11 January 2022

Brookwood Village, Homewood, AL

 A dead mall

I always liked Brookwood Village.  It was never convenient enough for me to visit on a regular basis, but I like the fact that there was this unexpected little place tucked away in Homewood somewhere in suburbia between the Riverchase Galleria and Century Plaza.  It was two levels, but really only in the center.  Each wing was only a top level with covered parking beneath.  I always admired weirdly designed gems like this.

Shots of Brookwood Village around the time of its opening. (Source)

Brookwood Village first opened its doors in 1973 in a largely residential area of Birmingham suburb Homewood.  Rich's was the anchor to the east and Pizitz was the anchor to the west of the straight-line concourse.  In the middle was a two story atrium which contained a fountain with tree like sprayers.  This was, of course, removed during the mall's first remodel in the late eighties.

Brookwood Village pamphlet, ca. 2011.  View the full PDF version here.

Colonial Properties took over the shopping center in 1997 and renamed it Colonial Brookwood Village.  They embarked on an extensive renovation, increasing the center to over 750,000 square feet.  In 2001, the work was complete and a new line of outdoor facing shops framing the central area of the mall opened.  

Brook Village just after the 2001 renovation.

Over the decades of the mall's life, Pizitz first became McRae's then Parisian before finally becoming a Belk, ultimately closing in 2018.  The Rich's was first rebranded as Rich's-Macy's then only Macy's.  This location closed in 2022.  Between the two closings, the interior of the rest of the mall accelerated in number of vacancies.

Brookwood Village Mallmanac, ca. 2016.  View the full PDF version here.

Brookwood Village, as much as I loved it, has unfortunately been deemed redundant.  I love that it outlasted competitors Century Plaza and Eastwood Mall, and even lived long enough to witness the decline of Riverchase.  The world needs more cool little places like this, and when it finally meets the wrecking ball it will be a sad day.

Brookwood Village on Wikipedia

Copley Place, Boston, MA

 An extant asset

The Boston Marriott Copley Place (Center) viewed during a walk past Titus Sparrow Park.

My first trip to Boston was for my birthday in February of 2017.  Being quite aware of how northeastern winters can be, I packed plenty of sweaters and long-johns.  But, to everyone's delight, Boston just happened to be going through record warm temperatures. One day the temperature even got all the way up to 80.  It was the warmest February day in the city's history and I found myself having to acquire more summertime appropriate attire on the fly.  Luckily, from my hotel in Boston Common, I was just a short walk away from The Prudential Center, Cambridgeside Galleria and Copley Place.

Copley Place Lease Plan, ca. 2011.  View the full PDF here.

Copley Place is located in the Back Bay area catty-cornered from and connected to The Prudential Center via a long skywalk.  Anchored by Neiman Marcus and Saks Fifth Avenue, it is considered the premiere fashion center of downtown.  My visit was in the midst of an extensive renovation, and I was lucky to see some of the dark tile and brass fixtures of the décor from a bygone era before it was stripped away.

The dark colors of the main entrance off of Stuart just before the mall's renovation.

Copley Place was built in 1983 as part of one of Boston's largest (at the time) urban mixed-use projects.  Besides Saks and Neiman's, it opened with additional anchor Barney's New York.  Two hotels, a Marriott and a Westin, are located on premises as well as numerous offices.  All of this is served by the Back Bay station on the orange line. 

Copley Place's concourses during the 2017 renovation.

Copley Place remains the home of many of Boston's highest end shops and continues to do brisk business.  Let's hope this keeps up and the facility bucks the trend of so many other downtown shopping malls.

Copley Place Mallmanac, ca. 2017.  View the full PDF here.

Copley Place's Official Website

Gwinnett Place Mall, Duluth, GA

 A dead mall

L- Gwinnett Place just after opening with its three original anchors. (Source)  R- Aerial view of Gwinnet Place just after the Mervyn's store and wing were added. (Source)

I only ever made it out to Gwinnett Place one time, but it was one hell of a one time.  It was early on New Years’ Eve, 1995.  The next year, I would be turning 21.  I was a sophomore in college and there were endless possibilities ahead of me.

Gwinnett Place Mallmanac, ca. 1995. View the full PDF version here.

My buddy and I had just made the trek to the Atlanta suburbs from his place at Auburn University.  He and I were there to meet his girlfriend who lived in Duluth and would be celebrating with us downtown later that evening to ring in the new year.  Besides the prospect of a great time partying, I was stoked as hell to find out that we’d be going to the huge shopping mall to the northeast of Atlanta to meet her.

L- The Parisian exterior.  R- The interior hadn't changed much since my last visit in 1995.  (Source for both)

The weather was a bit chilly, overcast and rainy that morning as we pulled into the still empty parking lot.  It was just a few minutes before the mall would be opening, so we pulled into one of the many vacant parking spots just outside of the Parisian.  We waited in the vestibule until 12:30 when they finally unlocked the doors for us.

In and outside Gwinnett Place. (Source)

The Parisian itself was glamorous in a nineties sort of way, as were most of their best stores.  Parisian was the Nordstrom of the deep south, if you will, although they were never really able to effectively penetrate the Atlanta market.  I still miss the hell out of their teal nameplate with the diamonds elegantly separating each letter.  But I really couldn’t wait until I made my way into the mall itself so I that could grab my own treasure- a mallmanac.

L- The southeast entrance and Mega Mart.  R- The empty anchor once holding Davidson's, Macy's then Mega Mart.  (Source for both)

It wasn't long before the two of them ran off for some time alone and I used that opportunity to nerd the hell out at a new mall.  The corridors were wide and accented in the basic pastels of the day.  Bright and airy, it was your archetypical 1990s mall, and I was absolutely loving it.

Gwinnett Mall lower level concourse from the upper level mezzanine. (Source)

Gwinnett Place opened in early 1994 in the fast growing northeastern suburb of Duluth.  The main corridor ran from the west-northwest to the east-southeast with Rich's on the west end, Sears on the east and Davidson's in the middle.  In 1986, the short concourse to the southeast opened along with new anchor Mervyn's and Macy's took over the Davidson's spot. In 1993, the mall grew to its present footprint when Parisian opened at the end of the second spur built off of the northwest of the main concourse.  

Gwinnett Place lease plan, ca. 2011. View the full PDF version here.

We left the mall not long after and I haven’t been back since.  At midnight, the three of us stood watching the Great Peach drop from Underground Atlanta.  It was a fantastic night; definitely one of the best New Years’ Eves I’ve ever had, if not THE best.  Unfortunately for Gwinnett Place, even it’s behemoth size couldn’t save it from the fact that Atlanta was terribly over-malled.

Gwinnett Place lease plan, ca. 2015. View the full PDF version here.

New competition from the Mall of Georgia and Sugarloaf Mills pulled customers away from the super-regional.  Belk took over the Parisian in 2008 not long after Macy's moved their location to what was then the former Rich's.  Today, Macy's remains but the only other open anchor is in its former location, now housing a Mega Mart.  The interior stores are mainly vacant except for a few locally owned establishments.  

Gwinnett Place Mall in better days. (Source)

What was the main shopping attraction for metro Atlanta during the nineties is now, for all intents and purposes, dead.  Though this made it the perfect setting for the "Starcourt Mall" in the third season of Netflix's Stranger Things, there isn't much hope for it in its present incarnation.  Gwinnett County purchased the property in 2020, but no plans have been announced yet for the site.

Gwinnet Place on Wkipedia

28 December 2021

Country Club Plaza, Kansas City, MO

 A relic of retail

Country Club Plaza Mallmanac, ca. 2019.  View the full PDF version here.

This was the reason for my recent trip to KCMO.  Country Club Plaza is well known in retail circles as the first modern precursor to the American, automobile based suburban shopping center.  I had been wanting to walk its pavements for years and on a crisp February morning in 2020, I finally had the chance.  And I was not disappointed.

TL- The Seville Light Fountain stands in from of the Mill Creek Building.  TR- Zoe's.  BL- A look down Ward Parkway along Brush Creek.  BR- Storefronts along Ward.

I started my exploration just outside of Zoe’s at the corner of Baltimore and Ward. I walked along the Brush Creek side and was greeted by genuine early to mid-century architecture.  This was the real thing, and it really felt it.  It wasn’t like the faux classical design of so many lifestyle centers popping up today.  These structures were dressed in façades that were ornate but solid, and they showed their age in a dignified way.

TL- Even the parking decks are nice.  TR- Looking north up Central Street.  BL- The statue of Pomona.  BR- Broadway Boulevard.

Designed mainly in the Moorish Revival tradition, the ornamental style that was at its most popular in the mid-19th century, the entire complex is block after block of astounding beauty. Every crossing seemed to be occupied by a turret or steeple of some sort.  Each window was framed by Gothic and baroque elements.  It was extravagant and authentic; my jaw dropped as I turned every corner.  For what amounted to a gay twenties strip mall, I was in complete awe.

L- More shops along Ward.  M- The good luck/ mercy drop in front of Season's.  R- The Time Tower.

This is what places like Disney try to emulate, but Country Club Plaza gets its message across effortlessly.  What’s just across the way from a J Crew?  Why, it’s the handsome Palace Theater-slash-Urban Outfitters.  And where that old parking deck used to be?  Nordstrom is building a new store, moving its location within the metropolis from a sprawling super regional mall in suburbia to the inner neighborhoods around Loose Park.

TL- The Plaza Time Building.  TR- West 48th and Pennsylvania.  ML- Looking north up Pennsylvania.  MR- The Palace Theater.  To the left is the construction site for Nordstrom's new store.  BL- The Palace Theater shares their space with Urban Outfitters.  BR- Looking east down Nichols Road.

Country Club Plaza opened in 1923 offering retail firsts in a regional center such as enough parking allotted to accommodate the majority of patrons arriving via automobile, a single management office for the entire complex and carrying through a particular, unified architectural theme across all buildings.  It was a very well planned tribute the prevalent design elements of Seville, Spain. 

TL- Nichols and Broadway.  TR- Looking north up Broadway.  ML- Looking south down Broadway.  MR- Plaza Medical Building and tower.  BL- Looking west down Nichols.  BR- The Plaza Time Building from the northeast.

The development was named for the Country Club District of Kansas City, a suburban buildout four miles south of downtown.  The first building to open was on the corner of Mill Creek and 47th, now known as the Mill Creek Building.  It opened to immediate success, a success that has been consistent over the past century.  In fact, not only did it survive the Great Depression, it fared surprisingly well.

L- Storefronts on Nichols.  M- The Mermaid Pool.  R- Broadway and West 47th.

In its earlier days, Country Club Plaza was laid out with high-end shops doing business alongside mid-tier grocery stores and anchors such as Sears and Woolworth.  But as newer shopping malls began springing up in the late seventies and eighties, the center started skewing toward the more higher end retailers that we see now.

TL- Nichols and Central.  TR- Nichols and Broadway looking to the northwest.  ML- Looking east down West 47th.  MR- Crossing West 47th.  BL- Looking west down West 47th.  BR- The Bronze Boar.

Presently, the center remains the premier high end shopping destination for the entire metro area.  It consists of 18 separate buildings and over 900,000 square feet of space for retail, commercial and office uses.  While there are no large open plazas that are usually associated with the Moorish Revival style, the plaza does boast more than 30 pieces of artwork consisting of statues, mosaics and murals.  There are also handsome reproductions throughout, one of the most well known being the Giralda Tower at the corner of Baltimore and West 47th, a half size homage to the original in Seville. 

L- Clock tower.  M- Giralda Tower.  R- Seville Light.

I spent much more time at Country Club Plaza than I do most other malls that I visit.  Usually I’m there just to document them and go as most indoor, super-regionals follow pretty cookie cutter layouts and design strategies.  But I really wanted to absorb the atmosphere in which I was standing.  Reluctantly, I ended my visit in the shadow of the Giralda Tower before making my way back up north toward the Crown Center.

TL- Clock Tower with the Giralda Tower in the background.  TR- Fountain of Neptune.  BL- The Seville Light and Clock Tower.  BR- One final look at Country Club Plaza before I go.

Having walked through the New Landing Mall fewer than 24 hours previously, it was easy to see the stark difference between it and Country Club Plaza as a microcosm of Kansas City itself.  These places of extreme extravagance and tired obsolescence existed just a few miles apart, but both contributed to a place I found full of character and life.  I definitely see another trip to the KC area in the future.

Country Club Plaza Mallmanac, ca. 2020.  View the full PDF version here.

Country Club Plaza's Official Website