Orlando’s ‘anti-mall’ is closing down. This once failed commercial mall was sold and converted into an artist market place and haven for unique specialty stores. Most notable of those being the massive comic shop/art gallery/nerd lounge Gods & Monsters.
While this is a loss for Orlando, it could be an opportunity to show the Jacksonville Landing one very realistic option to create something truly unique for Downtown Jacksonville that could bring more traffic, revenue, and culture to the core.
“But what could they learn from a failed mall?”
Well, lets look at what happened. The Artegon mall rose from the ashes of a previously failed mall on the far end of an outlet shopping district on Orlando’s bustling International Drive. It was reinvented into the much cooler and hip new ‘anti-mall’. Even still, much like the previous mall owners discovered, its unfortunate location kept any would-be patrons from going out of their way, in notoriously bad traffic, to fight through a largely tourist district, to take advantage of the shopping experience.
Not us of course. We go out of our way every trip to Orlando to check out what’s new at Gods & Monsters and grab a burger at Fudruckers. Seriously, delicious.
“Yeah, that’s great. But you haven’t said what the Landing could learn from this!”
Right, right. What the Artegon did with the space once they took it over was a bold and brilliant move. Knowing the space would not draw high big name corporate retail stores like The GAP or Starbucks, they literally gutted out the center of the mall knocking out all the walls where shops like Hot Topic used to reside and opened it up for a huge new artist market space. Row after row of wire cage and specialty customs spaces were built throughout the center of the mall creating a vast, labyrinth-like open air market which attracted small business tenants of all variety, many being nerdy artists and crafters selling their original creations.
The same fate as this original mall suffered is looking more and more likely to happen at the Landing’s if they don’t do something soon. The inner ring of shops at the Riverfront mall is virtual ghost town akin to the ill fated Regency Mall with more storefronts boarded up than open. Only the more visible outlying restaurants and bars seem to find any success with getting regular traffic.
Now, you may think suggesting a a format for a closing mall could be the solution for another is just foolish, and in most cases, you’d probably be right. But let’s not forget, the Artegon is the right idea, but the wrong location. This could work like gangbusters at the Landing because it is in a much better location, especially the first Wednesday of the month where they could be a destination bookend to the monthly Art Walk centered in Hemming Park.
It would be a HUGE boost to the arts community, a financial gain for the Landing, and a destination spot for Downtown traffic and tourism if the Landing were to gut their failed indoor retail spaces and turned the inside into an artist and creators market.
We need more arts in Jax. Artists need more space to learn, show and sell. The Landing surely needs tenants to fill their square footage and have the money behind it to make this happen. It’s a dramatically cheaper alternative to the proposed renovations on the table now.
I can imaging a city with a thriving Arts Market at its heart. A small business hive creating a huge buzz for downtown and the arts. Now let’s see if the powers that be have the imagination to make it happen …
Check out some photos below of the wonderful and creative custom store fronts from the Artegon mall…
by Max Michaels for MovementMagazine.com
Some photos by Movement Magazine, some photos from the Artegon web site and Facebook pages.