James Legg's Commentary:

Posted March 20, 2004 (user submitted)

Riverbend Mall in Rome, Georgia was a small regional mall that was once the shopping pillar of a several county area including two counties in Alabama. This little mall was once a very widely used mall that graced several years of my childhood where I drove with my mother in a Cutlass to this little mall to shop exclusively at the Belk store which at the time did not exist in the Atlanta metropolitan area. At it's peak, this mall had three anchors: Belk Rhodes, Miller's and an unusually small JCPenney which consisted entirely of a large room. In addition to these anchors, the mall also contained a Morrison's Cafeteria and what I believe was a Reed Drug store. The mall fared well throughout the 1970's and 1980's, then disaster struck.

In March of 1990, an unusually wet winter led to a massive spring flood which brought the Etowah River over its banks flooding the entire mall. Riverbend Mall had long been in the flood plain of the Etowah River and this disaster was the beginning of the downfall of Riverbend Mall. Nevertheless, new construction graced this mall as a food court was added as a new wing to this tiny regional mall around this time and was the only portion of the mall out of the flood plain as an incline led to a moderately elevated food court that included a Chick Fil A.

Likely in part due to the flooding problems with this mall, a new mall was constructed and completed in the early 1990's far from the flood plain and much further from downtown, located just north of the newly completed North Rome By-Pass. This new mall, known as Mount Berry Square (named for nearby Berry College) literally replaced this little mall with a shiny new Belk Rhodes, Sears, JCPenney and Proffitt's and much more room for stores. Despite the fleeing of the anchors and many Riverbend stores, Mount Berry Square was not a quick hit as it's location remains poor despite it's proximity to a bypass. Outlots took years to be developed and the mall itself was mostly empty after opening without even a food court, which allowed Riverbend to slowly die internally with even the anchors partially holding out for several years.

In 1993, Riverbend consisted of the following: a Belk Rhodes Outlet Store which encompassed only part of the old store and a Hess's also appeared and dissappeared during this time period in what had originally been Miller's. The Reed's Drug store changed hands several times as a result of mergers and the JCPenney was gone. Having not been in the mall since the early 1990's, the state of the mall itself was unknown, but it never had many individual chains anyway.

The late 1990's were sad times for this mall. CUT By this time, the Belk was long gone and the Coosa Medical Center partially filled the old store. The old Reed Drug store held on as a CVS and a rather crude Bon-Ton (never known to ever before exist in Georgia) filled the old Miller's/Hess's. The Morrison's was gone, itself a victim of a buyout by Piccadilly Cafeteria after several Morrison's locations had already been closed.

Throughout 2002 and 2003, the mall was demolished. This forced out one of the remaining tenants, Ford's Furniture who had located in the old Miller's/Hess's store (which also had been the Bon-Ton), CVS who had an outside entrance, and Coosa Medical. Now, Coosa Medical has built a new medical facility on slightly higher ground next door to the old Belk's and when I was there, I managed to get one picture of the old Belks Store on the closed side that still had all facades in place with the mall in the process of being gutted in the background. A look inside the Belk's showed a divider and the inside stripped clean with sunlight beaming through the mall entrance, now exposed to the workers.

The mall site has now been redeveloped and features a Kroger (directly on the mall site) a Ross, Barnes and Noble and Outback Steakhouse: none which had ever existed in this mall's heyday. The death of this mall is unique in that surrounding businesses are thriving and this was actually a good location for a mall aside from the floodplain. Across the street is an unusual Super Kmart (the last one in the state), a Home Depot, a Kroger (now relocated to the mall site) and several other businesses . This will likely change, however, if the Kmart ends up being axed in it's slow, painful apparent demise in the southeast, but while I was there I purchased cheap gas at the Kmart Express station.

Riverbend Mall also was put on the map in 1982 when a young girl at the mall was abducted from the arcade at the mall and murdered at nearby Little River Canyon. Though this and the flood disaster both brought attention to this little mall, the mall is now merely a memory. Meanwhile, Mount Berry is looking up. According to it's website, it is now fully occupied with most major stores and outlots now include a few major chains such as Circuit City. Businesses may shift to this area as most of Turner McCall Blvd and Shorter Avenue are in the second stage of development with many closed businesses on Shorter Avenue. Neither could have ever been described as uptown, but the next generation is certainly leaving the old and tired dinosaurs behind in Rome, Ga.

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