CORPORATE MALL: BATON ROUGE, LA
User submitted April 20, 2017
Of the malls that occupied Baton Rouge, Corporate Mall is the shortest lived and was impacted by ownership/managerial issues and the oil bust that plagued the South. It was a 120,000 square foot enclosed mall located at the intersection of College Drive at Corporate Boulevard as part of a commercial development known as Corporate Square. Groundbreaking began in 1972, and stores opened in November 1973. Technically, it was Baton Rouge's first enclosed mall (as Bon Marché enclosure was completed in 1974, and Cortana Mall opened in 1976) and was designed as a "fashion mall" consisting primarily of clothing stores, specialty stores, and restaurants.
Its largest and primary anchor was the locally based I. H. Rubenstein and Sons clothing store. Other original tenants included Alan Abis, Almar Book Store, Beau James barber shop, Brass Hanger, Camera House, Carriage Trade Flower and Gifts, Christian Book and Gift Center, Clothes Closet, Doris Dodge Fashion Square, Fancy Fins, Gilhes, Holiday Hallmark Shop, Jules Madere Jewelers, Louisiana National Bank, Merle Norman, Ogden Record Shop, Piano and Organ Mart of Louisiana, Peppermint Tree, RFD, Todd, and Garland, Steinberg's, Sugar Shack, Tanner-Kimbrell, and Tiger Travel. Corporate Mall also had four restaurants to anchor the four corners of the mall: Shoney's, El Chico, The Square Peg, and E. L. Saturdays (a TGI Friday's Spinoff restaurant).
Corporate Mall's status as a high-end mall was short lived due to ownership changes and a softening economy. The original owner/developer of the mall and Corporate Square pled guilty to misdemeanor charges of misappropriating bank funds in the late 1970s, and the mall changed hands. Major anchor I H Rubenstein's closed in the spring of 1979 after declaring bankruptcy.
In 1984, Allied Group pledged to revamp the mall, taking into account the extension of Corporate Blvd. to Old Hammond Highway. Their plans included renaming the mall Esplanade Plaza (no connection to the mall in Jefferson Parish), adding a food court, and fountains and water walls. Unfortunately, this was unsuccessful, as Louisiana experienced a significant economic bust in the mid-1980s due to the oil bust. Most of the high-end merchants boarded up shop.
In the early 1990s, the mall still had some retail tenants and offices, but it was better known as an entertainment center with an off-track betting parlor, nightclubs, and restaurants.
The 1993 list of tenants at Esplanade Mall included: Off Track of Baton Rouge Inc.; Paparazzi's; Center Stage of Baton Rouge Inc.; Glen's Bombay Club; Maggio's Italian Grill; RFD Inc.; Gilhe's Inc.; Lamar Corp.; Premier Bank; Nanette Horton; Louisiana Lottery Corp.; and Junior League of Baton Rouge Inc.
From the late 1990s into the 2000s and 2010s, the area experienced greater business than during the 80s. About a mile east of the mall emerged the successful Citiplace shopping center consisting of a movie theater, a Barnes and Noble, and several restaurants and businesses. The Corporate/Esplanade Mall's footprint is hardly noticeable today.
The mall/shopping center is better known today for its restaurant offerings, as there are very few retail businesses still left. Rubeinstein's remains vacant, while the old EL Saturday's is now a Firehouse Subs, the old Shoney's is now a Hooter's, the old Square Peg is now Sullivan's Steakhouse, and old El Chico a Melting Pot fondue restaurant.