12 April 2016

Mart Gallery - Northgate Mall, Durham, NC

We did a lot of road tripping as a family during the late eighties and early nineties. As I mentioned before, one of our most traveled routings, especially during holiday periods, took us from Norfolk, Virginia to Huntsville, Alabama then to Orlando, Florida. While most of the hours were defined by endless stretches of greenery streaming by at 65 miles per hour, it was all worth it to pass through all of those medium and large cities punctuating the maps. And, on the southbound, one of the first we always passed was Durham, North Carolina.

Northgate Shopping Center not long after its opening. (Source)

Unfortunately for me, though I’m sure my dad and his sense of urgency would argue, we never penetrated too far into the urban core as Interstate 85 merely skirted the northern edge of Durham. But there, at the interchange with US 501, was all I needed. It was a low slung, beige cinderblock monolith directly abutting the freeway to our south. And, for the first time I saw this strange new anchor store named Belk, with its B adorned in just the same way as the L in Legget with which I was already familiar. This was Northgate, one of my very first road malls.

Northgate Mall during much of the nineties.

Northgate Mall opened as an open-air center in 1960 with Rose’s as the main anchor. It was expanded intermittently throughout the years until 1974 when, facing new competition in the form of South Square, the shopping plaza was enclosed and fully incorporated with anchors Sears and Thalhimer’s. In the nineties, the old Rose’s building was taken over by Hecht’s while Thalhimer’s became Hudson-Belk. In the 2000s, with a substantial new adversary coming in the form of The Streets at Southpointe, the eastern portion of Northgate was de-malled (how often does a center get enclosed just to be made open-air again?) Today, the old Belk is now a cineplex while the Hecht’s has become Macy’s, but, like the Sears that’s still hanging on, Northgate seems to be holding its own.

Northgate Mall as of this writing.

Opening Date- 1960
Gross Leasable Area- 900,000 square feet
Tiers- One
Anchors- Macy’s, Sears
Spaces- 100

Northgate Mall from the air. (Source)

Owner- Northgate Associates
Location- 1058 West Club Boulevard
Online- Official Website

11 April 2016

All Mallmanac - River Park Square, Spokane, WA

Poor, poor Spokane. Though not the focus of near as much derision as Tacoma, I’ve heard more than a few people here in the Puget Sound region refer to it as some podunk backwater out in the middle of nowhere. In actuality, the eastern Washington agglomeration is the second largest in the state, and the only metro of real significance in its region. It actually reminds me quite a bit of my hometown of Huntsville, Alabama. Within the municipal limits, Spokane is slightly larger, while when looking at consolidated metropolitan areas, Huntsville comes out on top. And while both have skylines much more diminutive than cities their sizes deserve, Spokane does have something that I don’t think the Rocket City will ever have- A vertical downtown shopping mall complete with a Nordstrom.

The three main levels of River Park Square in 2016.

River Park Square is another center located in the urban core of a small to mid-sized city, joining a modest group of peers including Salem Center in Salem, Oregon and Burlington Town Center in Burlington, Vermont. The building held its ribbon cutting in 1974 with an expansion coming in 1978 that included physical links to both a JCPenney and a Nordstrom store, which then joined The Crescent as directly connected anchors. These changes brought River Park Square’s total scope to a respectable 800,000 square feet on three main levels. Before long, another skywalk was built over Wall Street to connect the rest of the facility with The Bon Marché. The mall proved popular and seemed to be successful in luring people back to Spokane’s nucleus despite the presence of its larger, suburban neighbor Northtown Mall.

River Park Square aerial. (Source)

In a story repeated time and time again with these revitalization projects, River Park Square’s good fortune started dissipating sometime in the late eighties into the early nineties. JCPenney relocated to Northtown while Seattle based department store Frederick and Nelson, which had taken over the anchor spot previously occupied by The Crescent, closed all of their stores. The mall limped along through the end of the millennium, but the city, fully aware of the benefits of having a retail anchor in their urban core, embarked on a massive expansion and renovation centered on an enlargement of the lone extant original anchor, Nordstrom.

River Park Square Mallmanac, ca. 2016. View the full PDF version here-
Level 1 | Level 2 | Level 3

In 1999, the new and improved River Park Square opened its doors to thousands of eager shoppers. It seems to have remained on its upward trajectory, and remains a popular shopping option in Spokane in spite of additional competition brought on by Spokane Valley Mall in the late nineties. But, with Macy’s on one end (having taken over The Bon Marché’s space in 1997) and Nordstrom on the other, all surrounded by a revitalized central business district, this will hopefully be one of the lucky urban city center malls that we won’t have to say good-bye to, at least not any time soon.

River Park Square Official Website

1 April 2016

No Supply, No Demand - Newmarket Mall, Chicago, IL

The eighties were absolutely the height of the mall boom. They had become a cultural icon, prominently featured and even starring in productions such as Fast Times at Ridgemont High (Ridgemont Mall,) Mama’s Family (The GalleRAYa) and the classic Chopping Mall (Park Plaza Mall.) Chicago is one of those big cities surrounded by countless suburbs and even more malls, many of which are long gone and forgotten to this day. Among them, tucked away in a non-descript bedroom community along the Windy City’s outskirts was the tiny, yet influential, Newmarket Mall.

L- Newmarket Mall’s original logo seen from Gary’s Shoes. R- A patron walks past a Newmarket mall map.

Built perhaps sometime between the mid and late seventies, the small neighborhood shopping complex was rather basic in design. Its corridor formed somewhat of a racetrack, with an island of stores in the center of the facility. Through its early years, it never really emerged as a popular choice in shopping, especially amongst heavy nearby competition. But then in the mid-80s, it all of a sudden became the place to be seen.

L- A scene from Muldin’s famed Timepiece Department. R- Muldin’s entrance into the mall.

Anchoring the facility was Muldin’s Department Store, with their overwhelming selection of elaborate timepieces amongst their claim to fame. Other popular spots were Rainbow Toys, Gary’s Shoes and Accessories and the Newmarket Cinemas. The mall seemed to find its niche in the community until late in 1987 when the larger and more strategically located Lakeside Mall opened in the next town. Newmarket immediately felt the pinch of competition.

A happy shopper displaying the Lakeside Mall logo.

In a twist of fate, however, Lakeside seemed to be cursed with bad publicity from the onset. One notable incident involved the parachuting Santa accident and a subsequent loss of sponsors, retailers and thousands of dollars in gift certificates. Newmarket immediately regained many of the customers it had lost and actually flourished in the shadow of its larger neighbors.

L- A student from nearby Polk High School walks past the mall’s new logo. R- A view outside the Newmarket Cinema, with excited patrons waiting in line to see “Rudy.”

It also seemed to attract both favorable and dubious notoriety. There were reported Elvis sightings within its concourse; the universally panned documentary A Day in the Life of a Shoe Salesman was filmed there, and their Christmas decorations and popular Santa were almost professional in appearance. But, alas, the drumbeats of time continued and, though updated at least once with brighter colors and a new logo, the mall was never expanded. This, and the absence of any nationally known retailers, led to the neighborhood mall’s inevitable decline.

TL- People gather in the popular mall. TR- An eighties style seating area near the food court. BL- Rainbow Toys shines brightly in the dark corridors. BR- The documentary A Day in the Life of a Shoe Salesman as it was being filmed.

The neighborhood was changing as the children who used to call Newmarket Mall home were growing up and moving on. The neighborhood, and its mall, were dying. Newmarket remained until June 9, 1997, the day it was cancelled, and joined Dixie Square Mall as another of Chicagoland’s early generation malls that slipped into obscurity.

L- The mall’s noted Christmas decorations. R- Santa makes an appearance.

29 March 2016

All Mallmanac - Hilldale, Madison, WI

I have only been lucky enough to pass through Madison on a few occasions; thrice by land and once by air. I always loved the central part of the city, how it was located on an isthmus. In fact, since then I’ve lived in two major cities located on the same geographical feature (Manila and Seattle.) On either side of this narrow strand of land, the city rambles out into common sprawl, with each end having its own massive shopping mall. But closer toward more urban density is a long time player, Hilldale.

Hilldale from the sky. (Source)

Hilldale first opened in 1962 and quickly became a prominent destination. Gimbel’s anchored the open air facility, which later became Marshall-Field’s, while the Macy’s nameplate adorns the façade today. Its first renovation happened in 1969 with the latest coming in 2004. It has remained more than relevant to this medium sized market, although various competitors have come and gone through the years.

Hilldale Mallmanac, ca. 2016. View the full PDF version here.

The latest renovation added two new anchors (Target and Metcalf’s Market), a multi-plex, 2 large car parks and living space. Although some say it is “overbuilt” and a traffic nightmare, its success seems like it’s far from waning.

Hilldale Official Website

No Supply, No Demand – Newmarket North Mall, Hampton, VA

Newmarket North Mall in Hampton was another one of those malls that existed beyond my limited teenage realm. Even though we lived in the same metropolitan area as the two-level monolith, our actual residence was located quite far away, over the infamous bridge-tunnels, while this destination existed in a mysterious land called the Peninsula. In contrast, although Coliseum Mall was located in the same general area, it was right off of a major freeway. Therefore every time we wizzed by on I-64, I got a good look at the seventies sprawl center. But for Newmarket North, it was years before I first laid eyes on it.

Two shots of Newmarket North Mall from a late 80s advert. (Source)

By the time that happened, it was in the process of being re-christened Newmarket Fair. Apparently, by the late eighties the mall was languishing. And when taking into account its location, it’s not exactly a mystery why. We were driving west on Mercury Boulevard, Hampton’s main retail corridor, toward the James River Bridge on a family outing. I noticed that the commercial space on either side of us was aging rather un-gracefully, but I was still excited knowing that I would finally set eyes on the final Hampton Roads mall that I had yet to see. I gazed out of my window waiting for the brown brick block to appear before me. And even with eyes like a hawk, I almost missed it.

Newmarket North’s layout from its opening to the late eighties.

But there it was. I was hoping for an elongated, glorious shop-oplis, but all I saw was a bland, low-profiled and very seventies modern, Sears. Beyond it, I could see a boxy structure stretching away from Mercury Boulevard into innocuous neighborhoods around it. I could just make out the main entrance and a few skylights, but all too soon it was out of view. Why the hall would they build a linear mall perpendicular to the main highway,” I thought to myself. It was hidden and rather unremarkable. I always thought that this was just one of the many factors that led to the demise of what, by design, should have been a very successful retail facility.

Newmarket North’s strange location along Mercury Boulevard, facing mostly subdivisions with little frontage along the main avenue. (Source)

Newmarket North Mall opened in 1975 as Hampton Roads’ first fully bi-level shopping mall. Regional names Miller & Rhoads and Leggett were joined by Sears as anchors. Though located just a few miles down the road from Coliseum Mall, the two seemed to co-exist pretty well throughout the seventies and most of the eighties. But, as time went on and the surrounding neighborhood declined, so did Newmarket North. To hasten its demise, a new retail destination, Patrick Henry Mall, was opened in 1989 in neighboring Newport News. These factors, as well as its distance from major freeways and dubious visibility, led to its first renovation and renaming in 1989.

A bird’s eye view of the brown, low profiled block of shops. (Source)

Despite the renovation and moniker Newmarket Faire, the commercial complex continued its descent. Then in 2000, several investors purchased the mall, in which Sears remained the only anchor, and patterned a project similar to one in Tampa where an old mall was turned into a large office facility. The place was renamed for the third time, this time to NetCenter. With Sears and a few retail establishments remaining on the south end, the rest of the mall was converted into connected and cutting edge (for the early 00s) commercial space, with companies such as Northrup Grumman and Verizon moving in.

The complex’s initial layout as NetCenter.

I last visited the mall in 2001, while it was still in the process of being converted. I drove in from the east side of the monolith, through neighborhood back roads, and entered the parking lot facing the shuttered remains of Leggett. Its black glass adorned entrances remained, with the dark brown brick placed in geometric patterns around all of the mall entrances. I took a short walk through the two floors, and there it remained in all of its eighties pastel glory. It didn’t look worn or tattered, just empty. Like all I was missing were the crowds, a Benetton shoppe and Tiffany performing in center court. I will always regret not taking pictures, but at least I have the memories.

NetCenter “Mallmanac”, ca. 2000. View the full PDF version here- Level 1 | Level 2

NetCenter seems to be soldiering on well enough, though their website no longer is active. I hope it sticks around for a while; even though it no longer serves as a retail hub, at least we still can visit, unlike nearby Coliseum Mall.

9 February 2015

Old School Shops - Broadway Market, Seattle, WA

Guess you can say that I can take a while to make up my mind. For instance, it took me thirty odd years to decide where I finally wanted to settle down and live out my years. I was lucky enough to have grown all over the United States in plenty of very desirable locations. But it only took one visit to this largest metropolis of the Pacific Northwest to get me hooked. Furthermore, it wasn't just the city of Seattle where I wanted to settle. Oh, no. I wanted to live smack dab at ground zero of everything that the Emerald City is famous for. I wanted to live an urban lifestyle, where I was within walking distance of great bars, stunning galleries and abundant shopping. And I found that perfect place, which just happened to be a short stroll from Broadway Market.

Exterior shots of Broadway Market in 2002.

As anyone who has previously read this blog should know, I'm really not a fan of the suburbs. It's just my preference to live in the middle of the city. I also make no judgment on those who prefer the quiet, serene lifestyle of cul-de-sacs and anonymity. Different strokes and all. Besides, I did gain at least two things from being reared amongst streets devoid of sidewalks which were named after the trees that they displaced. 1) The desire to live in a much more dynamic environment and 2) My love of the modern shopping mall.

Broadway Market's layout in 2002.

I did love living my formative years within a short distance of those sprawling, oversized enclosed collections of nail studios, arcades and fast food. In fact, all of the Malls of My Youth are of the rambling, automobile-centric variety. Broadway Market could not be more different from the million square foot monoliths that were such an important part of my development. But, if there is any one place I could call the Mall of my Adulthood, Broadway Market would be it.

TL- Broadway Market's lower concourse. TR- The still open first level. BL- Fred Meyer's unorthodox bi-level entrance. BR- The second level, with La Puerta to the right.
(All photos from 2002.)

I actually knew of this place well before I was familiar with any of the more traditional retail facilities in the Puget Sound region, such as Northgate Mall, Southcenter and Alderwood. On a previous trip to Atlanta's Midtown, I had picked up a few 1998 Columbia Fun Maps. These publications were specifically targeted toward gay and lesbian travelers, focusing on a given locality's "gayborhood." Their Seattle version contained my first introduction to what I call my home today. Their apt description for the Broadway Market was as follows- ...the Broadway Market, which comes as close to being the nation's largest "gay mall" as you can get. It was definitely on the itinerary.

From the moment that I first stepped onto Broadway back in 2000, I knew that I was home. There was a certain energy and awe, more so than I had experienced in more well-known neighborhoods such as New York's Greenwich Village or San Francisco's Castro. I floated slowly down the cracked concrete sidewalks toward the north, passing small clothing boutiques, neon lights and rainbow flags until I reached that main thoroughfare's intersection with Harrison. And, boy, was I impressed at what lay just across the street.

Broadway Market Mallmanac, ca. 2010. View the full PDF version here.

I had no idea what to expect. I was thinking something simple, much like Atlanta's Ansley Mall. But I was pleasantly surprised to be facing a lovely, multi-level rectangular structure draped in the ornate brick style of the early twentieth century. The opulent stonework peaking at regular intervals provided a splendid respite from the rather drab portions of brown brick. It was a beauty, but not ostentatiously. If one were not to give it more than just a passing glance, its elegance could be easily overlooked. It blends into the neighborhood, just waiting to be discovered.

Inside was unexpectedly contemporary, not what I would have expected after viewing that classic exterior. The flooring was of a polished, almost charcoal hued concrete while the trimming was accented in different shades of yellow and orange. There was plenty of ambient activity within the well-trafficked common areas; locals could be seen shopping for that commitment ceremony gift, getting their shoes repaired by a professional or just sitting around chatting with their neighbors over a latte.

On the upper mezzanine were the Capitol Hill Cinemas, Gold's Gym, La Puerta Mexican Restaurant and great views from the balcony of the action below. All of this was laid out underneath a handsome vaulted ceiling with just enough skylights to keep the indoor brightness intimate while allowing just a touch of natural light to penetrate. From my lofty vantage point I was also able to notice what is, perhaps, the strangest attribute of Broadway Market. In clear view, there was a bi-level Fred Meyer which served as the mall's main anchor. The store was double tiered with each level split from the mall's main concourse so that one had to walk down a few steps to get to the store's bottom space and up a few steps to get to its upper level. And these two levels were not connected from the inside of Fred Meyer. If one wanted to browse all of the departments, they actually had to exit into the Broadway Market itself (presumable paying for their items first) then make their way to the other tier. This strange arrangement still exists to this day, albeit completely within a single business.

I love little anomalies like the stair situation that can usually be discovered within these Old School Shops. And Broadway Market is one of the oldest of them all. It was first built in 1928 as a collection of food markets and stalls within a 25,000 square foot area, the precursor to the modern day supermarket. The construction of this retail collection is one of the catalysts to Broadway's eventually becoming Capitol Hill's commercial apex.

Interior shots of Broadway Market in 2004.

In 1989, a local developer purchased Broadway Market and turned it into a full scale, modern day mixed-use facility. The surface lot in the rear of the building facing Harvard Avenue became home to 33 new residences. In addition to a brand new upper concourse, the Pacific Northwest-based Fred Meyer opened its awkwardly designed space. It was located toward the rear of the mall, just above the newly built underground parking.

TL- The main entrance to Broadway Market. TR- The northeast entrance. BL- Close-up of the ornate brick and stonework. BR- A view of the long closed off upper level veranda and the Broadway Market clock. (All photos from 2015.)

Something that I can't help but find a bit amusing is that whenever a national chain like Office Max or World of Beer (both of which enjoyed very short tenures on The Hill) there is a very vocal group of residents who decry the loss of the character of our neighborhood to corporate America. They insist that their presence seems to be ever-increasing. Truth be told, however, over the years, in addition to Fred Meyer, our very own Broadway Market has hosted more than a few other national chains such as The Gap, Hot Topic and Panda Express, none of which are anywhere near Capitol Hill today. Other chains such as Gold's Gym and Urban Outfitters have themselves been more successful.

The year 2004 brought the most evident changes to the nearly eighty year-old Broadway Market. Fred Meyer was replaced by a QFC, which was moving from their older home across the street to make way for another Seattle 1+5 (A mixed use development employing five floors of residences over one level of commercial or retail space.) This new tenant wanted to double the footprint of the previous occupants (both of which exist under the umbrella of Cincinnati-based Kroger.) So Madison Marquette, the management corporation that had purchased the mall in 1999, shuffled all of the inline businesses on the bottom level to accommodate the new entrant. The enlarged supermarket now occupies the vast majority of what used to be the lower level common area and small shop space. In fact, only a small sliver of the original first level concourse remains just off of the northeast corner of the center. (Right)

This effectively turned the Broadway Market into one big store with a few "pilot fish" feeding off of it. Along with these changes came a loss of public space which at one time attracted a fair amount of foot traffic. After the changes, patrons would simply run by, purchase their groceries then depart. The upper level, which still has the majority of the common area, was the hardest hit by this change in traffic flows. La Puerta eventually shut their doors. And it wasn't long before Gold's Gym took over the space of, perhaps, the last remaining tenant that brought in the old clientele.

TL- The spot where La Puerta used to be has been renovated. TR- Gold's Gym with the QFC below. BL- The upper level looking toward Urban Outfitters. BR- Looking toward the north, with aisles of canned goods and pasta where the lower level common area used to be.
(All photos taken in 2015.)

The Capitol Hill Cinemas opened on the new upper concourse upon Broadway Market's retenanting in 1988. One would probably not use the word posh to describe the place, but most other cineplexes opened during that era weren't themselves. There were four auditoriums, two with 350 seats and two with only about 100, giving those screenings a more intimate feel. Most of its showings were of the indie and offbeat variety, with plenty of focus on the Gay and Lesbian genre. In 2000, national chain Landmark, which specialized in the Capitol Hill Cinemas' types of offerings, took over the theaters. In 2002, however, the theater's lease was taken over by neighboring Gold's Gym, which quickly expanded into their floor space.

Broadway Market Leasing Brochure, ca. 2015. View the full PDF version here.

It's been a decade since Broadway Market saw its last significant changes, and it still seems to be drawing them in. The QFC is one of the top performers in the chain, while other businesses such as BECU are expanding their footprints. In 2014, Madison Marquette sold the entire block to Regency Centers, so we'll see if the new owners are able to implement some changes and perhaps help the old classic to regain its status as a community, as well as a retail, hub.

An aerial view of Broadway Market surrounded by the dense development of Capitol Hill. (Source)

Before I moved to Capitol Hill from the northern suburbs of Seattle, on what were very frequent trips to the city center I would always make it a point to visit Broadway Market. I'd walk the aisles and just imagine how nice it would be when, in the near future, I could shop for all of my necessities before taking a swift and relaxing jaunt back to my place. Today, that is an almost every-other day occurrence. Even then, I still smile when I see that old, drab building waiting for me on Broadway, and will never let myself take it for granted. I always see Broadway Market with the same eyes as I did my first time so many years ago.

Broadway Market Official Website