South Square Mall

 

 

 

 

A collection of memories of a

landmark in Durham for many years

South Square

South Square Mall in Durham, NC was opened in 1975 as a 790,000 square foot regional shopping mall and closed in 2002 due to competition from the newly-opened Streets at Southpoint mall.

The original anchors were Belk-Leggett (later renamed Hudson-Belk) and  J.C. Penney.  Montgomery Ward was built as the middle anchor several years after opening as only the second location for Montgomery Ward in North Carolina.  Central Carolina Bank (now SunTrust Bank),  also opened on the second level near center court. Only 13 stores opened on the first day including Belk, JC Penney, Treasury Drug, Tinder Box, Lerners, B. Dalton and Pearson Music.  South Square was the first mall in the area to offer a food court which included Chick-Fil-A, Poppa Pizza and Orange Julius.

During the mid-1980s, Montgomery Ward vacated its space in 1985 as part of a corporate downsizing  made by the company. That space would eventually be filled by Ivey's (later Dillard's) a year later. It was during this time that the mall received its only interior upgrade including replacing the terrazzo flooring to a green and white tile throughout the mall.

Big Star closed its store in 1988 after being bought out by Harris Teeter, only to have the space filled by an Office Depot. Montaldo's vacated the mall in the late 1980s to a new location down the road in Chapel Hill. The movie theater closed in 1994 when a new cineplex operated by Carmike Cinemas opened less than a mile away.

 

The Original Planning

At first conceived as a small, possibly open-air shopping center to capture more of the Research Triangle Park’s retail wealth in Durham County at a site along Interstate 40, eight miles to the east of South Square, Southpoint’s early developers, Urban Retail Properties, was able to get the attention of May Department Stores’ Hecht’s division, which was the first anchor signed. Hecht’s had no nearby locations and negotiations had broken off with South Square’s developers, Faison Associates. Soon, Sears committed to the project as well. At first, South Square and Southpoint were to be seen as friendly rivals, complimenting each other much like South Square complimented the offerings at University Mall in Chapel Hill and Northgate Mall across town. This was teh first mall in the area to offer a parking deck and a fast food court. Crabtree Valley mall in raleigh did not have a food court until almost 10 years later.