Regency Square Mall, located in the Arlington part of town, is Jacksonville's oldest super-regional mall. Back in the 1970's and early 1980's it was the best mall in the region, boasting well over 100 stores. In the late 1980's, the much more upscale, two-story Avenues Mall opened on the city's south side, but Regency seemed able to compete through a series of expansions and facelifts. In the 1990's and early 2000's, the SR 9A beltway project made access to the Avenues much quicker from the Arlington area. Then, in 2005, Jacksonville's best mall of all, the even more upscale, outdoor-focused, and close-by St. Johns Town Center (see my travelogue), changed the face of Jacksonville shopping completely. Couple that with the opening of River City Marketplace on the Northside (an under-served part of town that has long been a big customer base), and Regency seems to have been dealt a knock-out punch that still has it spinning.
Perhaps Regency's "crown jewel" is its renovated food court, designed in a nautical seaport theme. A giant painted collage mural blending various images of life in Jacksonville provides an intriguing backdrop for three-dimensional relief depictions of some of the city's most prominant bridges. Nearby, in the mall's central court, is a very elaborately decorated children's train ride. Designed as a train trip around Florida, the small kiddie attraction features animated marine animals, manufactured mangroves, miniature landmark buildings and squirting water (don't worry, the kids won't get wet). Of course, much of the mall stiil looks like an 1980's era mall that has tried to disguise its age.
Unfortunately, many of the mall's best tenants have also left over the years, causing Regency to lose its luster. It still has long-time anchors Sears, Belk, JC Penney's, and Dillard's, but this Dillard's location has been converted into a discount clearance store. Some of the surrounding retail stores have also closed or relocated a couple miles down 9A to the St. Johns Town Center area.
While it still has many stores that lure many shoppers, Regency's image has also been tarnished by a more noticable "teenage thug" presence. This is not to say that the Regency area is "the hood." In fact, many very nice neighborhoods and newer retail centers are located not too far away. It's just that the Regency area has lost its appeal with many long-time residents, and many newer-generation Jacksonvillians never knew it when it was great.
Personally, I rarely go to Regency anymore, even though it is the mall I grew up visiting with my parents. St. Johns Town Center just flat out blows this mall away.
This place makes for great people watching on the weekends. I haven't been here in a while so I don't know how much the mall has changed. I know that it is the largest mall in North Florida. You'll often see license plates from Georgia. Jax is less than an hour from Georgia. Belk is a good department store. It is a Southern version of Macy's.
What to buy: The surrounding shops in the area are a standout because if you have patience and a watchful eye, you can find good quality items at low prices. When you are in the mall area, you'll know what I mean when I say surrounding shops. They have a Burlington Coat Factory down Atlantic Blvd. as well as a few retail shops where you can find good bargains. The local Target is pretty good as well. Don't let some of the sales people at Regency in the stands con you into buying their stuff because they'll make you think it is good quality and cheap. When you go to another shop and see the same item you bought at the stand, you'll be sorry to find out you could have paid less.
What to pay: You can find bargains and expensive stuff so shop around.