Monday, December 31, 2018

Brevard Mall - Melbourne, FL


The Brevard Mall
1320-1480 S. Babcock Street, Melbourne, FL

     The Brevard Mall first opened as a 312,900 sqft. open air shopping complex in 1963, with original anchors JCPenney and Montgomery Ward in addition to junior anchors Winn-Dixie, McCrory's and Eckerd. Sears also opened a freestanding store just to the north of the mall a few years after it's opening as well. This mall was the second mall built by the famous mall developer Edward J. DeBartolo Company of Ohio. As enclosed malls began to gain popularity in the 70's, and Brevard's first truly enclosed mall opened in Merritt Island in 1970, the Brevard Mall decided to close in their open air corridors and put on a roof. The mall continued to see success as the main attraction of Melbourne's original retail strip along Babcock Street, situated just a little to the north of downtown. In 1980, the Montgomery Ward store at the mall converted to their more discount oriented Jefferson Ward format. The Jefferson Ward lasted until 1986, when the store closed and sat vacant for a few months before being converted back to the Montgomery Ward banner in 1987. However, all that Wards name flip-flopping didn't have much of an effect on the Brevard Mall. The biggest hit to the Brevard Mall happened in 1982, when the new Melbourne Square Mall opened about two miles west of the Brevard Mall on US 192, stealing JCPenney as an anchor. After the closure of JCPenney, the mall began to suffer, and slowly many of the other tenants in the mall left or went out of business. Even a small renovation to the mall in 1987 didn't help. After Winn-Dixie closed their mall store in the late 80's, it was quickly reoccupied by TJMaxx in 1987. However, the good news ended there. In 1997, Montgomery Ward pulled out of Florida as a part of their bankruptcy recovery plan. Eckerd and McCrory's closed their stores at the mall as well, leaving TJMaxx and a few small stores as the only retail left in the mall. By the end of the 90's TJMaxx relocated to a new store at the corner of Babcock Street and Palm Bay Road, leaving the mall practically abandoned. After a few discussions on what to do with the mall (including demolishing it), it was decided to redevelop the mall as offices. The name of the mall was changed to the Florida Business Center, and most of the empty spaces (including the two anchors) were converted into homes for the offices of major corporations, which is how the Brevard Mall exists to this day. In 2007, a new Residence Inn by Marriott was built somewhat awkwardly in the mall's parking lot facing Babcock St. Although the Brevard Mall isn't much of a retail mall anymore, it still holds a claim to fame in retail history: The JCPenney store at this mall was one of the first three stores to feature JCPenney's iconic "Funky P" logo, and it was the first Penney's to ever have an auto center. That's basically the condensed version of this mall's history. The image above contains the location of all the original stores within the Brevard Mall, as well as that of the Melbourne Shopping Center across the street (which isn't going to be a part of this post, but is there for reference). Please click on the image above to view it in a larger size.


     With all of that backstory out of the way, we will now begin our tour of what the Brevard Mall looks like today. We'll start off this post by taking a look at the exterior of the mall and the spaces of its former major tenants. After going through those photos we'll then step inside to see what it looks like in there. In the above photo you can see the mall's main road sign at the corner of Hibiscus Blvd. and Babcock Street. I don't think this sign is original to the mall days, as it was probably built when the name of the complex changed to the Florida Business Center in the early 2000's. In the background of this photo you can also see a Subway located in an old batwing style Phillips 66 station (minus the batwing canopy now, though).

     Anyway, back to the mall, we'll being by taking a look at the former Montgomery Ward space:


Montgomery Ward
1450 S. Babcock St., Melbourne, FL - Brevard Mall

     Montgomery Ward opened with the mall in 1963. This store converted to the Jefferson Ward name in 1980 with the rest of Montgomery Ward's Central Florida stores. This Jefferson Ward closed with the rest of the division in 1986, and Montgomery Ward chose to reopen under their original name here once again in 1987. This store closed in 1997 when Wards pulled out of Florida. After Wards, this building became offices for Conexant, and later offices for Harris Corp. Since these photos were taken, Harris Corp. closed their offices in this building, with Cyient now using this space.

     Here we see the portion of the old Ward's building that faces Babcock St., along with the old Ward's Auto Center off to the left (now divided into a Bennett Auto Supply store and some other small shops in the former auto bays).


     Here's a closeup of the former Ward's entrance that faced Babcock St, which was converted into the main entrance for Harris Corp.'s offices.


     While most of the Brevard Mall was a single story, the portion of the Ward's building with the small brown squares on it is actually two stories. The second floor of the Ward's looks pretty small and L shaped (which you can see much clearer in the satellite image found at the beginning of this post). My guess is that space was used for offices back in its Ward's days, as it seems too small and awkwardly shaped to have been salesfloor space.


     Yet another picture showcasing the front of the former Ward's building.


     Taking a quick run around the back of the building (the part that faces away from Babcock Street) for a view of Ward's former loading docks, still intact to this day. The back of the Ward's Auto Center is also visible to the right side in this photo.


     This is the side of the Ward's building that faces Hibiscus Boulevard. There's also a better view of that mysterious second floor in this picture.


     Here you can see another original entrance into the Ward's building, a small covered area for Harris' employees to eat their lunch to the right of that, and even a runaway Publix cart felt like joining in the fun as well. Speaking of that old entrance, it looks kind of abandoned....


     Looking through the set of doors we saw in the previous photo, we see this. I have absolutely no idea what's going on in here with all those random boxes that were thrown around, and that mattress in the back. Definitely some odd stuff to be seeing if Harris was using this room as storage space.


     Heading further back along the Hibiscus Blvd. facing side of the old Ward's building. Look - there's another door back there...


     Looking inside that door tucked into the corner and we find...a golf cart???


     Other than that random golf cart, it looks like there were a bunch of sealed-up doors going down this hallway. I guess Harris doesn't use this portion of the building, otherwise, I have no idea what's going on here. 


     The Ward's Auto Center can be seen here. Bennett Auto Supply takes up what would have been the office and waiting room of the Ward's Auto Center, with the auto bays themselves turned into storefronts including Jersey Mike's Subs and a real estate office.


JCPenney
1320 S. Babcock St., Melbourne, FL - Brevard Mall

     The Brevard Mall JCPenney store opened in 1963 as the mall's second anchor (in addition to  Montgomery Ward at the other end of the mall). JCPenney closed this store in 1982 when it relocated to a new location at the new Melbourne Square Mall about two miles west of here. This space became offices for Percepta, which is some type of call center I believe, when the mall was converted to the Florida Business Center in the early 2000's.

     Here is an overview of the front of the former JCPenney anchor space. The first set of glass doors you see on the left is one of the four entrances into the mall portion of the building.


     This photo provides us with a closeup of the north entrance into the former JCPenney space.


     Looking back down the front of the former JCPenney building, where we can also see some of the other businesses located between Ward's and Penney's in the background. We'll see more of those businesses shortly.


     Looking around the side of the former Penney's building toward the back of the mall, and what do we have here? Yes, this is our first glimpse at the Brevard Mall's claim to fame in the deadmalls world: the world's first JCPenney Auto Center is visible here on the side of the building.


     Even though the former auto bays have been closed in and replaced with windows, it's still pretty obvious to tell what this part of the building once was. So that makes Brevard County the home to two semi-major retail firsts: The first JCPenney Auto Center here in Melbourne, and Kroger's first Florida store in Indian Harbour Beach.


      This little patio area is located on the side of the JCPenney building (the mall's north side), off to the right of the former auto center.


     Not really related to the Brevard Mall, but still fairly interesting, is this neat looking building housing a Firestone Auto Center across the street from the mall (on an outparcel of the Melbourne Shopping Center). At first I thought this was the home of the original JCPenney Auto Center (since JCPenney sold off their auto centers to Firestone in 1982), but I'm pretty sure now that this was just a really old Firestone all along (or if not Firestone, another auto repair place). This building was built in 1963, which was the same year the mall across the street opened.


     A more zoomed-in photo of the old auto center. You can't see it well in this image, but there are islands in front of the garage doors that remain from when this place once sold gas. I'm not sure if Firestone once sold gas, or if those islands remain from a previous tenant.


     The opposite side of the Firestone building, as seen from the parking lot of the Melbourne Shopping Center.


Eckerd #23
1380 S. Babcock St. Melbourne, FL - Brevard Mall

     Eckerd opened with the mall in 1963. I'm not sure about this location's exact closing date, but I think Eckerd lasted here for quite a while, until 1999 or so, when a new Eckerd opened at the corner of US 192 and Dairy Road about a mile away from here. This space became offices for Teletech after Eckerd left, and I believe Teletech expanded into some of the neighboring storefronts as well. I think Teletech is a company that installs and maintains phone systems for large companies, but I'm not quite sure. 


Residence Inn by Marriott
1430 S. Babcock St. Melbourne, FL - Brevard Mall

     This hotel opened 2007 in a portion of the old mall's parking lot that faces Babcock St. With how close this place is to all the engineering/aerospace/tech/etc. businesses in this area, as well as Florida Tech and our local airport, this place probably gets plenty of business from business travelers coming to meetings in the area, or people coming to temporarily work at the offices in the old mall behind this place.


Rax Roast Beef / Fazoli's / Beef o' Brady's / Old School Pizza
1316 S. Babcock Street, Melbourne, FL - Brevard Mall

     This restaurant originally opened in 1985 as a Rax Roast Beef location (one of two that existed in Brevard County at one time, although the other location has since been demolished). This Rax location closed in 1992 when the company declared bankruptcy, completely pulling out of Florida that year. This restaurant became a Fazoli's immediately after Rax closed in 1992. Fazoli's lasted here until 2008 when that chain also decided to pull out of Florida (well, almost, as Fazoli's did leave their lone Pensacola location open). After Fazoli's closed this became a location for Irish Pub/sports bar chain Beef o' Brady's, which you can see in this picture. In early 2015, this Beef o' Brady's closed without warning and within two weeks of them closing, this became a second location for the video game-themed local pizza shop Old School Pizza, who's original location is on the Florida Tech campus about a mile and a half south on Babcock Street. There used to be someone (not sure if he's the owner or just a loyal employee) who worked at this pizza place who rode up and down Babcock Street and the other local roads on a bicycle. It wasn't just any bicycle though, as it was complete with a specially built cart on the back containing Old School Pizza's logo. I've never been able to figure out if the cart was just advertisement, or if this guy actually delivered pizza with that bicycle cart! I haven't seen the bicycle cart in the longest time though. On December 10, 2018, Old School Pizza closed this location, citing construction on this stretch of Babcock Street for causing lost sales that the owner's could no longer compensate for. This building sits empty for now, with all of Old School Pizza's signage still in place. Anyway, even after all that changing of ownership over the years, the Rax solarium still remains intact, although the original angled walls in the front were chopped off at some point (probably in the Fazoli's conversion).


Winn-Dixie / TJMaxx
1344 S. Babcock St., Melbourne, FL - Brevard Mall

     Winn-Dixie opened with the mall in 1963, and their store included an entrance from the parking lot as well as a mall entrance. Winn-Dixie closed this store by 1987, when TJMaxx opened in this space. In the late 90's, TJMaxx relocated about three miles south on Babcock Street to the Palm Bay Center at the intersection of Babcock Street and Palm Bay Road. This space is currently home to one of Rockwell Collins' local branches. 


     This photo is zoomed in a bit more from the previous one on the exterior of the old Winn-Dixie, although not much from Winn-Dixie remains.


     Rockwell Collins' (and presumably Winn-Dixie's) main entrance is seen here.


      Before we head inside the mall, I have a few more random photos from around the exterior to post. In this photo we see the portion of the mall that faces Babcock Street, with the former Eckerd, Winn-Dixie and JCPenney visible in the background. The Residence Inn is just out of frame to my right.


     The back portion of the mall is visible here.


     Still around back, I believe that space with the small green awnings was the location of the mall's McCrory's, but I was never able to find their exact address to pinpoint the unit they were in (although I'm pretty sure it was in the back).


     What I believe was a back entrance into McCrory's at one time. Currently this space is occupied by offices for MDS - Medical Data Systems. 


     A random photo of the taken in the back of the old Ward's building. That odd looking, flying saucer shaped building in the background is actually a church.


     More offices located in the back of the mall.


     From left to right we have Door #1, Door #2, and Door #3. One of these doors will get you inside the mall, and the other two are zonks. Which door do you choose?


     Hopefully you guys chose door #1 to win the Big Deal and the brand new car not bruise your forehead by walking into a wall (or win the funky 70's carpeting)! This door states rather clearly "No entry. This door is not an exit (or entrance for that matter). Framed wall inside!!!!" If they're going to build a wall behind this door, how much extra effort would it have taken to just close in the door completely? I guess in the end a sign is cheaper than some wood and bricks. 


     The framed wall from the previous photo is also behind this door. Behind here are offices for The Lincoln Motor Company. When they moved in, they expanded their unit into the old mall entry corridor, leaving just a narrow hallway if you enter the mall through this entrance.


     Next to the back south mall entrance is the tower for the radio stations WLRQ Lite Rock 99.3, WFKS Kiss 95.1, and WMMB 1240 AM - Space Coast Talk Radio, who have their offices in the mall. As l_dawg2000 said, "They really have reused this mall for a little bit of everything! Better than tearing it down I guess."


     A closeup of the back south mall entrance.


     This is the front south mall entrance. Out tour of the exterior of the Brevard Mall will end here in order to shift into the interior photos, which are much more interesting than the exterior (and certainly what everyone has been waiting for). The interior is much more original from this building's days as a retail center too, and quite the bit of a time warp too.


     Finally, we get to go inside the mall! The picture is looking back toward the front south mall entrance. The interior is a mix of 70's with some 2000's thrown in during the mall's conversion to offices.


     After walking in the front south mall entrance, these two empty storefronts greet you immediately on the right. In reality, these were the only vacancies in the entire mall when I took these photos, except for another small storefront like this in one of the other entry corridors. Even today this place still has a good occupancy rate.


     Another photo of one of the empty storefronts in the entry corridor. Since this mall was originally open air back in the day, the storefronts inside the corridor still look more like ones you see in a strip center than in a mall corridor.


     One of the skylights in the entry corridor.


     The corridor we just came in through lies straight ahead in this picture, and the main mall corridor is to the left. In front of us is a dentist's office, and behind me and to my right would be the mall entrance into the old Ward's (not pictured).


     A quick peek down the creepy, dark mall corridor, with not a single person around... As Devin Blackwood described it, "It appears haunted!"

     Actually, this place wasn't very creepy at all (and there were a few others here and there), but this photo makes it seem that way due to the dim lighting and feeling of emptiness here. As you walk further down the corridor, it gets much brighter. Also, you can see how this was originally an open air shopping center with the way the support columns are arranged and they way the ceiling over the main corridor is raised.


     The hallway leading to the back south mall entrance. There wasn't much down here except some bathrooms up ahead on the left.     


     A closeup of the back south entry doors. 


     Still in the same corridor, looking back toward Ward's mall entrance.


     The studios for radio stations WLRQ Lite Rock 99.3, WFKS Kiss 95.1, and WMMB 1240 AM - Space Coast Talk Radio, called "One Radio Center". When the hosts are in, you can watch them broadcasting live through the large rounded window. I think this is a better setup for a live mall than one that was turned into offices, especially since I've seen something like this at live mall before! As Retail Retell and l_dawg2000 said (respectively): "Probably best with less spectators for the radio folks themselves, but I do agree it'd be a cool sight! Wish we had something like that around here... though I will say, I'm not sure I want to see the faces behind the voices :P" and "You're right: looks like they went to a lot of trouble remodeling this for the small audience of office workers that will pass by that rounded window!"


     Looking back toward the old Montgomery Ward mall entrance in this photo, after taking a few steps down the mall corridor. 


     See, I told you the mall corridor got brighter as you walked further down! (I quite like how this photo turned out too). If it weren't for all the skylights in this section of the mall, it would be almost dark in here since they always keep the lights so dim. This is the center portion of the mall corridor, looking toward the former JCPenney mall entrance. That wooden door to the far right is approximately where Winn-Dixie's mall entrance would have been.


     Looking back toward Ward's mall entrance from about halfway down the mall corridor. Overall, the mall itself is pretty small.


     Another view toward Ward's former mall entrance, with more of the vaulted ceiling in this view.


     Closeup of the flooring used throughout the main mall corridor. The square tiles here (which are under the columns) look like they could date back to the 70's when the mall was first enclosed. The funky carpet also looks pretty 70's to me as well, but I'm sure it's much newer than that, since it would probably look much more worn if it was 40 years old. 


     Getting closer to JCPenney's former mall entrance. One of the offices down here (either Percepta or Lincoln Motor Company, or maybe even both) put those tables out here to form a meeting area. How do I know they use this area for meetings? The first time I came here for pictures, I accidentally walked in on a meeting being held out here! As Retail Retell said, "Lol! Interesting thing to walk in on..." Yeah, I walked into the mall from the front south entrance near Ward's that day and hardly anybody was around in that part of the building. With that observation in mind, I decided to go down the mall corridor. I saw the people sitting at the tables here when I got halfway down the corridor, but I thought they were just people on break at first. As I got closer, I saw there was somebody standing in front of all the people talking and writing on a whiteboard. It was then I decided it would probably be best I came back another time for pictures!


     Going further toward the end of the corridor, we're now walking into the meeting area near JCPenney's former mall entrance (without a meeting going on, of course!).


     This photo is completely new to this post, and was never featured previously on flickr. An AFB contributor, Graham B. (I think, as this photo was sent to me a long time ago) sent in this photo shortly after the original Brevard Mall photoset went up on flickr. This photo showcases the mall's interior from the location of the current meeting area looking toward JCPenney's mall entrance, sometime during the 1970's I'd have to say. Here you can see what this place looked like in its prime, complete with a UFO too!


     Back in the present, this is what JCPenney's mall entrance looks like today as an entrance into the offices for Precepta. Not quite as exciting anymore with the Funky P logo long gone!


     The north front mall corridor. Again, not much down here except a side entrance into Percepta just inside the exterior doors. 


     Looking back toward JCPenney's former mall entrance and the meeting area, as seen from the entry corridor.


     The narrow north back mall entrance corridor (the one with all the framed in doors we saw earlier). This corridor used to be full size like the other three entry corridors, however when the Lincoln Motor Company moved their offices to the mall, they expanded into half of the corridor space, leaving this narrow corridor to access the mall. It's definitely not the most inviting of the three corridors.


     For the remainder of this post, we'll return to the main center corridor for some more photos of what is probably the most interesting place in this former mall. As Devin Blackwood said, "I just love this hall."


     I believe this was the old mall entrance into McCrory's. Retail retell commented, "I like what they did with the windows."


     Looking across the hall, this is a look toward Winn-Dixie's former mall entrance.


     Some more of the storefronts along the main mall corridor.
     


     Looking back toward Ward's. This part of the corridor looks really nice with the way the skylights light up the place.


     Turning around to look down the mall corridor toward JCPenney, as seen from about the center of the mall corridor. I really wish this picture didn't come out slightly crooked, but still, this photo gives you just about the full effect of what the mall corridor feels like in person. 


     Yet another overview of the center of the mall corridor. As you can tell, I found this part of the mall to be very photogenic!


     And one more look at the center corridor as we conclude our tour of the former Brevard Mall. I really like the design of the mall corridor here, and I wish I could have seen what this place would have looked like back when this was a bustling retail center and not just a practically empty corridor amidst a bunch of offices. At least they decided to preserve the old mall as offices rather than tearing it down completely, so it can still live on as something rather than a pile of rubble.

So that's all I have for now. Until the next post,

AFB

3 comments:

  1. I agree, it's very good to see the corridor still intact and open to the public, even if there's not really much of anything inside anymore. Great pictures, and cool contributor photo as well!

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    1. It's certainly a much better reuse for the property than just tearing the place down, that's for sure! Even with all the modifications over the last 20 years, there still is a very distinctive mall-like feel in here, which is neat. And thanks!

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