Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Megamall Prepares to Set Sale Shopping Only Part of the Experience

Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Megamall Prepares to Set Sale Shopping Only Part of the Experience

Article excerpt

BUFORD -- Walk into the Mall of Georgia's main entrance, designed to look like Atlanta's famous Fox Theatre, make a right and you'll think that you've traveled to Savannah's Forsyth Square.

The 1.7 million-square-foot enclosed mall, which opens this weekend, takes shoppers on a scaled-down tour of Georgia, from the coast and plains to the piedmont and mountains.

"I think malls need to be more than just a shopping experience," said Ben Carter, whose Atlanta-based Ben Carter properties came up with the mall concept.

"[Malls] become centers of the community," he said. "They need to be a place that people just want to go."

While the largest mall in the state and the 14th-largest in the country looks imposing from the outside, its crescent-shaped interior prevents shoppers from seeing how far they have to walk to reach the stores at the ends of the mall.

As shoppers round each bend and enter a new region of Georgia, the scenery changes appropriately. The mountain corridor, where Nordstrom will open its second Atlanta store in March, is designed to look like a lodge with a pitched wooden roof, quiltlike carpets and twig furniture.

The mall's food court recalls Union Station, the main post-Civil War train depot for Atlanta. After all, says Scott Higley, the mall's marketing director, Atlanta exists because of trains. At one time, Union Station served as a city hub.

The mall has been touted as a new concept for malls throughout the country because of its outdoor village, connected to the mall through the food court.

The village stores have vintage facades and differing architectural styles to give the feel of an intimate, downtown street that developed over many years. Architects at Thompson, Ventulett, Stainback & Associates scoured history books and visited at least 15 Georgia towns, including Athens, Gainesville and Statesboro, to find architectural inspirations for the village. The village stores, however, are not scheduled to open until October.

Some of the mall's stores, such as The Limited, The Gap, Ann Taylor, Abercrombie & Fitch and Pottery Barn, can also be found just six exits south on Interstate 85 in Gwinnett Place and in the other malls that dot the Atlanta area. …

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