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.
As 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.
Another 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.