Jamie of Baton Rouge, Louisiana has contributed the following very detailed write-up and photos to us, outlining not only the history of Lakeside Shopping Center but its position in relation to other malls in metro New Orleans and also the effects from Hurricane Katrina. If you’d like to contribute to our ephemera of data relating to retail history, shopping centers, news and more, feel free to E-Mail us and we’ll consider it for a future posting. The photos featured with this particular article were taken in October 2007.
Lakeside Shopping Center, also known as Lakeside Mall or just simply Lakeside, is the most successful mall in Louisiana and one of the highest grossing malls in the United States. It is located in Metairie, Louisiana, an unincorporated area of Jefferson Parish, and is also New Orleans’ largest suburb. Metairie is located almost exactly in the middle of the New Orleans Metropolitan area (1.2 million people) and is just a 15 to 30 minute drive from most of the immediate four-parish area. The mall is near the intersection of Veterans Memorial Highway and Causeway Boulevard, on the south shore of the 26 mile Causeway bridge over Lake Pontchartrain, one of the busiest intersections in all of the New Orleans Metropolitan area. The mall is also located adjacent to I-10, the major east-west thoroughfare throughout the metro area.
Because of the concentrated trade, restaurant and nightclub district at this intersection it has been given the name “Fat City”. Fat City was planned as Metairie’s commercial district and downtown according to Metairie.com. The Causeway Boulevard Interstate 10 exit sign designates this area as Metairie’s central business district and for the most part is considered downtown Metairie. The big oil bust of the late 1980’s, which caused urban decay of other neighborhoods in New Orleans and eventually led to the downfall of some other area malls in those neighborhoods (Lake Forest Plaza and Belle Promenade), did not have the same affect on Fat City, though there have been some widely publicized problems with crime. Fat City continues to be a thriving area of commerce with auto dealerships, office towers, restaurants, strip centers, nightclubs/bars, hotels, banks and of course Lakeside Shopping Center.
Lakeside originally opened in 1960 as an open air shopping center, which is something you would never guess by visiting the mall today. However, over the last 47 years it has been enclosed, renovated and expanded and has emerged as a top tier retail center for the New Orleans area. It is now a 1.1 million square feet, enclosed, single level, 2 anchor super-regional mall. Lakeside is anchored by a 2 level JCPenney and a 300,000 square foot 3 level Dillard’s. And, Macy’s has just announced plans to be build a 228,000 square foot 3 level anchor, as well as reopening their Esplanade Mall store in Kenner that has been closed since Hurricane Katrina hit in Summer 2005.
I don’t know a lot about the history of the mall. Was JCPenney always the only other anchor? I know the Dillard’s was a former D.H. Holmes, as all Dillard’s in the New Orleans area once were. I think that it was enclosed in the late 70’s or early 80’s, as it was playing second fiddle to some other long-gone but once very successful malls: The Plaza in Lake Forest in New Orleans East which was the top retail center in New Orleans throughout 70’s and early 80s; and Belle Promenade Mall that opened 1983, as an upscale mall, in the Westbank community of Marrero.
Lakeside’s biggest competition, however, finally came in 1985. The first 2 level mall in the state of Louisiana, called “The Esplanade”, opened in the nearby East Jefferson Parish city of Kenner. The Esplanade was a new kind of mall for the New Orleans area, at over 900,000 square feet, with its modern 2 level galleria styled architecture, and the first Macy’s Department Store in Louisiana as one of its 3 anchors. The new Esplanade Mall was the number one mall in the years following its opening. Due to the Esplanade’s opening, Lakeside decided to modernize itself significantly in order to compete, implementing upgrades on the mall by modernizing the interior and adding new stores. This is when the Plaza started its decline in the late 80s and was just recently demolished because of so much damage from sitting in 4 feet of water for several weeks after the hurricane as mentioned in it’s own Labelscar post.
In addition, Oakwood Center Mall (first opened in 1966) in the westbank city of Gretna began to take advantage of its excellent location on the Westbank Expressway at the foot of the newly opened 2nd bridge over the Mississippi River, the Crescent City Connection, in the late 80’s. And in the early 90’s, Oakwood, which was then managed by The Rouse Company, began upgrading itself with better stores, and adding another anchor store, Maison Blanche. These improvements to Oakwood helped accelerate the already falling Belle Promenade Mall which finally closed in 1999. It was at this point the competition began between Esplanade and Lakeside to see who would be the top mall in the market on the east bank, and the whole metro area as well. Over the years the 2 malls have co-existed with some overlap in stores and both shared Dillard’s as anchor. Esplanade has been with only Dillard’s since the storm, and Mervyn’s closed all Louisiana stores in early 2006 and Macy’s has been closed since Katrina, but just announced reopening plans. But there are some stores that are in one mall that are not in the other mall, and each mall has stores unique to the New Orleans area. But starting in the early 90’s, little by little, the transformation begin with more upscale retailers choosing Lakeside over Esplanade, giving Lakeside the edge over Esplanade and all other malls in the market. Although there are still many major chains in Esplanade, it has seen better days, and has not seen much renovation; its early 80’s design and colors are starting to look dated. And for the last several years, starting in the late 90s, there was a very catchy, splashy jingle featured on local radio station ads touting that Lakeside is “The center of fun, the center of excitement.” By the early 00’s Lakeside had taken the reigns as the top mall in the New Orleans area.
There is another much smaller mall in Metairie that needs to be mentioned, about 2 1/2 miles from Lakeside on Veterans Boulevard at Clearview Parkway called Clearview Mall. It is an old mall first built in 1968, and is locally owned. It had fallen for awhile, especially when Dillard’s bought the Maison Blanche anchor in 1998, converted the store to Dillard’s, and then closed the store in 2001. Target took over the vacant spot not long after, and then The Palace movie theatre opened, joining existing anchors Sears and Bed, Bath and Beyond. Clearview Mall really does not fit into the picture with Lakeside and Esplanade, and Oakwood as well, because it is very small, and except for the one time 3 story Maison Blanche/Dillard’s anchor, has no major upscale chains, only a few middle end stores like Shoe Dept, Bath And Body Works, Dollar Tree (stores you would find in any small or dead mall), but mostly local stores. However, since the theater opened, the food court has upgraded and 2 very nice sit down restaurants, Semolina’s and Serrano’s Salsa Co, are inside the mall, showing Clearview is doing great now. And although it is competition, it is a totally different kind of mall than Lakeside, Esplanade and Oakwood.
Many upscale stores such as J.Crew, Guess, Restoration Hardware, Crabtree & Evelyn, and recently just opened Fossil, have their only Louisiana locations in Lakeside. The only P.F. Changs in New Orleans is actually inside the mall. Other upper end stores such as Build-A-Bear Workshop, Eddie Bauer, Steve Madden and just recently added Coldwater Creek have their only New Orleans area locations at Lakeside. Abercrombie & Fitch and Sharper Image have the only New Orleans area stores at Lakeside since both retailers closed their Riverwalk Marketplace locations after the storm with no plans to reopen there. Lakeside also has such retailers as L’Occitane, Coach, Georgiou, and Solstice that also have locations in the very upscale, Saks Fifth Avenue anchored, Shops at Canal Place, in downtown New Orleans. On the other end, there is Esplanade, with the only Spencer Gifts, Rack Room Shoes, Select Comfort, and Man Alive in the New Orleans market, chain stores on the middle end of the retail spectrum, and the mall also has some, but not a lot, of local and urban stores now, making it start to look like an “old” mall now. It lost some major in line tenants like Banana Republic, Express, a Mervyn’s anchor, and Macy’s (only temporarily) after the storm. Corporate restructuring has caused the loss longtime major chain tenants like KB Toys, Eddie Bauer, Easy Spirit (these 3 stores are still at Lakeside), Waldenbooks, and Fredericks Of Hollywood. Lakeside had the only southshore JCPenney for over 2 years since the temporary closure of Oakwood Center’s store and the last southshore KB toys in New Orleans.
On the northshore of Lake Pontchartrain there is another mall in St. Tammany Parish, Northshore Square, that has both JCPenney and KB Toys, and a lifestyle center, the Premier Centre. Both these centers have many of the same stores that are in Lakeside, Esplanade and Oakwood, but not many people from the southshore go to the northshore for shopping, but you would not want to count these shopping centers out of the picture totally since St. Tammany is part of the New Orleans metro area.
Behind the main mall at Lakeside is an open air center anchored by Linens ‘N Things with six small shops, and in the front of the mall is a small center anchored by Bravo Cucina Italiana restaurant, the only Louisiana location, along with Starbucks and New Orleans Daiquiris. These 2 “sattelite centers” are considered part of center and are listed on the in mall directory. At the intersection of Causeway and Veterans are many big box stores and restaurants such as Borders, Barnes & Noble, Toys R Us, Lowes, Whole Foods, Stein Mart, Kmart, Petco, Chevy’s Tex Mex, Bennigans, Red Lobster and many long time, popular local New Orleans area stores and restaurants.
The mall suffered very little damage from hurricane Katrina despite the fact it is just 3 miles from the 17th street canal which was one of the worst levee breaches. But Metairie, along with Lakeside, was spared because the levee broke on the New Orleans/Orleans Parish side. If the levee had broken on the Jefferson Parish side, I would be writing about what a great shopping center this “was” because the water would have washed away all of this part of Metairie and the mall with it. And Lakeside would be a pile of rubble just like The Plaza Mall in New Orleans East. Even in post Katrina New Orleans, Lakeside has maintained its position as the leading retail destination; it reopened about 2 months after the storm with about half the stores and with shorter business hours. However, within a few months and right before the holiday shopping season, almost all the tenants had reopened and normal business hours resumed. Lakeside lost no major tenants as a result of the storm, unlike The Esplanade. Business actually increased right after the storm. One reason for this was the the temporary closure of Oakwood Center in Gretna (only the Sears and Dillard’s reopened a few months after the storm). In the days after the storm, looters damaged the main concourse by fire so badly, that huge sections of the mall had to be demolished and rebuilt. Oakwood Mall finally reopened on October 19, 2007 after over 2 years since closing and a complete rebuild/remodeling of the 360,000 square feet of in line space. And in addition to fewer shopping options available, a second reason for increased business was that people were replacing items lost in the storm. All this increase in business arose the need for more parking, and construction began earlier this year on a 2 level parking garage facing Veterans Boulevard in front of JCPenney; there is already a small 1 level parking garage behind the mall. Now Lakeside is the most successful mall in Louisiana right after Mall Of Louisiana in Baton Rouge. Lakeside is owned by The Feil Organization, who also own 2 more shopping centers in New Orleans, Carrolton Shopping Center and East Lake Shopping Center. Both these properties received so much damaged from the storm, that they are completely demolished and a redevelopment is in progress, to possibly get big box and department store, on the vacant land where the buildings used to stand.
The first time I visited the mall in the early 90’s there was a Winn Dixie Supermarket somewhere near the perimeter of the mall and K&B drugs was inside the mall. Drug stores are not something you see at all in an class A mall anymore. I also remember seeing a Record Bar and a TG&Y five and dime store too. They had a Circuit City Express there just a few years ago, but it is now gone. There is a pet store inside the mall called Lakeside Pets. Lakeside is a very different kind of top tier center than what is usually the norm in most big cities. It is just one level, instead of the usual 2 or 3 level mega structure with a big galleria glass covered center court. However, there is an open center court type area, with a giant skylight above, that has an octagon shaped staging area near Cafe Du Monde. A train is set up for the kids to ride here, but only for the Halloween, Christmas and Easter; it is not there all year long. There is also another large open area near the front entrance facing Veterans Boulevard, that has a big skylight called the “Veterans Skylight” where they sometimes set up a stage for events. And there is a very, very small 2nd floor on the front west end near the P.F. Changs that has a dental office and some service businesses, but no retail. And also there are only 2 anchor stores, instead of the usual 4 or 5 in most super regional malls, but that will change with the future addition of Macy’s. There are no bookstores or video/music stores like FYE, Sam Goody or Suncoast Motion Pictures. In fact, their last music store was Blockbuster Music, after the Record Bar/Tracks chain was purchased by Blockbuster in the mid 90’s, but Wherehouse Music did not keep the store open when they acquired the music stores from Blockbuster in the early 00’s. There was a B. Dalton Bookseller at one time but it probably closed not too long after Barnes & Noble opened on Veterans Boulevard down the street in the late 90’s. Pottery Barn has an entrance from the outside so you don’t have to enter the mall to enter the store, kind of making it look like a junior anchor. I read on a blog that Lakeside did not renew its lease with just recently vacated Old Navy because they want to position themselves as an “upscale” mall. Old Navy had an excellent location facing the corner of Veterans and Causeway, and even signage on the outside of the mall and a window to display merchandise making it look like a junior anchor store too. A new free standing Old Navy is under construction to replace the former Lakeside store at Elmwood Shopping Center, a big power center across town in Harahan. Not renewing Old Navy’s lease was probably part of the plan to add the Macy’s, because the renderings of the expansion of Lakeside on nola.com show that Macy’s is being connected where Old Navy was, and show a parking garage next to the future Macy’s.
The main corridor of the mall is very, very wide with many kiosks set up, mixed in with pine trees, potted plants and benches all over a marble floor. There are some small skylights littered throughout the mall and big skylights above the mall entrances to the anchors. Silver topped, beige pillars are scattered throughout the mall. There are marble fountains set up in the front side entrances facing Veterans Boulevard. The mall probably could easily be opened up and become a lifestyle center because of how wide this main corridor is, but that is something that is not likely to happen anytime in the near or distant future judging by its current success as an enclosed mall. The mall is always bursting with activity and plenty of shoppers. The train in the center court attracts the families and kids like a magnet during the holidays. They even have a guy dressed like a pumpkin for Halloween. They are always having events with local radio stations broadcasting remotes from these events. They actually made it snow in the mall last year on some days during the holiday shopping season.