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Once-thriving Shannon Mall goes dark

When it opened in 1980 it was like nothing else in southwest metro Atlanta. But the once-bustling Shannon Mall of old — a must destination for shoppers in Fayette, Coweta and Fulton counties in the 1980s and 1990s — is now a skeleton of its former self, a locked and nearly vacant darkened mall, shuttered food court and acres of empty parking spaces, emblematic of recession-fatigued 2010.

Renamed Union Station Mall after being purchased by Atlanta real estate developer Lee Najjar, Union Station closed its doors last month with only the Sears and Macy’s anchor stores remaining open. Today the question remains, is Union Station Mall down or out?

One of Shannon Mall’s first tenants when it opened in 1980 was Louis Smith, who served as manager of Kay Jewelers. Smith was Kay’s first black store manager in the Southeast. After he left Kay, Smith remained at Shannon Mall, subsequently opening Regal Jewelers along with his wife Shirley. The two moved their business to Fayetteville in November.

Smith said that, when it opened, Shannon Mall was the premier shopping area in southwest metro Atlanta.

“There was lots of media coverage at the opening. Kay had a scavenger hunt with one of the Atlanta radio stations. And there were people there from everywhere,” Smith explained. “Shannon had Rich’s, Davison’s and Sears and some of the nicest stores you could find. It was the biggest mall in the area. And at Christmas the parking lot wouldn’t hold all the cars. Shannon Mall was the place to go.”

Smith said the mall experienced a slight decline after 1990 when a new management company came in and started spending less on advertising. It was around that time that some of the anchor stores began cutting back on inventory, Smith added.

By 2000, “Things were down quite a bit. And by 2005, Lee (Najjar) wanted to turn it into something like (Atlanta’s redeveloped) Atlantic Station (commercial and residential area),” Smith remembered. “Camp Creek Marketplace [to the north] got big and that was like the nail in the coffin. A number of businesses left the mall and went to Camp Creek.”

What might be the final blow came in late October when all the businesses except the two anchor tenants, Macy’s and Sears, were locked out of the mall after the electricity was turned off.

A Nov. 24 press release on the mall closing issued by Steve Rapson, city manager in Union City, said, “Grubb & Ellis Management Service notified city officials today of their decision to close Union Station Mall. Macy’s and Sears are stand-alone stores and will remain open.” Rapson is a former Peachtree City councilman.

Rapson noted that the two anchors have no intention of leaving Union Station and that other large companies are looking at the mall as a potential retail site.

Rapson last week confirmed that the mall owed approximately $40,000 in past due water bills and property taxes totaling approximately $250,000.

That said, Rapson said he was confident that another firm will come in and make a go of Union Station. He said city officials are optimistic that the vacancy will not be long-lived, citing the mall’s prime location for redevelopment and its close proximity to I-85 and Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport.

“We are committed to working with mall management to ensure that the (current) closing process is as smooth as possible,” Rapson said. “The city will increase police presence, code enforcement and fire inspections to ensure that the building remains safe.”

A late October letter from Union City Mayor Ralph Moore to the Union Station tenants pertaining to the closing said, “Often there is much uncertainty during this economic climate and Union City is not exempt. One thing that is consistent within our community is that we have always come together and work through rough times. The challenging times at Union Station Mall can have a chilling effect on how we view the future of our businesses. That is why Union City government will extend an open invitation to sit and discuss all options we think are available to our business community.”

“The mall has a rich history in Union City, and we will continue to tell the story of what it means to the people of this region,” Moore said in a recent press release.

It is clear that Union City officials are hoping that Union Station is down but not out. Yet for all Shannon Mall/Union Station once was, there is a stark difference 30 years later.

“It was everything then that it is not today,” Louis Smith said sadly.

Regal Jewelers and its owners Shirley and Louis Smith have relocated their business in Fayetteville at Teton Village on South Glynn Street. The couple had operated their business at Shannon Mall/Union Station since 1994.

Shirley and Louis began to see a disturbing trend and a transition at Union Station Mall that became accentuated in 2009. The trend and what they saw as a result caused them to relocate closer to many of their customers in Fayetteville.

“(Union Station) was not maintained. It was unlit, unkept and unsafe. We said if they were not going to fix things like the lights and air conditioning then we were not going to stay,” Louis said.

Describing conditions for shoppers and tenants at the mall, Louis said the management company, presumably hired by mall owner Lee Najjar, that took over in mid-2009 would not keep the mall in satisfactory condition.

The jeweler cited examples such as inadequate lighting and maintenance, the air conditioning system not functioning in the food court area, a dark parking lot, insufficient hygiene items in the women’s restroom, occasions where security was not in the premises and, beginning in March and running through August, the removal of bank ATM machines.

The crowning blow came on Oct. 27 when all the lights in the mall were shut off for non-payment of the electric bill. By that time Regal Jewelers was already working on establishing the new location in Fayetteville and Louis and Shirley had to move their inventory using portable lanterns inside a dark mall.

Of the mall’s many former tenants, Louis said only about 20 remained when the lights went out on Oct. 27.

Today, with the exception of the cars parked outside the remaining anchors, Sears and Macy’s, the parking lot at Union Station Mall resembles an asphalt moonscape.

Whether Union Station will find a new buyer and thrive once again or whether it will lose its two remaining stores and pass completely into history is a story that is not yet written.



How sad. I remember when that place opened. It was so great to have a mall so close to home. I shopped there often back then, but I stopped going when Union City began to decline and I was afraid for my safety. I believe that has alot to do with why that mall went under.

place to meet friends from other areas. It was nice and clean and bright and you felt safe---I also remember when Greenbrier was a nice shopping experience. Too bad that the seedy element has to infringe and start the robberies, etc. After a while you did not feel safe going there. I would drive to Penney's or Macy's and park right outside--run in and get what I needed and get back in my car and head home or to another shopping center. So sad, that a few bad apples have to ruin it for all of us.

Well, maybe if you would give all those hordes of robbers and thieves a job or some money, they wouldn't rob or threaten you!
We could even see to it that they were educated, maybe at Harvard as rocket scientists!
We shouldn't have to have teacher's cheat on tests in order to leave "no child left behind."
We award Superintendents immense and important awards for cheatin!
Also make then very rich.

haven't you implemented any of them? I personally do not own a shop or a business, therefore, I could not hire anyone. I did my bit by shopping there when the stores were open--did you? How many scholarships have you personally awarded to any prospective rocket scientists who matriculated at Harvard? Do you take lessons in digression or is it just a natural talent--or a result of imbibing some of that homemade stuff you keep in your basement? How are those Fox babes doing? Oops, I digress!!

What did I digress about?
You spoke of bandits and thieves and I spoke of bandits and thieves.

What does shopping there have to do with it anyway?
Yes I used to eat at Shannon and frequent the stores there.
Do you know if the "Owner" of the Mall wasn't getting paid rent as the reason for not paying his electric bills and taxes?

That Mall has suffered a worse fate than did Greenbriar or Southlake.
Neither has any goods that I buy. I don't look good in corn rows and I can't wear Pants on the ground very well.

Is it still open at the Shannon Mall?

[quote]Macy’s and Sears are stand-alone stores and will remain open[/quote]

Shannon Mall goes dark? It went dark a while ago. I remember back to the 80's and early 90's too when it was a "place to go" It has been that in a long time.

Won't be long before PTC goes dark, a good percentage of the retail spaces are empty and dark now, and they keep on building more empty spaces.

Let's hear it. You seem to be in the know.

Never did the math. I just opened my eyes, and what did I see? Empty retail spaces in Braelinn, on Highway 54, and Kedron..
Someone once said, “build it and they will come.” Well, where are they?

But the newer centers on 54 West seem to be fairly well occupied to me. You realize they don't need 100% of the square footage occupied to be profitable.

Braelinn, that's going to be a tough haul. I frequent that center, and like what they did, hopefully, it will continue to come back.

The Fresh Market will be a nice addition to the center of town.

The center near the corner of 54 & Grady Ave. looks empty and the small center near Gingercake looks almost empty.

Numbers of store fronts is one total and square footage is another.

Landlords charge by the square footage generally, but there are other considerations.

Without a couple of busy anchors though, if all the rest are open the mall won't do well.
It might be full of pawn shops, nail joints, massage parlors, title loans, more nail and massage salons, party stores, chinese restaurants (small), and preachers.

mudcat's picture

We need one and he is one and he lives here and he has experience overseeing a failing retail project. Seems like a perfect match for a city council that is determined to be anti-business. And spending money on more police and fire people and the biggie - CODE ENFORCEMENT! when the owner owes $250 big ones in taxes? Perfect match for PTC, I say.

If you don't like that idea, we have Billy Beckett and Chris Venice waiting in the wings.

ptctaxpayer's picture

What about Tyrone's former boy wonder Barry Amos ?

Robert W. Morgan's picture

Hate to sound like an anti-Bush Hollywood actor, but I'd move to Canada or Coweta if he (Amos) were in charge. Of course I wouldn't follow through on my promise any more than the Hollywood types did, but I do get to say it.

I do know that there would be a lot of job openings at city hall should he get that job. This is worth watching out for because Haddix (and Doug) were not here when Barry was the city engineer in PTC.

Live free or die!

Oh, all right, I'll do it! I'll sacrifice my time to supervise the city operation.
Sounds simple to me---just use the lawyers and engineers.

I will want a 20% raise however over what the current fellow gets, and I promise not to spit on anyone! I don't get drunk either.

I also think we ought to cut our own grass with a mean fellow supervising the work. Demand 8 hours hard work and raise their pay so many won't be needed. (same thing these local business men want).

Now, I would contract out the office staff except for one mean old gal or fellow who would pound on the contractor;s heads for efficiency--and no, NO BID contracts.

I would insist that all librarians wear round, black horn-rimmed glasses and a bun, and say shhhhsss all of the time.
If not contract it.

If the Mayor interfered, or the inept council, I would just leave.

When may I start? Oh, I will need a $100,000 for leaving in any fashion.

kcchiefandy's picture

...THAT'S why people become robbers and thieves; because WE didn't educate them! Probably more like education was presented, but THEY didn't appreciate it - or it was not emphasized at home - and THEY chose to take an easier, lazier route to 'success'. Maybe if they'd simply had learned to work hard at anything, period, we'd have a lot less criminals and thus a lot less illegal aliens clogging our country; nothing wrong with manual labor.

I knew Manuel Labor, and his Father Auto Labor, you are correct, he and Jose Pancho were straight shooters!

I guess you may be correct about education solving the problem; there's a lot of MBA's on Wall Street who steal much more money and without a gun!

They however never go to jail.

mbest's picture

ruined that by running him off and then resigning after costing taxpayers 40k in a special election. Chris Venice was the worst we ever had. She was, frankly, a bit$ch on steroids.

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