Goodbye Fashion Square Mall? Hello open air retail, entertainment hub

Orlando's oldest mall won't stay standing under new landowner's plans

Developers are planning to tear down Fashion Square Mall to build a new retail hub.

ORLANDO, Fla. – Orlando's Fashion Square Mall, the city's longest-operating shopping mall, is about to go out of style after a developer has entered a contract to purchase the land under the Colonial Drive building.

Unicorp National Developments President Chuck Whittall said he paid a nonrefundable deposit for a $23 million contract that includes nearly 50 acres underneath the mall. The developer is still negotiating with Bancorp, the building's owner.

Whittall said he plans to tear down the mall and redevelop the land as an open-air entertainment space with restaurants, a move theater, a bowling alley, apartments and a hotel.

"It's got a million people within just a couple miles," Whittall said. "It's a great development opportunity." 

Unicorp National Developments renderings of plans for the 46-acre Fashion Square Mall property.

The mall, which was originally built in 1973, is Orlando's oldest and faced challenges as Florida Mall and The Mall at Millenia opened. Online shopping has taken the biggest chunk out of mall traffic in recent years.

Whittall said his company's development doesn't plan to compete with online retailers.

"We're not really trying to compete with the people shopping online today," he said. "That's why the things we'll do are a hair salon, a nail salon, a bowling experience, a dine-in movie theater. Those type of things you can't buy on the internet." 

There have been efforts to revitalize Fashion Square in the past but many of the store spots are currently empty. Flagship store Sears closed in 2016 but a clearance Dillard’s and Macy's remain.

Unicorp is starting on the design plans next month and could demolish the mall building by this time next year.

"Our goal is to demolish the entire mall as it is today and rebuild it into a lifestyle center," Whittall said.