Century Plaza opened in August 1975 and was once the largest shopping mall in the state with over 700,000-square-feet. The enclosed shopping mall was home to more than 100 stores. It was designed by the Birmingham-based architect firm Crawford, Giattina, & Mitchell, has a contemporary style brick exterior — the interior features a brown tile floor, angular fountains, open stairways, and bronze glass partitions.
Century Plaza was developed by Engel Realty Company. The shopping mall was constructed at a cost of $25 million. More than 2.4 million cubic yards of earth were excavated for development. Most of that dirt was used in the construction of nearby interstate highways.
The Sears store was the first to be built and opened on September 25, 1974. The official mall dedication was held on August 4, 1975. Century Plaza’s grand opening was marked by thousands of balloons filling the interior, many of them filled with cash for shoppers.
The original anchor stores were JC Penney, Loveman’s, Rich’s, and Sears. Loveman’s was replaced by Pizitz in March 1980, later being renamed McRae’s and then Belk. Century Plaza’s popularity peaked in the 1980s. Along with the nearby Eastwood Mall, the stretch of Crestwood Boulevard became a popular shopping destination.
After the Riverchase Galleria opened in 1986, Century Plaza was under stiff competition. At that time, there were 6 shopping malls around Birmingham. In 1988, an interior remodel brought more skylights and brighter finishes. In the 1990s, General Growth Properties purchased Century Plaza for $32 million. A second remodel was done in 1994, but it failed to curtail the downward spiral. Rich’s was dual-branded as Rich’s-Macy’s in 2003 when Macy’s acquired Rich’s chain. The Rich’s-Macy’s store at Century Plaza closed after only one year in operation. The Piccadilly Cafeteria also closed that same year.
In 2006, two of the mall’s anchor stores, JC Penney and Belk, relocated to newer shopping centers. Century Plaza closed on May 31, 2009. At the time of closing, only 40 stores remained open in the mall. Sears owned its own section of Century Plaza. It was the last anchor store to close on June 14, 2009.
General Growth Properties talked to several local municipalities in 2010 about turning the mall into a county jail or municipal justice center. Those talks stalled due to a lack of public interest and funding. In 2017, a church announced they were relocating to the former mall and establishing a charter school there. However, the sale never went through.
In December 2017, Lumpkin Development announced they purchased Century Plaza for $3 million. They planned to move their business, Metro Mini Storage, into the Sears portion and lease out the remaining space as a mixed-use artist workspace. In July 2020, it was announced the city rezoned the site for industrial use, paving the way for a $60 million, 200,000-square-foot Amazon facility which will bring 300 full-time jobs and more than 1,000 part-time jobs. Demolition began in November 2020 and reconstruction will soon follow. For more photos of Century Plaza and many other amazing abandoned places from around Birmingham, check out Abandoned Birmingham.