Century Plaza was a two-level, 700,000 square-foot enclosed shopping mall that opened in August 1975. The mall, 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. An interior remodel in 1988 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 plan to move their business, Metro Mini Storage into the Sears portion and lease out the remaining space as a mixed-use artist workspace.
Founded in 1871 after the Civil War, Birmingham rapidly grew as an industrial enterprise due to the abundance of the three raw materials used in making steel–iron ore, coal, and limestone. Birmingham’s rapid growth was due to the booming iron and steel industries giving it the nickname “Magic City” and “Pittsburgh of the South.” The city was named after Birmingham, England, as a nod to the major industrial powerhouse. The iron and steel industries began to dry up by the early 1970s, leaving behind dozens of abandoned structures that now dot the city’s landscape. In the last several years, Birmingham has begun to experience a rebirth. Money has been invested in reconstructing the historic downtown area into a pedestrian-friendly mixed-use district. In Abandoned Birmingham, photographer Leland Kent gives the reader an in-depth look at the forgotten buildings and factories throughout the city. $24.99 retail price. Signed and includes shipping.