Southdale Center, colloquially known as Southdale, is a shopping mall located in Edina, Minnesota, a suburb of the Twin Cities. It opened in 1956 and is one of the oldest fully enclosed malls, and the first climate-controlled one, in the United States. Southdale Center comprises 1,300,000 sq ft (120,000 m2) of leasable retail space, and contains approximately 123 retail tenants. The mall is partially owned by Simon Property Group and is anchored by Gordmans, Herberger's, JCPenney, and Macy's.
Victor Gruen, the center's architect, designed the mall to challenge the "car-centric" America that was rising in the 1950s. Since its opening in 1956, Southdale has suffered through high vacancy rates and several store closures, but has been able to recover in recent years. Several additions have been performed on the building, including a 2011 renovation which involved the construction of a brand new food court. Southdale Center continues to use much of its original structure despite these renovations, and has been the host of several charity and community events throughout the years.
Southdale Center was developed by the Dayton Company and designed by Victor Gruen, an Austrian immigrant and socialist. Gruen was a European-style socialist; he found individual stores in downtown venues to be inefficient, and the suburban lifestyle of 1950s America too "car-centric" and wanted to design a building that would be a communal gathering place, where people would shop, drink coffee, and socialize, as he remembered from his native Vienna. Southdale Center was loosely modeled on the arcades of several heavily populated European cities and purposely included "eye-level display cases" to "lure customers into stores". Gruen imaged that Southdale would eventually include "a medical center, schools and residences, not just a parade of glitzy stores." The first plans unveiled for the shopping center were announced in 1952 by Gruen and Minnesota native, Donald Dayton.
Groundbreaking for Southdale took place on October 29, 1954; 800 construction workers were needed to build the three-story, 800,000 sq ft (74,000 m2), 500 acre center, which had 5,200 parking spaces, 72 available tenants, and cost $20 million to construct. Due to Minnesota's harsh climate in the winter, Gruen constructed the center with a roof and air-conditioning system capable of maintaining a comfortable temperature of 75 °F (24 °C) year-round. The mall was originally anchored by Dayton's, Donaldson's, Walgreens, and Woolworth, the former of which also developed the center. Over 40,000 visitors attended the grand opening ceremony for the center on the morning of October 8, 1956. An additional 188,000 customers visited the mall throughout the following week.
The center was constructed to successfully bring the community together by "gathering art, culture and entertainment under one roof with retail." The Dayton's store was modeled after Dayton's flagship store in Minneapolis, Minnesota. In November 1956, organic architect Frank Lloyd Wright visited the mall as part of a tour of new buildings in Minnesota; he critiqued Southdale's overall design, stating "[the] garden court has all the evils of the village street and none of its charm," further criticizing several other buildings in nearby Minneapolis. He unfavorably added that Gruen "should have left downtown, downtown."
Over the early years of Southdale, several tenants and restaurants opened in the center. A restaurant called Sidewalk Cafe, was an "outdoor"-themed restaurant, even though the venue was fully enclosed; Sidewalk Cafe was the first restaurant of its kind. JCPenney, a Plano, Texas-based department store, announced their interest in opening a location at Southdale Center. An addition to the mall was constructed, allowing JCPenney to open a 247,902 square feet (23,000 m2) store in 1972; it became Southdale's third anchor store, following Dayton's and Donaldson's. Along with the new anchor store came an entire new mall corridor connecting JCPenney to the original structure of the mall.
During 1976, construction of a new shopping center directly across the street from Southdale occurred. The construction resulted in the Galleria Edina, an upscale shopping center; the new shopping mall increased competition with neighboring shopping centers. In 1987, Donaldson's announced the discontinuation of their chain of stores, which would shut one of the mall's original anchors. Instead, Donaldson's merged with local department chain Carson Pirie Scott.
In 1991, Dayton's announced plans to construct a significantly larger store directly north of their current location. These plans included the demolition of the original Dayton's store to be replaced with more stores, plus a larger "garden court", and the construction of various multi-level parking garages; these plans were eventually constructed and finalized in the early 1990s. On June 30, 1997, Southdale Center was sold to the O'Connor Group, a New York-based real estate company for $125 million, beating out a bid placed by General Growth Properties, a firm that owns several properties in the Twin Cities. Around this time, Southdale converted their basement into a singular anchor store, which became Marshalls; surrounding the new anchor were several specialty shops and mall management offices.
During the early 2000s, following fear of competition from nearby Eden Prairie Center and Mall of America, Southdale announced further plans to renovate the center again. A complete remodeling of the center occurred in 2001, followed by a large addition to the southern half of the property; the addition included a sixteen screen movie theater along with an entertainment district of restaurants and shops called "The District on France". "The District on France" included several "upscale" dining options, including California Pizza Kitchen, The Cheesecake Factory, and Maggiano's Little Italy. A renovation of the less-traveled third floor also occurred, with the addition of teen-geared stores; this addition was called "Trendz on Top".
Throughout the mid 2000s, Southdale began struggling with maintaining a low vacancy rate. Mervyn's, one of Southdale's four anchors, announced that they had filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy, which would in turn close all of their Minnesota locations. After the closure of Mervyn's in 2004, several tenants followed and ended their leases as well; national retailers like The Bombay Company, Crate & Barrel, Ritz Camera, and Select Comfort all announced closures of their Southdale locations. Talks of a Dick's Sporting Goods filling the space formerly leased by Mervyn's occurred, but those plans never took off and eventually dissolved.
In February 2011, Simon Property Group announced that Southdale would soon be anchored by Herberger's, a local department store chain, and would lease the space previously used by Mervyn's. Along with this announcement came the mention of a brand new food court to replace the nearly vacant one on the less-traveled third floor, a housing development consisting of apartments and condominiums, and expanded retail. The food court's construction would include six tenants, which was later increased to eight tenants. However, the new food court forced the closure of one of Southdale's oldest tenants, Ralph's Shoe Service, which originally opened at the mall in 1957. Following several tenant terminations, the mall's Marshalls anchor announced that their 40,000 square feet (3,700 m2) Southdale location would move to a different shopping center in Bloomington, Minnesota.
The new food court located by JCPenney was completed in 2012 and featured "upscale" dining options, such as Qdoba Mexican Grill and Smashburger; several other projects took place, such as cosmetic changes for the mall and the construction of new corridors. Since 2015, several stores and businesses have opened up locations at Southdale Center. Gordmans, a Nebraska-based discount retailer, filled the vacancy previous leased by Marshalls in July 2015, followed by the opening of a 41,500 square feet (3,900 m2) Dave and Buster's restaurant, filling the vacancy of the original food court. A Homewood Suites by Hilton resort was approved by the City of Edina and will be constructed in the shopping center's northeast parking lot in late 2016.