Kim Thompson's Commentary

Posted July 9, 2007 (user submitted)

It was one of the few malls we went to when I was a kid I knew it as Columbia mall. During its decline in the 1980's, my friend told me about a "new mall" called Avondale with a martial arts store (which it really wasn't) When we got there, I said "this isn't new" There were just a few stores left.

Avondale Mall, originally known as Columbia Mall, opened in 1964 and was the first enclosed mall in Georgia. The original name referred to its intersection of Columbia and Memorial Drives (State Route 154). Its original anchors were Davison's and Sears, and both opened prior to the completion of the mall. The mall itself was small and T-shaped with only one entrance. The mall began to fade due to white flight in the 1970s and 1980s, as well as the opening of other nearby malls (South DeKalb and Northlake primarily). As the anchor stores left, the inability to attract replacements led to the decline of the mall. Sears left the mall in 1984 and Davison's, which by then had changed its name to that of its parent company Macy's, closed their clearance store there in 1995.

The mall's name change occurred during a renovation in the mid-80's, when Columbia Mall became Avondale Mall. This renovation resulted in an expansion of the mall into all of the former Sears store, subdividing both the upper and lower floors into smaller tenant spaces. At one time, the lower level of the Sears store housed a new, smaller Sears Outlet Store, which later became a Goody's for a period of time. The mall also featured a McCrory's in its later years, up to its closing.

After the departure of Sears, and prior to the commencement of renovations, it was a location for some of the interior and exterior shopping mall scenes of the Chuck Norris movie "Invasion USA". The "entry" crash of the Chevy pickup into the mall is at the mall's main entrance. The scenes inside the mall with the Nissan pickup were in the interior of the mall nearest the Davison's end, the escalator scene is inside the old Sears building, and the "exit" crash through the window is the western side of Sears on the first level (the movie then cut to an exterior scene of a mall in South Florida). Interestingly, the "exit" scene also shows a blue and white Cushman "Security" cart that was borrowed from Belvedere Plaza across the street - Columbia/Avondale Mall had no security vehicles of its own at the time.

After Davison's/Macy's left the mall, that anchor building's upper floor was converted to a 16 screen movie theater, while the lower floor remained vacant save a newly built stairwell leading from the lower level mall to the upper level theatres. Already struggling and further affected by the September 11, 2001 attacks, the mall was closed at the end of 2001 and now sits vacant. Wal-Mart had planned to demolish and redevelop the site, but considered other locations over community resistance from residents of nearby Avondale Estates.

The mall is unique in that it has an old family cemetery in its parking lot. The granite structure looks like a fortress, square in shape with inward-sloping walls, and an iron fence at the top. The graves actually are at the top of the structure, as this is the original grade level of the land; the construction of the mall removed approximately 12 feet of dirt from the former grade level.

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