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The Future of Georgia Square Mall: A New Live, Work, and Play Space

Georgia Square Mall opened its doors on February 11, 1981, with 850,000 square feet of retail space. It quickly became a retail destination for Athens and the surrounding area, boasting some of the largest retailers at the time, Sears, Belk, JCPenney, and Davidson’s. The mall’s original design reflected the era’s propensity for comfortable shopping and a large parking lot.

During its height, Georgia Square Mall offered an abundance of retail options and expanded its entertainment offerings with cinemas, making it appeal to families and people of all ages. During its early years, it had almost 100% occupancy, but as the retail landscape changed over time, the mall began to see a decline in retail occupancy as well as foot traffic. These areas have slowly dwindled into the current state of our local mall, which we know today.

In 2022, the Athens Clarke County Mayor and Commission unanimously voted to approve a redevelopment project for Georgia Square Mall that promises to breathe new life into this once-popular destination. The Georgia Square Mall Redevelopment project spans 74.77 acres of land and will introduce 70,000 square feet of commercial space. This ambitious initiative will include 1,200 apartments, townhouses, and senior living spaces.

The projected plans by W&A Engineering will eliminate two-thirds of the existing mall, making space for more open-air shopping in a live, work, and play development. The senior living space will occupy what was once the dollar theater building and parking lot. One of the benefits of this plan is the commitment to community welfare. Ninety-nine apartments are earmarked for affordable housing, ensuring rental rates align with 60% of the Area Median Income. Additionally, 14,000 square feet of commercial space is designated for reduced rent, fostering opportunities for women and minority-owned businesses. The redevelopment goes beyond commerce, with 5,000 square feet allotted for a rent-free daycare or youth development center, complementing the Boys and Girls Club and plans for a new space for an Athens branch of Extra Special People.

Local developer Mark Jennings and designer Jon Williams of Athens-Clarke County committee are overseeing the project, which is set to start construction in late summer 2024.


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