Dillard’s closing at the Santa Rosa Mall, future mixed-use redevelopment in the works

On Tuesday, November 29, 2022, Radiant Partners, owners of the Santa Rosa Mall, announced that they are in contract to acquire the Dillard’s department store building and subsequent property. According […]

Dillard's at Santa Rosa Mall
Dillard's store at the Santa Rosa Mall in Mary Esther, Florida is set to close.

On Tuesday, November 29, 2022, Radiant Partners, owners of the Santa Rosa Mall, announced that they are in contract to acquire the Dillard’s department store building and subsequent property.

According to a Tuesday afternoon press release, this acquisition will allow Radiant Partners to take full control of the Santa Rosa Mall property and continue to master plan the redevelopment, continuing with their second phase of the multi-family Renaissance Santa Rosa.

Dillard’s south entrance at the Santa Rosa Mall in Mary Esther, Fl. In the background is the new apartment complex that took over the old Belk location. (Get The Coast)

“Dillard’s has long been a valued partner for the Santa Rosa Mall,” said David Schonberger, Managing Partner of Radiant Partners LLC. “The decisions to close the store and transfer ownership of the land were mutual decisions that allow both parties to pursue our strategic visions.”

  • Schonberger added that their long-term approach is for a mixed-use community that will include more residential, retail, medical, education, and entertainment uses.

The deal is expected to close in Q1 2023, and Dillard’s is expected to continue operations into Q2 2023.

  • Once completed, Radiant Partners will release more details and renderings for the future of the property.

Continued redevelopment

Back in May 2022, the City of Mary Esther’s Local Planning Agency unanimously approved a preliminary development order for a 206-unit apartment complex located on the back side of the Santa Rosa Mall.

  • This is the proposed Phase 2 of the Renaissance Santa Rosa Apartment complex.
  • Phase 1 was complete last year in the old Belk section of the mall.

Renaissance Mary Esther II, LLC and Rea Ventures Group, LLC submitted an application to the City of Mary Esther to construct the second phase of the Renaissance apartments. 

  • The project involves 8.25 acres on the east side of Phase 1, that stretches from Page Bacon Road to Dillards. 

This means that the current section of the Santa Rosa Mall that this project would encompass would be redeveloped in order to accommodate the new apartments. According to the Northwest Florida Daily News, the area that would be redeveloped includes roughly 30 commercial spaces.

According to city documents, the main U-shaped building will be comprised of 197 units while 3 carriage houses will be comprised of 9 units total. 

Additionally, it will have a swimming pool and club house.

68 Responses

  1. Just sad, someone wats to profit off of the struggling hard working people living here. They gonna overcharge just to live in a parking lot by the intercoastal waterway. Gonna be house poor and not have any left over money to do anything after working 2 and 3 jobs in this poor economy as it is. Just sad. Good luck big investor’s you surely don’t care about anything but deep pockets and thin walls.

    1. I couldn’t agree with you more. The whole panhandle of Florida has sold out. Greed will be America’s biggest downfall. I used to live in the area and have come back to vacation on the beaches of Destin for years. Post Covid It’s no longer affordable. Destin especially caters and attracts the 1%ers. In the event of a recession, Destin and the panhandle will get exactly what they have coming to them. Good luck!

  2. Lol this area has become a joke. Keep building apartments, storage centers and car washes. But never building restaurants (not chains) or actual things to do here !!!! It’s become comical

  3. It’s unbelievably sad for our town’s teens. I have two that meet friends there and SRM is one of the few places left that allow kids to meet in a secure indoor area. My kid was in awe when I took her to Cordova Mall…an actual thriving mall. She couldn’t believe the food court had more that three options.

  4. I agree with each and every comment above. Fort Walton has gone down the rabbit hole of lining the pockets of investors instead of giving us a place to work, shop, eat and enjoy indoor stores locally. Why’d they illuminate it in the first place? More money for investors. We deserve a mall within our home town. We despise driving to Destin or Pensacola to shop. Thanks for nothing. What about great profitable restaurants? Bring Roadhouse back, build a Cracker Barrel and an Applebee’s! STOP IT with all the garbage biz’s like mentioned above. We need another car wash,storage facility and apartment complex like we need another hole in our heads to breathe!

    1. Those are old and tired restaurant chains… there are many new concepts in that industry to make the area more vibrant and inviting!

      1. Affordable housing is optimistic. They’ll be $1300-1600 a month, especially since they’re new. Ridiculous.

        1. There is little positive for investors in affordable rental housing. Lower income people tend to make places look dirty and trashy (throw cigarette butts everywhere, let weeds take over, never pick up trash, etc.), damage property, and stop paying rent — that’s based on personal experience. No landlord wants to deal with all of that trouble all of the time. If you have never owned rental property, you have no conception of how bad renters can be — that’s putting it mildly. If you get a good one, you’re lucky and treat them well because they are rare.

          1. Well my landlord is useless, I have done almost $3,000 dollars worth of work for them on the house we are in. It would have cost them with labor around $10,000. No thank you free month or 2 of rent. They approved for me to fix the items because their hand man was why the various things broke. But I’m in the process of placing a lien against the property for unpaid fees. And also written 30 day notice for this. Lupin leaving I will undo all I fixed

          2. Let me tell you I live in the Santa Rosa Apartments and over 150 residents had so much mold and they advertise gated community and never was gated and parking was horrible and I had sticker and many didn’t and my apartment is just about 2000.00 for 605 sq ft. Plus, they charge for bug spray and found a roach moving out, they never help you and you always fighting with adminstration, and residents smoke and that is joke in half and we have to catch them. Plus, so much rain coming in and made both the living and bedroom window mold and inside the dry wall and they had to replace it. Plus when you move out they charge and charge you for picking up garbage. Cost me over 1300.00 plus electric and + my other monthly bills. Results I moved out of state to the mid west and cheaper for seniors and lots of resources to help. Very sad, that FWB has become a place where the common folks cannot even live. They have taken federal funds which me they will take section 8 but you cannot show proof because section will not pay high rent. Unless, many are living in one apartment. Graystar is horrible management company and so many people have compliant and still are complaining even after I moved. Having so many BBB complaints and they are nationwide.

      1. Radiant Partners LLC is the new owner – New York Company. That’s right – New Yorkers buying up Florida.

        1. Agreed. However, there’s a lot of unreported back story of how all the others store were forced out.

  5. You hear people say that malls are closing all over the US, not true…there is a resurgence of mall shoppers. The problem with Santa Rosa Mall has been high rent and extremely poor mall management that has run our mall into the ground. So sad for those of us that grew up here and have alot of memories associated with going to the mall. I remember before the mall was there and the day it opened

  6. We were so proud in the 1970’s when, “our mall” was built and that we didn’t have to go to Pensacola anymore. A lifetime of memories were made there with young and old alike. Very sad for the Fort Walton Beach area. I am so glad I was part of the past.

  7. It’s so sad I grew up here. Can remember a movie theater in the mall, huge food court & even the Ruby Tuesday’s. Okaloosa County is nothing but greed motivated place now. They care zero for the locals or the military now. Most all of active military especially with families hate it here. All about the tourist now, so very sad. No respect for the locals that made this county. Nothing for families, kids, elderly & threat the homeless & those in need beyond disrespectful. Our county commissioners & city council for ever city in Okaloosa county should be ashamed of themselves. I use to take great pride in being from Okaloosa County. No more can I do that, In pray our community & county leaders remember where they come from. Also remember they represent had working families here who deserve to enjoy to live their best lives year around & not just when the tourist are here getting their butt kissed.

  8. Fort Walton Beach/ Mary Esther used to be the place to be until those in charge started allowing the downfall. Yes, build more unaffordable housing because clearly that’s what we need here!! This mall was once a vibrant place and was great for the locals. FYI “powers that be” not everyone is in love with Destin and doesn’t want to fight the traffic to go by a decent piece of clothing or gift! So, so sad for the community to continue to watch the demise of this area.

  9. Is there a way a section of these could be built for veterans and come with affordable rent?
    Someone commented about the town going down the rabbit hole…they are correct!!
    Have you taken a really good look at Fort Walton Beach? Everything is old and run down. Decent housing off base for the military is non existent. Homes available have peeling paint, overgrown grass, brush, trees. Curb appeal is zero. Outside doors and porches are rotting. Junk in the yards. We need big bulldozers to come in, scrape it clean, and start over. Without the mall( which hasn’t been much for a long time) you have downtown FWB. That needs mowed down too!! Go look at Fairhope Alabama for ideas. On the corner of Highway 98 and Eglin Parkway you could build a parking garage. Close that area off to traffic and build a family friendly, shopping friendly, teen friendly small Destin Commons!!
    In actuality, how many people get a tattoo everyday downtown. Keep the restaurants, bring in more of them, bring in a variety of clothing stores, bring in coffee shops where people can sit outside and have conversations and drink their coffee. Bring in a toy store, a shoe store, a cosmetic and bath store ( bring the bath shop from the mall over there, bring in a Christmas store, a candy store, a jewelry store. Make it family friendly for the people who live here and the military. Cobblestone the road, put in a splashpad for kids….oh what you could do!! And one very important thing,…to the powers who be keep your fingers out of the pot!!! Fair is fair…so be fair!!!!!
    We have the means and we also have a way traffic could be rerouted around this and funnel out to Eglin Parkway which sends you in any direction you want to go.
    Those who can see the future and see this happen, GET UP AND DO SOMETHING ABOUT IT !!!!! If not the next award to come our way will be the ugliest city in Florida in which to live!

    1. Paula,
      There’s whole lot of complaining with a few suggestions on what to do but you have ploped down some good suggestions, like rerouting 98 up Eglin Pkwy and then you can decide which way you want to drive (Destin over the bridge,etc). Make old downtown a “walk and shop” area. This town needs a “Shot in the A**”. Nicely done.

    2. I agree with you and I used to lived in Westminster Manor for seniors and over 40 year old building and going to pot in handbasket. The heating and ac unit are so old. We only have one little vent in the bedroom no centralized heating or ac so much mold and very poor air quality. Trouble is they need to build for seniors, veterans, and affordable housing for families. No need for families to working three jobs. The paid is very low and how can people afford high rents and if you are living in Boston, CA or NY or places in other parts of FL and people make a living wage and cheaper in other parts of FL and Panhandle is so expensive to live. Very sad, I had to move to another state. Cute little place, but getting very expensive to live.

  10. Is so sad that the City of Mary Esther council has allowed this to happen instead of building a better business town! They really are not kind to businesses here

  11. Disappointed in YOU now we have to Drive to Destin to do business! That’s right most of you live in Destin! Sad for our Young Adults this Town is High Cost Boring!

  12. It i finished, the last part of our way of life is closing so that people who do not live here can get richer.

  13. This really breaks my heart! I absolutely hate having to drive to Destin or Pensacola to shop! Dillards was our last nice store. I agree with all the comments above, all we have here are storage units, dollar stores and car washes!

  14. I agree with every comment..its so sad what they are doing..apartments..really, and they will be high dollar..nobody be able to hardly afford.And yes this town is pitiful anymor…car washes..storages..no place to shop..or enjoy. Crestview now becoming the next best place..and cheaper to live!

  15. I wonder if a new Dillards will pop up in the complex of shops being built out on Lewis Turner Blvd.?

  16. I was reading previous comments and decided I needed to say something other people won’t and that is that one of the reasons the mall is folding is most people in this area always felt the need to shop somewhere “better”. Decades ago it was Pensacola, and then after Destin Commons and the Outlet Mall, it was out to Destin.
    I started working at Gayfer’s in Santa Rosa Mall in 1977. I worked there for about the next 23 years. I saw a lot of busy seasons and I saw the steady decline of business after Destin’s progress affected us. It wasn’t just tourists keeping Destin going. Our locals were heading out there, too.
    In 1998, Dillard’s bought out Mercantile, the company owning, Gayfer’s, and business continued going downhill. With the internet killing shopping malls and Amazon becoming the only department store to shop at, brick and mortar buildings are a thing of the past. Even stores in Destin struggle now to make a fraction of the figures they used to make with ease.
    So blame it on big money investors if you like, but the demise started years ago with the public being attracted to the newer, shinier businesses than the “boring old stuff in Fort Walton Beach”.
    The same is happening with our movie theater. We have one left here and so many folks want to go to Destin to the bigger one out there. Some say it’s nicer, but how can this one get a face lift without the business it needs to to get the money to do that?
    Destin has tourists and it’s own people to support it. I think it’s time that Fort Walton Beach starts to support its own businesses! Shop local everyone!

    1. Where is a movie theater in Ft. Walton Beach? Th Sun Plaza is closed, so is the one behind the Santa Rosa Mall.

      1. Regal Cinema 10 at Santa Rosa is still open, Suds N Cinema on 98 is also open. But those are the only 2 out of previously 4 in our area.

  17. Well here’s something crazy! Don’t re-elect the local officials that let this happen, bring in new blood, people that care, can change things for the better. Maybe that’s a pipe dream…

  18. When do the sales start. I know a lot of you are upset, BUT NO MATTER WHAT YOU SAY. THE POWERS THAT BE HAVE DECIDED AND WE CANNOT CHANGE THAT

  19. Keep building these expensive apartments that nobody in the city can afford. Just to try and make money ridiculous.

  20. Can we make some ‘SAVE FWB’ bumper stickers???? This place is going down the tubes fast and it is so very, very sad!!!! I used to work at the mall when it first opened and I have such great memories. I even wrote to Westfield Malls and begged them to ‘save’ SRM, but never got a reply. We need to come together, people, but how? Any ideas? Thank you. 🙂

  21. I am so disappointe because there is no place like a mall for many good reasons. I love going to the mall. Why do you have to give in to Amazon?

    1. Was not giving into the Mall, only about greed. Okaloosa County as well as all city leaderships within this county are all about the money. You scratch my back & I scratch yours. Been here a long time & always been the good old boy & good old girl mentality. They have no respect for the locals or military that made this county what it is. All about kissing the tourist butt & the money. County made $720 million last year from tourism & over 7 million visitors. Where’s that money going? Not to improve standard of living for us locals, more resources, more things for kids /families, cheaper cost of living, more schools, better pay/jobs or to entice bigger companies to come to Okaloosa county. Nope straight in leadership on the city & county level. Want this crap to change vote these idiot’s out or be forced to resign.

  22. The county made $720 million but no one sees that here at all !! We as locals just struggle to live normally !!! Every damn thing just keeps getting more expensive !! Cost of living is so absurd !! I’m a local and must work three jobs just to make ends meet 🙁 it’s sad we all don’t have anything good here in FWB !! No places for families and kids to go to at all.. I just keep seeing car washes, hotels and apartments going up.. it’s sad everyone feels as if they are working but can’t catch a break . I wish ppl would help each other more !! Struggling just to keep a roof over our heads cause ppl are so greedy with the prices of rentals !! Lord help us all we all need a prayer and hope that everyone will get better blessings. Greed doesn’t help anyone but the ppl that already rich.. it’s sad .. I use to work in the mall a long time ago and it use to be alive with ppl. Sad to see that ppl just care about money and not the community and it’s ppl.. good luck everyone

  23. The comments are comical. Ft. Walton is not heading down a rabbitt hole. It already in the hole deep. City should have been building apartments and condos(longterm rentals not short term) long ago to help with affordable housing. Developers can do good for a community if the city was smart and dictated what can be built. Stop allowing so many short term and invest in long term rentals

  24. This is sad you don’t need apartment your taking shopping away there will be no good stores to shop

  25. You don’t need apartments it’s stupid you took the best store away it’s stupid you don’t need apartments you need to bring back dillards

  26. Dillards lost good faithful workers when they choose to close what a shame people that work there 25 years

  27. If dillards was smart they wouldrr build another stor in fort walton beach and they would make a lot of money

  28. Dillards lost faithful good workers some that work there for 25 years I was one of them I loved working for dillards

  29. It is a shame that people want to buy land just to build apartments your not helping with the house problem there way to muc

  30. Too bad people approve apartments they only think of money only people with money can rent those apartments ridiculously

  31. Ridiculously to build apartment Noone can afford taking away the good store dillards just to build ridiculous

  32. Ridiculous to build apartments the mall is gone stores are moving out one store went to sun plaza no more with out dillards

  33. To bad dillards felt they had to close every one will miss them there nothing in the mall

  34. I think without dillards the mall is going down there is no where to shop for good clothes

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Community Comments

“We enjoy The Wharf 850, especially when out of town guest are here.”
“there is some funny math going on here. 5000/4 = 1250 and 1250 x 2= 2500 2500 +(500x2)= 3500. not 2000!”
“So many great places in FWB and Destin. Our Go To is Tradewinds in Niceville. Back ups are Craft Bar and Twisted Grape.”
“Pounder's Niceville , Please put one in Fort Walton Beach soon! for we would go more often”
“Stewby's Seafood Shanty on the Island.”
“We live in Destin. The Donut Hole is #1 for us.”
“In Niceville; Brothers near BWB on HWY 20”
“We are a family of 5 and don't go out to eat often, but when we do, Pedro's on Mary Esther Cutoff is where we go! The food is great...”
“Our go to is Hill Monkeys on Main Street in Crestview or Hot Kimchi on Ferdon.”
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