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Lakeland's Southgate Shopping Center is Rich in History
Posted by: Groundspeak Premium Member ChapterhouseInc
N 28° 00.838 W 081° 57.506
17R E 405774 N 3099119
Quick Description: Futuristic, historic shopping center sign.
Location: Florida, United States
Date Posted: 9/14/2009 12:02:35 PM
Waymark Code: WM77HG
Published By: Groundspeak Regular Member Team Farkle 7
Views: 6

Long Description:
This iconic Publix arch has been featured in Edward Scissorhands (http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0099487/locations). The Publix is currently undergoing an expansion, and the whole complex is being cleaned up.
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Here is an article about the arch from a newspaper:

Lakeland's Southgate Shopping Center Is Rich in History
Its Original Anchor Store Being Rebuilt, Lakeland's Southgate Is Rich in History
Cindy Skop | The Ledger
Published: Saturday, June 27, 2009 at 10:24 p.m.
Last Modified: Saturday, June 27, 2009 at 10:24 p.m.
These days, the complex looks more like a throwback than a trend setter.

But when it opened in 1957, Lakeland's Southgate Shopping Center at 2515 S. Florida Ave. was a modern marvel, pioneering the fledgling shopping center concept and permanently changing the face of Lakeland.

"The elaborate Southgate Shopping Center ... becomes another substantial advance for this entire area," a Ledger editorial proclaimed when the center opened in November 1957. "The great crowd of visitors certain to go there tomorrow will find that the center has unity, wholeness and shining quality reflecting the best in American merchandising enterprise."

Now undergoing rebuilding of its main anchor store, Southgate's development 52 years ago hinged on one man, George Jenkins, and his innovative grocery store called Publix.

PIONEERING CONCEPT
Jenkins didn't invent the shopping center - but he recognized its incredible potential.

"George Jenkins had the genius to realize that, if he located in a shopping center, it would boost his business," said Homer Hooks, who became director of the Florida Citrus Commission the same year Southgate opened. "The shopping center concept was ready-made for Publix, and vice-versa."

The first shopping center debuted in Kansas City, Mo., in 1922, Tabea Sollner wrote in "The History of Shopping Center Development." Although open-air markets featuring clusters of different merchants have existed for more than 1,000 years, what set this new concept apart was its focus on the automobile. Parking was a rare commodity in downtowns, most of which were built before cars came along. Shopping centers, however, grouped a variety of stores around a spacious parking lot, making parking - and shopping - more convenient.

Jenkins saw his first shopping center in 1947 while visiting St. Louis, Pat Watters wrote in "Fifty Years of Pleasure: The Illustrated History of Publix Super Markets Inc." When Florida's first shopping center opened in St. Petersburg seven years later, Jenkins made sure Publix was one of the tenants.

"Competitors ... such as A&P and Winn-Dixie were reluctant to do that in the early days of the centers," Watters wrote. "Back then ... Publix had a larger percentage of space in the centers than any other company in the state."

Publix then went a step further, developing and building its own shopping centers rather than just occupying them. Jenkins built his first center in Largo in 1956, followed soon after by Sarasota, Winter Haven (Northgate Shopping Center on Northwest Sixth Street) and eventually Lakeland.

Building Southgate in Lakeland, Publix's headquarters, fell right in line with Jenkins' vision for the centers and his stores.

"We just felt like making a downtown area on the edge of town with plenty of parking space was a logical thing to do," Joe Blanton, who helped Jenkins pick store locations, told Watters in 1980.

GROWTH SPURT
Lakeland in the mid-1950s didn't extend much farther south along South Florida Avenue than the Dixieland subdivision. "The road to Mulberry," in fact, was just two lanes, and the land now occupied by Southgate held little more than an orange grove and a couple of houses, said longtime area resident Shirley Boyett.

Most of Lakeland's shopping choices were still concentrated downtown, she said. She remembers shopping at the small art-deco-styled Publix just south of the Dixieland Post Office. A similar Publix stood near Lake Morton where the Polk Museum of Art stands today.

So when the 67-ton arch rose over the southern edge of town, residents were abuzz.

"We just thought we had come to town - it was such a plus for Lakeland," she said. "It really made this area."

The $1 million shopping center opened Nov. 19, 1957, with 16 stores, including a department store, a hardware store, a shoe store, a Woolworth's and a "Beauteria." Occupying the anchor spot on the center's north side was a giant new Publix with Jenkins' latest innovation, "The Danish Bakery," next door. Seven hundred cars filled the parking lot for the grand opening, which featured aerial bombs and an appearance by Jenkins himself.

"It was always excitement if he was there," Boyett said, adding that she waited a few days before visiting the store herself. "It never did hurt for business after it opened the first day."

The new center didn't hurt Lakeland's prospects, either.

"The completion of this modern shopping center is another giant stride in the continued growth and progress of Lakeland," the city of Lakeland proclaimed in a congratulatory newspaper ad on opening day.

In fact, Southgate's opening marked a major shift for Lakeland's business community, Hooks said. Other stores and businesses spread south down Florida Avenue until the entire route between Lakeland and Mulberry had nearly become a continuous business corridor.

"That was the crown jewel of Lakeland in those days," Hooks said of Southgate. "It caused the buildup of the whole area."

One perspective is that Publix fed the growth. Another way to look at it, however, is that Jenkins knew where growth was going to be - and built his stores accordingly.

"He could predict when an area would catch fire and people would move in," Hooks said. "Back then there was very little traffic, very few houses on South Florida Avenue. Now you could argue the center of Lakeland has moved south."

ARCH-ITECTURE
These days Southgate is part of Lakeland's identity: A landmark. An icon. A shopping necessity. After a cameo appearance in the 1990 film "Edward Scissorhands," it's even a great trivia question.

Search for "Southgate Shopping Center Lakeland" images on Google and you'll find dozens of pictures of the complex's 70-foot arch photographed from every conceivable angle. It has become beloved for its retro styling.

In fact, when Publix announced late last year that it would be tearing down its 51-year-old Publix at Southgate, many residents immediately wondered about the arch's fate. But while the Publix is closed for several months for extensive renovations - including the addition of 7,000 more square feet and an in-store pharmacy - the arch remains.

"We all want it to stay there," said Boyett, whose son worked as a bag boy at Southgate when he turned 16.

But Boyett and Hooks also want their Southgate Publix back. Their families have shopped there for years, and shopping anywhere else - even at another Publix - isn't quite the same.

"My husband was with Publix for 30 years. I worked there for 10 years reconciling bank statements. We just felt Southgate was part ours," Boyett said. "I can't wait for it to open again."

About SouthgateBuilt: 1957
Cost: $1 million
Arch: 70 feet tall, 67 tons of steel
Length: 859 feet of storefront
Original stores: 16. Publix is the last original tenant.
Of note: It is the oldest Publix in Lakeland still in its original location.

[ Cinnamon Bair, a Polk County native, can be reached at cinbair@hotmail.com. ]

(visit link)
Type of publication: Newspaper

When was the article reported?: 06/27/2009

Publication: The Ledger

Article Url: [Web Link]

Is Registration Required?: no

How widespread was the article reported?: local

News Category: Arts/Culture

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