I live in Arlington and absolutely adore the Regency Square Mall.
Yes, I adore the mall known for its shootings, rampant shoplifting and roving bands of unscrupulous-looking youths.
But as a kid, all those things seemed so far away, and frankly, I didn’t notice them. All I have are warm memories of this place as it was in the past.
Having lived in this fair city my entire life, I’ve come to think of two places outside of school as hallmarks to the experience of growing up in Jacksonville: the beach and the mall.
The beach is first because not every city has a beach, and well, every city has malls.
But in spite of malls inhabiting every city, I think they play a special role in Jacksonville. Maybe it has to do with just the sheer number of friends I had who would always seem to lament on there just being nothing to do in Jacksonville.
After all, Jacksonville isn’t so much a city as it is a giant collection of suburbs, with stores sprinkled in between miles and miles of green, cozy residential areas.
I never necessarily agreed with my friends’ assessments of their being nothing to do, but I do remember a lot of our time together involved shuffling around the Regency Square Mall. We looked at nice things we couldn’t buy, loitered and wasted quarters at the arcade.
Before the eerily sophisticated and decidedly bourgeois St. Johns Town Center opened, Regency was the place to hang out. If I was not already planning to meet school friends at Regency, we were crossing paths randomly — simply because everyone just went there.
This was the place where friendships bloomed, love burned and where hearts went to be broken.
But alas, this was the Regency of the past. Its current self is merely a shell of its former glory. A large portion of the stores have closed, including some of my favorites such as B. Dalton Bookseller, Zensations and Montgomery Ward.
And as a result, visiting the place is not unlike being in a ghost town. The once almost suffocating crowds seem to have long moved on, presumably to the fancier St. Johns Town Center, and, yet, I can still see the ghosts of a prosperous memory past.
So while the Regency Square Mall still lives on as a place that is home to much of my youthful memories, it’s a bit saddening to see it slowly die.