SouthPark Mall Opens
February 12, 1970
Few events have had a more profound effect on Charlotte's growth than the opening of SouthPark mall on February 12, 1970.
SouthPark mall was the vision of James J. Harris, son-in-law of former Governor Cameron Morrison. Harris conceived the grand plan to build a major mall surrounded by office buildings on 900 acres of Morrison's vast Morrocroft farm. The area was still so rural in the late 1960s that the lines on the original SouthPark plans followed the pasture fences.
The original central mall contained 90,000 square feet and cost $25 million to build. When SouthPark opened there were seventy-seven stores anchored by two local department stores—Belk and Ivey's—and Sears. The mall provided 4,900 parking spaces and an outparcel contained twin movie theaters, a supermarket, and several convenience stores.
SouthPark mall's first manager, Jack Ralph, described the gleaming shopping mecca as a "high fashion" mall for discriminating shoppers.
The mall, along with nearby office development, fueled the city's growth to the southeast and real estate values in the area skyrocketed. SouthPark, along with Park Road Shopping Center, Cotswold Mall, and other suburban shopping centers, also meant the demise of downtown as a retail shopping destination.
SouthPark mall now attracts 14 million visitors annually, and the addition of Nordstrom in 2004 will attract additional thousands to the bustling neighborhood that was farm land only thirty-three years ago.
A longer version of this story appeared in the February 2003 issue of this magazine.