Union Station (Shannon Mall)
|Location||Union City, Georgia, USA|
|Opening date||August 7, 1980|
|Closing date||November 3, 2010|
|Management||Orlando Allen (2009-2010) ; David Long (1990s-2009)|
|No. of stores and services||95|
|No. of anchor tenants||4 total, 4 available|
|Total retail floor area||764,882 sq ft
|No. of floors||1|
Union Station is a former shopping mall in Union City, Georgia, in southwest metro Atlanta adjacent to Interstate 85. After new ownership and renovations in 2006, the name was changed from Shannon Southpark Mall in 2007 to Union Station Mall. A previous renovation was done in the late 1990s. The mall closed in November 2010, and demolition began in late October 2014 to make way for a movie studio.
The mall opened in 1980 as Shannon Mall, with anchor stores Sears, Rich's, and Davison's. Mervyns joined the mall in 1986, and became JCPenney in 1998. JCPenney lasted until 2000. The wing ultimately lost so many tenants, that management required the remaining ones to move elsewhere in the mall. The wing was blocked off in late 2004 up to late 2006. City officials required the mall to at least build a fire escape door on the side of the boarded up wall leading to the mall entrance/exit within that wing for emergencies. The building then became an entertainment complex named Maxx-Funn in 2006. Maxx-Funn lasted until fall 2009 and left the mall with two vacant anchors again. Maxx-Funn envisioned on taking over the entire wing by adding a bowling alley, comedy club and other entertainment venues in the vacant store fronts. Construction was started then abruptly halted as one of the investors died and the owner of the mall, Lee Najjir, wanted out of the deal (he was also an investor by providing free rent and owning part of the business). The former Davison's (Macy's) building remained vacant since 1998. The mall during the tenure of Orlando Allen sought to reopen the Maxx-Fun and sought entertainment based tenants for the empty Macy's building. Several firms showed interest in the Macy's building but no one moved beyond initial conversations. Maxx-Fun had a website in Summer 2010 announcing their return to Union Station Mall. They have since removed their fixtures and signs from the property. The website is no longer functioning.
Near the food court main entrance a large multi-monitor display once existed showing mall related advertisements. Prior to the mall closing, there were plans to create Mall TV to provide original programming for mall patrons. In addition, several firms were brought in to provide entertainment for mall patrons such as live radio broadcasting, stage plays, town hall meetings, fashion shows and others. These events brought small numbers and some attention but not enough to sustain the mall. In one wing there existed a large metal sculpture of a clown on a unicycle, animated and positioned below one of the ceiling skylights. The sculpture has since been removed after many complaints from decay of the statue.
Notable features included a water fountain in the middle of the mall, which was a smaller version of one that previously existed. Other features included windows in the ceiling that provided natural light inside the mall, bright corridors and a large sun window in the food court.
The mall suffered several blows that stymied its potential. Shannon Tower, the office building that sits behind the mall, was the pilot of several similar office structures planned. The tower, according to Bull Realty, opened in 1978, two years before the mall. Woody Johnson, the leasing consultant for the property stated that the late developer, Scott Hudgins (who also developed the mall), wanted to build office complexes behind the mall. The demand for such never materialized and the parcels remained naturally wooded. The office developments were supposed to provide constant foot traffic for the mall.
In 1996, the Fayette Pavilion opened taking Linens N Things, Toys R Us and several other tenants away from the mall. The Fayette Pavilion was supposed to be another enclosed mall for the south side but city and county zoning laws prohibited such. In 1998, Macy's closed their original location in the Davidson's building. Arbor Place Mall opened in 1999, pulling the Douglas County shoppers away from the mall and several other stores were lured away from the mall. In 2003, the Camp Creek Marketplace opened on Camp Creek and while some retailers had locations in both Camp Creek and Shannon Mall, the Shannon locations were closed by late 2004. The proposed mall in Newnan became Ashley Park, an open air shopping center that featured restaurants and retailers such as Belk and Dillard's. This development was always on the radar as a threat to Shannon since the 1990s as it was like other planned malls in the metro area. Ashley Park, by some experts took potential tenants who would have probably set up shop in Shannon Mall. Greenbriar Mall, the mall that Shannon was giving a run for its money, even lured tenants away from the area when the mall was dying.
Other barriers to growth
Some real estate scholars argue that the area was never suited for the proposed potential of the mall. The demographics of the South Fulton cities such as Union City, Palmetto and Fairburn were not strong enough to support such. The mall relied heavily on being regional pulling folks from Douglas County, Camp Creek, Cascade, Southwest Atlanta, Coweta County, Fayette County and Airport Travelers. As more developments opened, the fewer people came back to Shannon. The mall failed to attract sit down eateries beyond a Cracker Barrel (closed prior to the mall closing) and Buffalo's Cafe (opened and closed in 2002). Gladys Knight's Chicken and Waffles looked into opening up a store in the mall but chose to be near the bowling alley instead.
As even an undercover vote of no confidence in the mall, Union City focused more on the annexations of South Fulton Parkway and building up the industrial community on Oakley Industrial Blvd.
Final attempts to survive
By 2006, the mall was struggling to keep the few major retailers it had left. Many were staples from the mall's heyday. As the more major names left, the numbers were dwindling. Some of the vacant spots were filled by independent and startup retailers but many of them ultimately left due to the lack of business. In 2009, according to an interview of Maria Allen (former Marketing Director) in Home Rule News, the mall only had 32 stores left (including the big box anchors). The mall offered incentives such as free rent for a period to lure businesses back into the mall. Event planners were given the use of the mall corridors to hold events to draw in potential shoppers. However, no major corporations bit. Event planners hit snags as Union City required permits and variances as the mall was not zoned for assembly usage. Some events such as an En Vogue concert, the Mayor's Annual Bike Race and Race Against Cancer did draw numbers. However, few people actually went inside of the mall. In 2010, the Chick-Fil-A and Picadilly Cafeteria both closed. Both businesses were original tenants from the 1980 opening.
Change of owner
Due to the mall's owner, Lee Najjar, also known as Kim Zolciak's benefactor "Big Poppa" on The Real Housewives of Atlanta, not paying the power bill, electricity to the mall was shut off by Georgia Power at 10:30pm on November 2, after tenants were warned. As of 3 January 2011[update], the foreclosed mall remained closed, and was auctioned at the Fulton County Courthouse the following day. The mall was purchased by Colonial Capital, a California investment company. The mall has since been placed back on the market for sale again. According to Home Rule News, no buyers as of May 2011 have shown interest in the property.
A buyer has placed the empty mall under contract and has plans on converting the entire property into perhaps the largest Film and Digital Arts Studio in the region. Plans have not been released to date but a sale is taking place as early as August 1, 2012. The buyer is a small Alabama investment company with several other holdings in the immediate region.
There are no anchors, but just before the mall closed Sears was the anchor store.