By Sabrina Rodriguez
By Michael E. Miller
By Carlos Suarez De Jesus
By Luther Campbell
By Kyle Munzenrieder
By Sabrina Rodriguez
By Trevor Bach
By Kyle Munzenrieder
Dadeland wasn't. When it came time to put full faith in the radical concept of a hermetically sealed, climate-controlled shopping center, Meyerhoff chickened out. Instead he built a giant open-air plaza, similar to the more recently completed 163rd Street mall in Miami Beach. Dadeland, which quickly took on the nickname Deadland, lost 25 of its first 62 tenants in the five years after its October 1, 1962 opening. In 1967, having reconsidered Gruen's vision and observed the growing success of enclosed malls around the U.S., Dadeland's owners built roofs over the open walkways and sealed the shopping center from the elements. They also added an east wing, the first in a series of slapdash but successful additions to the original structure.
Meyerhoff, which along the way changed its name to Monumental Properties Trust and built Westland Mall in Hialeah, sold Dadeland and eleven other shopping centers to Equitable Real Estate Investment Management Inc. of Atlanta for $400 million in 1979. The deal, at the time one of the largest real estate transactions in the nation's history, ushered in the true boom years for Dadeland. Simple shops such as Burdine Tire, Foremost Liquors, Dadeland Barber Shop, and Robin's Uniforms disappeared; Saks Fifth Avenue and Lord & Taylor were added in the mid-Eighties, preceded by a new JC Penney and a Jordan Marsh. Dadeland became one of the first malls in the nation to be anchored by five department stores. Burdines, at 426,000 square feet of floor space, grew to be larger than the entire original mall. A Pantry Pride grocery store was removed, replaced by a new creature called a food court on May 30, 1980. From 1983 to 1986, a massive renovation of the mall common areas was orchestrated by local architect Dick Johnson. More recently, Ohio-based retail giant The Limited plans a November opening for its experimental "superstore" at Dadeland. This collection of six upscale boutiques will add another 80,000 square feet of floor space in a new miniwing, and become the center's sixth anchor.
The guard's face, shadowed by a baseball cap marked SECURITY and glowing gray-blue in the light of the giant console before him, bears a friendly resemblance to Herman Munster's. He tinkers with a knob. Somewhere outside the Dadeland security office a lens pans across Level Six of the Dadeland parking garage, zooming randomly in on empty, sunlit parking spaces. Twenty-two other TV screens show various exterior aspects of the mall.
"Take a look at this," says the guard, tapping the screen of one closed-circuit monitor. "We call it Lovers' Lane. About twice a month you find 'em up there, usually in the afternoon. You'll see a woman's head bobbing up and down, or a guy's legs sticking out the car door. And then all of a sudden they see the camera. It's a pandemonium, let me tell you."
The guard turns from the console desk in the windowless room and begins flipping through a big three-ring notebook containing photos of Dadeland's most hardened criminals. One mug shot shows a skinny woman with dirty blond hair and a fierce scowl. "Shoplifting at Accessory Lady," he announces with an exaggerated sigh. A stocky kid in a T-shirt flexes his biceps in the next shot. "Loitering in the parking lot," the guard explains. A confused-looking teen-ager peers from the next glossy frame. "Dipping coins out of the main fountain," he offers. "I think he was getting bus fare."
The next booking photo shows a small, bug-eyed man in an ill-fitting brown suit. The caption reads: Indecent Exposure. "That one was a mistake. We got a call saying this guy was sitting on a bench, playing with himself. We bring him back to the office and he's sitting there in the chair. I says, `Geez, look at him!' He's sitting there with his hand on his thigh like this, in front of his crotch, and his hand is shaking back and forth uncontrollably. Turns out he was shot through the hand in El Salvador and had nerve damage. The bullet that hit him kept going and killed his best friend."
"Pretty tame, huh?" says Scott Garland, Dadeland's assistant security manager. "I couldn't believe it myself at first. There basically isn't any real crime at all. And believe me, I'm happy to be here." Garland has a special reason to be. Before a promotion to Dadeland last year, he spent part of the afternoon of February 19, 1990, walking around the Cutler Ridge Mall with a shotgun pointing at his chest. A mentally unstable shopper named Anthony Booker, who turned out to be reggae star Bob Marley's half brother, showed up at the mall dressed in a white tunic and a bulletproof vest and proceeded to babble Bible verses and terrorize the citizenry. After alternately leading and following the man to the parking lot, Garland watched as an off-duty Miami police detective fatally shot Booker.
Like all flashes of serious crime at shopping malls, Booker's shooting death made for great newspaper copy. The Madman in the Mall may be the quintessential tale of terror for the late Twentieth Century. Beginning with its vast, protective architecture and ending with friendly uniformed authority figures such as Garland, a mall is a psychological bomb shelter where people go to escape the distractions and potential threat of the real world, a place where young men and women are comfortable wearing sexier clothes than they might choose to wear on a downtown city street, where oldsters don't worry as much about carrying cash in their wallets or pocketbooks, where fathers and mothers don't have to think about their kids seeing upsetting sights, where the hallowed American right to be left alone reaches its apotheosis. And it is an essential marketing and management axiom that shoppers must feel safe inside the mall before they will come there and spend money. When the sense of security starts to fray, the cash begins to dry up fast.