Top 5 Facts About Westgate Mall



In the late 50's, times were changing.  The growth of the automobile and the development of the suburb, brought a new style of shopping center being constructed farther away from the downtown area. 

In the 60's, things were looking busier for the Macon retail market than it had in previous years.  Westgate Shopping Center, also known as Westgate Mall was officially dedicated in 1961 on a 30 acre parcel, located 2 miles southwest of downtown Macon. Encompassing approximately 165,700 leasable square feet, the single level complex was developed by the Macon-based Fickling & Walker Company and designed by Bernard Webb & Company. A single-screen theater, was later added  in 1966 and it would operate as the Westgate Triple Cinema and Westgate 6 before being permanently shuttered along with the mall in in the late 90's.

Westgate Was The First Fully Enclosed Shopping Mall Built In Georgia

Opening in 1961, Westgate Shopping Center (Westgate Mall) was the first fully enclosed shopping mall built in Georgia. However, unlike most shopping malls in that era, Westgate did not house department store anchors; although the mall was primarily anchored by JJ Newberry's. Due to Westgate's lack of anchoring department stores, downtown Macon shopping continued to thrive until the Macon Mall opened in 1975.

 

Westgate Was The First Air-Conditioned Shopping Center in Georgia

Westgate was Georgia's first fully enclosed climate-controlled retail space with multiple shops.  Marketing and promotion for Westgate Shopping Center advertised a climate control shopping experience, making it extremely attractive to consumers.  Also, developers acknowledged a concept that organized individual shops around a central square of parking.  This concept created an opportunity to construct a concentrated shopping center that would accommodate the car-traveling shopper.

Westgate Lacked Department Store Anchors

Westgate was anchored not by a Belk's or Sears but by two grocery stores and JJ Newberry's. In the early 70's Piggly Wiggly, Newberry's, and Colonial Stores were the anchor stores. Woolworth's and Gilberg's cloth store, both replaced by Cloth World, took up the Colonial court. Fickling and Walker also housed their offices in Westgate as well as a locksmith that operated out of a large kiosk next to Newberry's.  Shoppers could dine at G&M Cafeteria and have their just deserts at Hefner's Bakery or Betty Ann's Candies, after a busy day of shopping.  When Westgate Shopping Center opened, there were 30 tenants and not one department store.  No department store ever opened at Westgate

Westgate Shopping Center Was A Distribution Point for Macon News

Peyton Anderson's Newscopters, Inc., was formed in November 1967 and was based at Lewis Wilson Airport.  Six afternoons a week, a helicopter would fly to downtown Macon, land on the top of the Macon Telegraph building and pick up bundles of the Macon News.  After bundled papers were picked up from the Macon News, the helicopter would then set down at Westgate Shopping Center where "carriers waited to deliver the papers in the Westgate, Bloomfield and South Macon areas."

New Competition Hurt Westgate Shopping Center

According to an article from the Macon Telegraph, Westgate Mall was completely empty by 1978.  Several efforts to save the mall with no real department store anchors failed, as Westgate remained desolate just down the street from Macon's newest mall, the Macon Mall.  In an effort to revive the shopping center, Burlington, Wal-Mart, Media Play, Petsmart, Stacy's and Scotty's Home Improvement Center moved in, but continued to faced challenges all the while competing with the Macon Mall.  With the bankruptcy of Media Play, the exit of Wal-Mart, and the loss of Home Depot, Westgate Shopping Center still remains virtually empty.