Edward Corser's Updated Commentary

Posted March 1, 2018 (user submitted)

I originally posted about the Omni back in 2006 and have been wanting to update quite a few things for a while now. Below I'm going to mention some corrections and also add a bit more info.

I first mentioned it was built in the mid-to-late 70s but construction actually started around 1975. The idea of the Omni was to bring life back to downtown Miami, which had suffered greatly because people were not coming downtown to shop anymore, but instead, they were going to malls in the suburbs of Dade county. You had Westland in Hialeah, Dadeland to the south and 163rd street shopping center to the north, to name a few. In the beginning the Omni was a success, and brought many wealthy Latin American tourists who'd stay in the attached hotel and did a lot of shopping in the mall; they were the Omni's bread and butter. Like I mentioned in the original post, the Omni was quite large and was built around an existing Jordan Marsh store. JCPenney was the mall's other anchor. Also, as I mentioned in my original post, the Omni had everything, including very high-end stores as well as more casual affair, electronics, a cigar shop, a bakery and many dining options. There were even 2 discos (one on the street level directly off of Biscayne Blvd and the other located in the hotel). A daycare center was attached to the parking garage and children could actually sleep there until parents were ready to pick them up. There were 6 AMC theatres originally, with 4 added across the way in 1985. It was an interesting setup because the new theatres weren't attached to the original 6; they had their own separate box office and entrance. There was a bridge that would take you from the 6 theatres to the 4.

By the mid-80s the tourists weren't flocking to the Omni like they once did and that's when things began to go downhill. It didn't help that it was already located in a rough area and that Bayside (a mostly outdoor shopping and entertainment spot on the water) opened up down the street in 1987. The mall tried to reinvent itself many times, with little success. Over the years many renovations were done, including gutting out what was originally a children's theme park with rides and games (called Treasure Island). Stores were added to that area along with a food court in 1988. The famous carousel was renovated as well. In 1990, the south end of the mall (next to Jordan Marsh) received an impressive renovation with mosaic tiles, a fountain and added an escalator to that portion of the mall. The 2 levels of the mall were known as "lower mall" and "upper mall." In 1991 Jordan Marsh closed its Florida stores and a Burdines moved in but was unsuccessful and closed shortly after in May of 1992. (There was another Burdines right down the street). This left Omni with only one anchor store. In 1994 the metromover train added a stop to the Omni and it gave direct access to the mall. It was no use. No one went to the Omni anymore, and it was very sad. Despite this, the mall still had an unexplainable, "magical" feeling no other place had before or since. JCPenney closed in December of 1998. I originally thought it was due to lack of business but it was actually the mall who decided to not renew their lease. The movie theatres and food court closed in 1999 which left only a hand full of stores by the end of the year. It was really sad to see the mall like that. Eventually one store remained until it closed in early 2000 if I remember correctly. It was the end of something very special. I mentioned I didn't receive a discount on my jacket I purchased at Footlocker, but recently I went through some old receipts I kept from the Omni and saw I did in fact get a going out of business discount! :o) I still have the jacket in my closet, along with a few other things from the Omni, that I'll always treasure. I'll also always treasure the wonderful memories I have.

Today, in 2018 the mall still sits empty and is unrecognizable, if you are lucky enough to get a peek inside. It was gutted out entirely in 2004, to make way for a telecom hub or something, which never came to fruition. An art school was added to a portion of the old Jordan Marsh store along with a passport agency. The hotel has changed names many times over the years and is now a Hilton; They recently renovated the lobby and it looks very impressive. There were talks of building a casino in the former mall space but that has not happened yet. The Omni's future remains to be seen.

Edward Corser's Original Commentary

Posted March 7, 2006 (user submitted)

Omni International Mall of Miami was perhaps one of the most unique, if not THE most unique megastructure in the U.S. completed in the late 1970s. It was my favorite place in the entire world and I mean that literally.

Originally a 5-story Jordan Marsh department store (which was 3-stories in its early days) is what stood. It was located just north of waterfront downtown Miami. Then, in the mid-to-late 70s, a megastructure of retail, dining, entertainment and hotel space was to be built around the Jordan Marsh. This megastructure was completed in 1977 and was named the OMNI. Omni, which means ALL, was the perfect name for this structure. It consisted of a multi-story mall and hotel property with plentry of dining and mixed entertainment use. In its beginning this was the place to be! The mall was mostly 2-stories but in the Jordan Marsh and center atriums there were balconies of 3 stories or more. Majority of the parking was in an attached 7 to 9 story parking garage.

Department stores were JCPenney and Jordan Marsh only, each at both ends of the mall. Stores were upscale and varied from fashion to jewelry to tasty food. Unique points are the following:

An indoor theme-park including a 2-story Italian-designed carousel, a 3-story JCPenney w/ a toy department devoted to one entire floor (atleast it was this way when I visited it). A 2-floor disco, a 6-plex AMC theatre (which later became 10) and a large hotel on top of the mall connected via a large atrium. In the center/carosel court the AMC theatres were upstairs and the merry-go-round was downstairs; enlosed in that huge atrium w/ a diagonal window that was 4-stories high. Also shared in this atrium was the hotel ballroom and lobby levels with 4 glass-elevators.

Later in the mid-80s, the original upstairs foodcourt was moved downstairs to make space for 4 extra cinemas. The new foodcourt was spacious and appropriate looking...with unicorns/horses as part of a carousel-themed decor in that section of the mall. The restrooms were compact but strategically placed.

Well, just like with the Mall at 163rd Street, which was a few cities north of Omni, the Omni Mall went downhill. Jordan Marsh went bankrupt in '91. A Burdines was added but closed a year later; probably because another Burdines store was not far and was more known in that area. The Omni neighborhood became a bad part of town sometime in the late 80s I assume. It became an area of poverty and very low-income housing for the most part. *Mind you the property was just a couple of miles north of downtown. The Omni became dark, dull, unnatractive and hard to get to. A lot of the nice stores left, and a dollar store and wig shop came in. The store count in the mall went from originally 115 or so to 65 by 1997. Then in 1998 JCPenney left because it wasn't getting any business; leaving zero anchor stores. Finally in winter 1999 the OMNI MALL closed completely...December 31, 1999 to be exact. I was there its last few days with tears in my eyes. I purchased a jacket from the Footlocker and ironically didn't get any kind of going-out-of-business or "moving" discount.

Today, in 2006, the mall space is still empty, all gutted out to make way for failed business-space ideas that never got off the ground. It is an empty shell with the exception of an art school that moved into the first floor of the Jordan Marsh space. Also the hotel still stands and operates normally...despite it having 5 name changes and numerous renovations. The area is being revamped and revitilized around the Omni, making it pedestrian-friendly again. There is hope that the OMNI might re-open into retail and/or business space...but it will NEVER be the same.

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