Dead malls: Bradenton's DeSoto Square Mall

For decades, Bradenton's DeSoto Square Mall was one of the most popular retail destinations in the Sarasota-Bradenton metropolitan area. Now a ghost of its former self, the 678,000-square-foot shopping complex is a dead mall that will soon be demolished.

DeSoto Square Mall history

A boarded up mall entrance.

Located in Bradenton, Florida, the DeSoto Square Mall was built by the Edward J. DeBartolo Corporation.

The mall was originally planned to be called Bradenton Mall. However, since the mall property was not located within city limits, city officials considered the name to be unacceptable.

Situated on 100 acres at the intersection of U.S. 301 and Cortez Road, DeSoto Square Mall opened its doors on August 15, 1973 with Sears, JCPenney and Maas Brothers as anchors. Other early tenants included Piccadilly Cafeteria, Tiffany Bakery and Hot Sam Pretzels.

A fourth anchor, Montgomery-Roberts, was added to the mall in November 1973. Montgomery-Roberts was a family-owned and -operated department store, known for its upscale fashions and housewares, with locations in Bradenton, Sarasota, and St. Armands Circle. The entire Montgomery-Roberts chain closed in 1976 and the DeSoto Square Mall location was replaced by Belk in 1979.

In 1991, Maas Brothers was rebranded as Burdines. A year later, Belk sold its store to Dillard’s. In an attempt to adapt to changing mall trends during the 1990s, a food court named Port O’Call, with a tropical theme, opened in April 1997. In 2005, additional changes came as the mall shifted to discount and service-oriented stores focused on families and children. That same year, Burdines was officially rebranded as Macy’s.

Unfortunately, in the midst of the Great Recession, Dillard’s announced that the chain would close its DeSoto Square Mall location in 2009. The 2014 opening of the Mall at University Town Center resulted in the relocation of Macy’s, leaving the mall with only two of its four anchor department stores in operation.

While Hudson’s Furniture opened in the former Dillard’s location in 2014, other chains including FYE, Chick-Fil-A, Aeropostale and a movie theater left the mall by the end of 2016.

In 2017, the shopping center was sold to New York-based Meyer Lebovitz. The new owner announced a redevelopment plan and rebranded the property as Midtown DeSoto Square Mall. While ambitious redevelopment and expansion plans were proposed, the mall suffered another blow in 2018, when Sears closed its store along with 141 other locations nationwide.

Although redevelopment plans were filed in 2019, the mall’s ownership ended up in bankruptcy before work could commence. Instead of expanding, in 2020 the former Sears was converted into a self-storage facility called Go Store It and JCPenney closed its doors along with 153 other stores nationwide. As a result, Hudson’s Furniture was the only anchor tenant left by the end of 2020.

A year later, with only four stores left operating in the 678,000-square-foot regional mall, DeSoto Square Mall closed permanently on April 30, 2021.

In 2022, the dead mall was acquired for $25.7 million by CRJ Bradenton, LLC. The new owner currently plans to demolish the aging shopping center and replace the structure with a mixed-use project that could include more than 1,100 multifamily residential units. Hudson’s Furniture and Go Store It would remain on site.

Hudson’s Furniture is one of the last tenants remaining in operation at DeSoto Square Mall. Hudson’s occupies a space that was home to a Belk department store from 1979 to 2009.

A look inside the once popular DeSoto Square Mall.

The mall portion of DeSoto Square Mall was permanently closed on April 30, 2021.

JCPenney was an original anchor at DeSoto Square Mall. The mall’s JCPenney store permanently closed in 2020.

Tampa-based Maas Brothers was an original mall anchor when the shopping center opened in 1973. The chain became Burdines in 1991 and Macy’s in 2005. In 2014, the store closed as a result of a new Macy’s opening at the Mall at University Town Center in nearby Sarasota.

Go Store It, a self storage center, is located in the mall’s former Sears department store building. An original anchor, Sears occupied this space from 1973 until 2019.

Hudson’s Furniture

Article by Ennis Davis, AICP. Contact Ennis at