Join us for Part #1 of the NEON Mall Series as we explore what's left of DeSoto Square Mall - an aesthetic deadmall on a rapid decline.
On a weekday in January, totally unexpectedly, we stumbled upon the DeSoto Square Mall in Bradenton, Florida, after making a wrong turn on our way to a thrift store.
Perhaps it’s because Florida boasts the most malls per capita out of any U.S. state, or maybe it was pure luck, but we felt fortunate to have discovered this aesthetic gem purely by accident. Even though parts of DeSoto Square are now walled off and inaccessible, and its future isn’t looking too bright, we caught some stunning retro architectural elements while exploring this once-luxury shopping destination.
The mall opened on August 15, 1973, with anchors Sears, J.C. Penney, and Maas Brothers, a leading Tampa-based department store in operation from 1886 to 1991. Belk would later join as a fourth anchor in 1979. In 1976, the mall was popular enough that Ronald Reagan visited it as a presidential campaign stop.