NORFOLK, Va. (WAVY) – Another one gone.

The doors to Military Circle Mall were locked for the last time Tuesday after more than 52 years.

The closure of what was once considered a “premier retail destination” in the region didn’t come with much fanfare. Most of the remaining tenants closed up shop and moved out before Tuesday. The few remaining, have until Feb. 15 to remove everything from the space.

Judging by social media posts, a majority of visitors to the property in the last week came for a simple stroll down memory lane. Many openly admitted they hadn’t visited in more than a decade, epitomizing the mall’s downfall.

The city of Norfolk wants to redevelop the 70-plus-acre site in the hope of making it a destination again, just as it was for roughly half a century.

The mall opened on Aug. 6, 1970. Norfolk’s first indoor shopping mall and the largest in the region at the time, according to WAVY archives.

At the time, it had little competition as only Pembroke Mall in Virginia Beach, which opened in 1966, offered a similar experience of shopping in an environmentally-enclosed setting.

The mall was the brainchild of local real estate broker Harvey Lindsay, Jr., and when it opened was anchored by stores with strong Virginia ties.

Hofheimer’s, Smith & Welton’s, Thalhimers, Leggett and JCPenney. People ate at Piccadilly Cafeteria and could stay at a 216-room 14-story Sheraton Hotel. WAVY archive footage shows packed crowds on site around major holidays throughout the 1970s and 1980s.

The mid-1990s brought a major renovation to the mall, which saw the addition of skylights and a food court. The mall was briefly renamed “The Gallery at Military Circle.” By 2012, competition from other regional malls and property neglect had begun to take their toll.

“Empty storefronts, large expanses of pavement, and a lack of aesthetic cohesiveness and quality create an unwelcoming setting for shoppers,” a 2012 report regarding ‘The Future of the Military Highway Corridor’ said. “From 2007 to 2011, retail sales at ‘The Gallery at Military Circle’ and the immediate surrounding area dropped almost 24%, according to a report from the Norfolk Commissioner of Revenue.”

By 2016, all but one major anchor tenant was left – Cinemark 18 theaters. The DoubleTree hotel, Sears, JCPenney and Macy’s had all closed between 2009 and 2016. In 2015, then-mall owner Thor Equities defaulted on their loan and the property entered foreclosure.

“The majority of the stores still open are independently owned and cater to a specific demographic, urban youth,” the report said. “The type of stores in the mall do not reflect the surrounding demographics and potential buying power of the area.”

The property did see a resurgence in traffic in 2021 as one of the state’s COVID-19 mass vaccination sites operated out of the former Macy’s. When it closed at the end of 2022, more than 155,000 had been administered there.

The majority of the mall’s property was purchased for $13.4 million by the Norfolk Economic Development Authority in 2020 and intentions for redevelopment were made clear as the city solicited proposals for the site’s future.

While no option has been selected yet, in August the EDA voted to close the mall.

Interim Director for Economic Development Sean Washington said that if the mall would stay open through the end of the 2023 fiscal year, it would be operating at an estimated deficit of $1.2 million. That’s without addressing roughly $5.5 million in repairs to the roof. Demolition was estimated to cost $1.7 million.

Washington said in August that city funds are being used to support the mall.

While city leaders continue to mull over the land’s future, it won’t be completely dormant. The Sentara Healthcare/Optima Health location in the former JCPenney will remain open. That space was bought from the development authority in 2020.

In addition, junior anchor Ross Dress for Less also will remain in business, as its lease isn’t yet up.

Still, the occasion is bittersweet.

At a “farewell extravaganza” in December, Kami Grayson, the mall’s assistant general manager said she knows people have a connection to the onetime shopping mecca.

“This was the place to be at one point, and unfortunately times change and we grow, and we develop,” Grayson said. “We appreciate (tenants) we want them to know that we love them … we hope that they find other homes.”