U.S. jumped by 35 percent up to 54 million, which translates to about half of American households having at least one Amazon Prime member, creating an increase in convenience for consumers everywhere.

So with a multitude of alarming factors compounding on midsized and small malls across the nation, as well as a daunting future predicted for most retailers, what's to become of a City Beautiful staple like Fashion Square?

The answer depends on whom you ask.

The genesis story of Fashion Square starts in October 1963, when a lone Sears outlet was built just off Colonial Drive. The rest of the mall, at least in its most recognizable form, would come when Pompano Beach real estate investor and shopping center pioneer Leonard Farber developed the 70.5-acre property a decade later.

As time went on, anchor stores like Burdine's (now Macy's) and Robinson's (later Maison Blanche) were enough to woo a multiplex theater and the development of a food court, allowing Fashion Square to acclimate itself into the enclosed mall aesthetic we're familiar with today.

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