Festival Bay Mall; Orlando, Florida

Festival Bay Mall main entrance in Orlando, FL

Opened in 2002 near a former Belz Factory Outlets site, Festival Bay Mall is the Orlando area’s newest enclosed mall; however, it is anything but typical.  For one, its location almost certainly dictates Festival Bay Mall’s positioning.  Leased and managed by General Growth and owned by Belz, Festival Bay Mall is situated on the north end of International Drive (locally known as I Drive), a tourist-oriented strip loosely connecting Universal, Sea World, Orlando Convention Center and Disney areas.  Most of the businesses along I Drive attempt to grab the dollars of tourists who came to see Orlando’s theme park offerings, and consist of destination stores, outlet malls, and even the world’s largest McDonald’s.  In addition, two larger, more traditional malls with traditional anchors exist within 10 minutes of Festival Bay Mall: the massive Florida Mall and the very upscale Mall at Millenia, which opened in 2001. 

Festival Bay Mall in Orlando, FLAs such, the positioning of Festival Bay Mall is themed with the tourist in mind.  The larger anchor stores are destination specialty stores such as Ron Jon Surf Shop (with Surfpark opening in Summer 2007), Vans Skatepark, Steve & Barry’s University Sportswear, Putting Edge miniature golf, Bass Pro Shops Outdoor World, Sheplers Western Wear, and a Cinemark 20-screen movie theater.  There’s even a small outpost of Hawaii-based Hilo Hattie, which bills itself as the store of Hawaii.  And although the anchors are non-traditional, the in-line offerings are much more typical of a suburban enclosed mall, with retailers like BCBG MaxAzria, Pac Sun, Icing by Claire’s, and Journeys.  The food offerings at the mall are also typical, with Auntie Anne’s pretzels, Villa Pizza, A&W/Long John Silver’s, and Fuddruckers. 

The layout of Festival Bay Mall is also unique.  The main entrance is off I Drive, and features a man-made lake which extends from the outside into the building’s center court, which is at the main entrance.  This is the first mall I have seen with a body of water which exists both outside and inside.  The center court also feels very grand and impressive with the lake as the centerpiece.  The floorplan of the mall itself is also atypical.  A hallway runs around the perimeter of the center in a circle, in addition to hallways which begin at center court and cut directly through the mall and reconnect at the circle.  Take a look at the directory picture for a reference.  It was definitely kind of fun getting lost here.

Festival Bay Mall directory in Orlando, FLAnother atypical feature of Festival Bay Mall is the vacancy rate.  For being less than five years old, the mall is alarmingly empty.  So much so, in fact, that there have been numerous mentions of this on both the mall’s deadmalls.com article and its Wikipedia entry.  Most brand new malls open with almost no vacancy as retailers clamor years in advance to put their stores in the new mall.  I would venture to blame the mall’s location and tourist-positioning for its relative inability to find stores.  Until now, that is.  It appears that Festival Bay Mall is finally on the upswing.  Many new stores are opening or are planned to open in 2007, which will hopefully fill the place up.  That said, at least one of the radials from center court is almost completely vacant. 

The pictures featured here were taken in January 2007.  Feel free to leave your own comments about Festival Bay Mall and how it’s progressing. 

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27 Responses to “Festival Bay Mall; Orlando, Florida”

  1. Having lived in Orlando while this was being built, I have to add a couple of things to the discussion. First, Belz Outlets never had anything on this intersection, having all of its buildings to the north of Oak Ridge. Second, the movie theater and the Bass Pro Shop store predate the building of the rest of the mall by 3 or 4 years and the rest of the mall was built to connect into these stores, since the final design and concept of this mall was in the air, in part due to the building of the Mall at Millenia, the dual expansions of Florida Mall (adding Burdine’s and Nordstrom’s as well as about 300,000 additional square feet of in-line retail), the building of the Orlando Premium Outlets at the south end of I-Drive, and the rapid development of the Dr. Phillips area to the west of I-4 causing a glut of retail space to appear in a 4 year span wthin a 5 mile radius of this site. An interesting sidenote, at one point, a large amusement ride manufacturer was going to use part of the Festival Bay site as an amusement park to showcase their company’s wares, but that was not to be. I do agree with everyone about the emptiness of the mall’s corridors, since even on a Saturday night the mall is fairly desolate, at least the last time I was there (March of 2006).

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  2. I love Festival Bay. Villa Pizza is yummy and this is one of the few Hilo Hattie’s on the mainland. We stopped here once on the way to Belz and now it has become one of our usual stops.

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  3. Mall at Millenia is a beautiful center. It should be; it’s a Taubman. Not exactly the legendary Taubman series of the 70’s era (Eastridge, Woodfield, Westfarms, etc) but very intimidating to those making under six-digit incomes. I’ve been there a few times in my visits to Florida, frankly it’s too uncomfortably rich for me. But then again so is the Florida Mall, owned by SIMON, which recently got an enormous upper-class renovation.

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  4. Florida Mall isn’t quite as bad, since you still have the Sears/Penney’s side of the mall for those of us not making six figures. I do agree with XISMZERO, though about the Mall at Millenia, in that it’s the only mall I’ve ever been in that I realize how broke I am the second I walk in the door.

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  5. The surfpark isn’t enclosed, is it?

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  6. Yes it is.

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  7. what every happened to the caddy shack ?

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  8. I really like the look of this mall. There is so many different colors throughout. The many different ceiling design and all the ironwork and skylights are just stunning. The pond inside the mall is the coolest. All the posts and signs throughout the mall, and everything else is so colorful and festive, no wonder it is called “Festival Bay”. The vertical signage is a nice touch too. Is there a food court? The Long John Silvers and A&W Cafe are in a normal space. The non traditional anchors are interesting too. Although the mall layout did look a little confusing, I found it to be very unique and different than just a straight line.

    Maybe one problem with this mall is that it is so close the Mall at Milenia. I did a msn map search and found it is just a few miles away from Mall At Milenia. I would think that being so close to such an upscale mall that was built one year earlier would be tough to compete with.

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  9. I would also venture that this mall kind of strikes a bizarre balance between ‘Orlando-themed’ and ‘modern-non-themed’ mall. Mall at Milenia is essentially unthemed, parlaying expense with some interesting techno-bits.

    In Orlando especially and in Florida generally, there are plenty of thematically-engineered places to shop, from Disney’s ‘authentic’ rescued warehouse district of ‘Downtown Disney,’ to Church Street Station, CityWalk and beyond. There are also tons of themed stores in strip malls, from the ‘Wizard’ gift shop to the most over-themed and rideeculous McDonalds in history. In short, Orlando needs respites from the themes, which is why Mall at Milennia succeeds. This sounds strange, but after a day in fake Japan, or fake future, or fake comic book city…and perhaps after a hotel stay in fake Bimini, or fake antebellum South, or fake Toy Story…I kind of want to shop in a real mall, if that makes sense. Take ‘Festival Bay’ and drop it in the middle of Detroit, however, and I could see it succeeding wildly.

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  10. you know how in the festival bay mall theres a Vans Skate park? Well theres also a little spot in that skate park that you can buy vans stuff how can i order something from there and whats the website i can use to see the skate park with the shopping area of vans to buy the vans i want??

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  11. We have been tenants in the mall for over 2 years now, & although it is struggling to fill it does OK. We pretty rely on regular clientelle, so extra passing trade would be nice :-)

    Comparing this mall to other malls there are flaws, once these have been dealt with, LIKE ADDING THE WORD MALL to the signage, well having signage!! Many tourists dont even realize its a mall….. The mall is so cool & isnt like any other mall I know!

    We look forward to the surf park’s EVENTUAL opening, in turn the occupancy rate improving & I think it’ll be the most popular family shopping experience around, that is If we can all last that long!!!!!!!!!

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  12. Yeah, I had no idea it was a mall at first glance either. I kind of assumed since it was on the tourist strip and in Orlando that it would be another outdoor thing, but I was surely wrong.

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  13. I wonder how any store outside of Bass Pro Shop can stay open. I went to Festival Bay for the first time last March and was amazed how dead it was. The Hawaiian store was closing and had great deals. Even with that, it was mostly empty. The Ron Jon had a few browsers, Fuddrucker’s had a few tables sat. Steve and Barry’s was very busy but upon returning this year, it was nearly empty too. I drove by the movie theater last March and there was hardly anybody there. The location is terrible. And when will the Surf Park ever open? Probably never. Bill Murray should be happy he never opened here.

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  14. When will this mall ever shut down? Steve and Barrys, one of the mall’s largest anchors is now gone. The surf park is now DOA. Dixie Crossroads finally pulled out. Still…this place still limps along. How long are the leases in this place? 30 years?

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  15. I visited the place for the movie theater in the past. No I went there to see how bad it has become

    Well….The mall is dead….. 95% of the retail locations are empty. Ron Jons and Pro Bass are really the only stores that matter (for their audience). But why go to a deserted location.

    Maybe Simons can buy it for a buck and connect it to it’s current redesigned mall……

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  16. This mall could easily go down in history as the biggest mall failure of all time. It has a great design, good location (Orlando) and in a nice neighborhood. The problem? Well there are two other major malls in the area so this one is overlooked. They overestimated the purchasing power of central Florida and here are the results. A mall with every other store empty and getting more vacant over the years.

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  17. I honestly think the only thing bringing people back to Festival Bay is not for the stores but the movie theater. It’s tickets are cheeper then those at City Walk or Downtown Disney. Whenever I go it’s true that everyother store is vacant. With very few if any people roaming its halls.
    Personally I wouldnt mind if they just kept the movie theater but closed down the mall part.
    Last time I went was Novermber 2010

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  18. It’s a shame that this mall hasn’t done better because it really does have a nice design and is in a good location with a lot of passing traffic. (And it is literally across the street from a very busy outlet mall) I’ve been a couple of times (was just there last week) and seldom see many shoppers there. I guess there is just too much stuff in that area (like Milenia) so it gets overlooked.

    My family enjoyed the glow in the dark indoor mini golf place in there, though. Nice alternative if you want to mini golf without sweating body parts off during the summer :)

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    mallguy Reply:

    @Marilyn, It’s a shame this mall is a failure. Drove past it on I-Drive when I was down there last month and had Pointe Orlando not been there (which also has its own problems, if I’m not mistaken), this would have been successful. With its location, if they went heavy on restaurants, bars and entertainment style offerings, Festival Bay could have held its own against Florida Mall and Millenia.

    Btw, I visited Millenia while I was down there and that place is AMAZING! (mentioned it in the Florida Mall thread) As I said in the Florida Mall thread, they did an effective job in holding their own in preparing for the opening and success of Millenia. I did not get to Florida Mall (or Festival Bay) on this visit to Orlando, but I did see many cars in the Florida Mall parking lot.

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    SEAN Reply:

    @mallguy, Was this failure in your mind a result of poor planning, one mall too many or developer/ politition related. Perhaps a little of each?

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    mallguy Reply:

    @SEAN, When General Growth built Festival Bay, there was a lot of potential, due to its location right on Int’l Drive, close to I-4 and Florida’s Turnpike. I don’t think they were aggressive enough to attract anchors and it seems there really isn’t a cohesive plan for this mall. It’s very close to Universal and the hotels nearby, but it fails because of its lack of restaurant and entertainment options. There is an outlet mall literally across the street and Mall at Millenia is about 1 mile away.

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    SEAN Reply:

    @mallguy, The only positive aspect of this mall can be summed up in one word, Cinemark. Without the movies there, this mall would have died a long time ago.

    You mentioned The Point a few posts back & from what I remember the theatre started out as a Muvico & a few years later it became a Regal & still is today.

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  19. I think this mall should be put on the death watch, the fact that it’s over 50% vacant is one factor. Also, more stores like Charlotte Russe have closed. It’s also not even operated by General Growth anymore, Jones Lang LaSalle now manages and leases the property.

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  20. Mall makeovers in store for 2011
    FORECAST 2011: RETAILJanuary 09, 2011|By Sandra Pedicini Orlando Sentinel

    Tom Benitez/Orlando Sentinel fileThis could be the year of the mall makeover.

    Several of Central Florida’s malls hit hardest by the economic downturn are undergoing changes. Their goal is to lure back customers and tenants — a task that’s likely going to be difficult.

    Malls and shopping centers will “largely reflect the inconsistent pace of economic stabilization and recovery,” according to an analysis by real-estate research firm Reis.

    “The market will still differentiate between winners and losers. …. Dominant regional and super-regional malls will continue to outperform inferior malls, even once a recovery takes hold.”

    Orlando Fashion Square, which lost many big-name stores over the past two years, is now focusing on tenants not traditionally found in malls. It is bringing in a couple of major new tenants expected to bring in foot traffic, even though the people won’t initially come to shop.

    Folks have already begun working up a sweat at Planet Fitness, in the wing near Sears. The Disney Entrepreneur Center will open this spring. Now in downtown Orlando, it consists of organizations that provide counseling and education to small business owners.

    Both Planet Fitness and Disney Entrepreneur Center should raise Orlando Fashion Square’s profile, said John Crossman, who handles leasing at the mall. “You get people who get the mall more in their mind,” he said.

    Two other struggling malls recently got new owners. General Growth Properties, which owns Altamonte Mall and West Oaks Mall, recently turned over Oviedo Marketplace to a company called CW Capital.

    Retail experts have said they doubt whether Oviedo Marketplace can survive as a traditional mall. But manager Brian Olivi said the new owner hasn’t given up hope.

    “My understanding from discussions with ownership is they want to pursue this property as a retail entity,” he said. “I don’t see them changing concepts. I’ve heard rumors that this was going to become a hospital or something along those lines. That’s not the intent of the ownership.”

    Olivi is the first full-time manager the mall has had in a while. For several years under General Growth, someone had split their time managing Altamonte Mall and Oviedo.

    The mall also now has a new full-time person to handle short-term leasing including kiosks, and it is hiring a marketing director.

    Festival Bay Mall, an unconventional center on International Drive, recently got sold to FB Orlando Acquisition Co. LLC, a group affiliated with the former owners of what used to be Prime Outlets-Orlando.

    Some malls, including Mall at Millenia, have continued to thrive.

    Buoyed by tourists, Orlando’s outlet centers remain busy. Orlando Premium Outlets – Vineland Ave. will open three new stores this spring – Steve Madden, Vera Bradley and American Eagle.

    The retail industry got a welcome jolt as from Black Friday through the last weekend before Christmas, sales increased significantly. But consumers also saved up for holiday spending, National Retail Federation spokeswoman Kathy Grannis noted, and 2011 “may be a bit slow on the takeoff.”

    Sandra Pedicini can be reached at spedicini@orlandosentinel.com or 407-420-5240.

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  21. Who ever is the one who closed down Vans skate park in Orlando is the biggest idiot in the world because number 1 no one really goes in the festival mall except for the people that go to vans skate park and bass pro shop. Number 2 my honest opinion is that Vans was the major place in the festival mall helping the mall to stay in business for the the public. Number 3 every body loves vans and there is NO reason to take vans out and put more REDICULOUSLY unneeded stores in the mall that will barely get any business because there are not enough people that go to that mall to keep those stores in business plus their are no good attractions in that mall also there are lots of different malls in orange county Florida that people go to thats partly why no body goes the the festival mall. Number 4 Vans was the best place to keep Bmxers and Skateboarders off the streets so, we don’t mess up any body’s stores or buildings and ect. So, tell the the person that bought the mall in sarcasm that we said thanks for closing down almost every Bmxers and Skateboarders favorite skate park in the state of Florida because our state doesn’t have a camp Woodward or anything like that. One more thing I think that vans was the best skate park in Florida because all of the other skate parks are full of pot heads and other idiots that do drugs that we don’t need. Plus the skate parks do not have any good ramps because lots of them have metal ramps that suck and we slide out super easy on them also, they are really short and skinny and we could get hurt badly on them. We all miss Vans skate park obviously and hopefully in the future that vans skate park will be reopened and back in business.

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    GiGi Reply:

    @dean, I agree! They should just open their own location somewhere in Orlando! They would do well! Maybe you can create a petition for them, or call/write/email Vans. Show them there is a demand for their services and get everyone you know in the area to do the same. Best of luck!

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  22. So my fiancé and I came to Orlando for the first time to go to Epcot! We had a blast here. We are leaving today and he says “let’s go to the mall to see the vans skatepark!” he used to come this way once a month a few years back…. Vans is closed. Well pretty much EVERYTHING is closed! Even the BCBG store has the gate half up. One woman shopping in there… And by the looks of the boxes and packing tape ready to be used… Looks like they are packing up.

    After the let down of vans we decided to walk around for a moment. Literally there are 16 stores open! Including bass pro, cine mark and the 3 food places. It was empty. Literally I was waiting to the apocalypse or a zombie attack. It was eerie and just plain weird. The inside is so sunny and upbeat! Cool pond with bridge, with interesting lighting fixtures and architectural details… But like I said its empty!

    My only assumption is foreclosure. And the stores still there aren’t paying rent anymore just waiting for the bank to kick them out. As there was no reception. Saw one security officer. And again…. Emptiness!!! Such a strange feeling walking around there..

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