09 February 2015

Broadway Market, Seattle, WA

A relic of retail

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 lease plan, ca. 2002. View the full PDF version here.

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.

The exterior of Broadway Market in 2003.

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.

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

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.

1- Broadway Market's lower concourse. 2- Fred Meyer's unorthodox bi-level entrance. (Photos from 2003)

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.

The second level, with La Puerta to the right in 2003.

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.

Broadway Market mall directories in 2004.

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 relics of retail. 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.  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.

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

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.

1- A close-up of the ornate brick and stonework.  2- The upper level of Broadway Market.  3- The mall’s ceiling and skylights.  4- The interior lower level.  (Photos from 2004)

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.

1- The main entrance to Broadway Market in 2015.  2- The northeast entrance the same year.

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.

1- Looking toward the north, with aisles of canned goods and pasta where the lower level common area used to be.  2- The upper level looking toward Urban Outfitters.  3- Gold's Gym with the QFC below.  4- The spot where La Puerta used to be located has been renovated.  (Photos from 2015)

The Capitol Hill Cinemas opened on the new upper concourse upon Broadway Market's re-tenanting 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.

-UPDATE- Broadway Market pamphlet, ca. 2024. 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.

1- A view of the long closed off upper level veranda and the Broadway Market clock.  2- The northern wing on the lower level, the only remaining mall corridor on the bottom level.  (Photos from 2015)

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.

Southgate Mall, Elizabeth City, NC

A relic of retail

I just ADORE these tiny town gems. From Jasper Mall in Alabama to Columbia Mall (formerly Shady Brook) in Tennessee, those diminutive hamlets that were lucky enough to get an indoor retail complex during the height of their proliferation were the lucky ones. The ongoing existence of these particular structures really pleases me, and they are the ones for which I really push to survive. Once they've met their demise, these Mayberrys may never see another such facility within their borders.

L- Southgate Mall's sign. (Source) R- Originally W.T. Grant, this location of JCPenney will soon be closing. (Source)

This one is the only shopping mall in the Hampton Roads region that I never had the chance to see in person. A big reason was that as long as I lived in Virginia Beach, I never even knew it existed. Southgate Mall is located just to the south of the bulk of the area's population, just across the state line in North Carolina. We never ventured out to Elizabeth City. That name only existed as several mentions on the news and in the weather. So, one can surmise how joyfully amazed I was to discover that they had their very own indoor facility.

Southgate Mall's anchor line up at its 1969 opening.

Southgate Mall, when looked at in the context of the rest of Hampton Roads, was the second of its type to be built in the area. The ribbon cutting in 1969 was a mere three years after that of Virginia Beach's Pembroke Mall. The quarter of a million square foot shopping center debuted with anchors Belk-Taylor and W. T. Grant. Along the main concourse, junior anchors Peoples Drug and a Winn-Dixie supermarket made their homes.

L- Belk before the painting of the arches. (Source) R- The distinctive concrete design elements up close. (Source)

This Belk location continues to be something truly exceptional. It was conceived as the company's new suburban prototype, as their business plan was evolving from one based on downtown markets to being more suburban centered. Most noteworthy are the distinctive concrete entrance arches, their nearly brutal nature holding my interest for far much longer than the present day standard single arch stucco clone. As far as I can tell, this is the only prototype location that holds on to these relics of the past, albeit softened when recently painted.

Southgate Mall's layout in 2014.

Belk's companion anchor, located at the western end of the barbell shaped structure, was occupied by Grants on the opening day. In 1974, the five-and-dime departed Southgate but was fairly quickly replaced by Rose's, a discount department store in the vein of Bradlees or Zayre. When this location was closed by the company, JCPenney took over after a few years of vacancy. Unfortunately, this location will soon be empty as it finds itself a victim of the latest round of the Dallas-based department store's restructuring.

Southgate Mall lease plan, ca. 2014. View the full PDF version here.

As the only enclosed retail complex in northeastern North Carolina, hopefully Southgate will keep chugging along. Elizabeth City is somewhat isolated from its larger urban neighbors across the state line, so it's good for these folks to have somewhere to hang out besides the local Wal-Mart or Hardee's. And although I've never actually stepped within its forty-six year old walls, hopefully they'll still be standing for a long time so that I can see for myself on my next visit to the region.

Southgate Mall's official website

03 February 2015

Salem Center, Salem, OR

An extant asset

The Mart Gallery posts will feature facilities where I’ve never been and for which I do not own a mallmanac. Despite having no personal connection to these centers, I’ve always found their footprints to be of interest. That being said, I won’t have a lot to say on an anecdotal level about these malls, so I’ll just let their designs speak for themselves.

L- Salem Center Lease Plan, ca. 2002. View the full PDF version here.
M/R- Salem Center First and Second Level Lease Plans, ca. 2011. View the full PDF version here.

I have a certain affinity for city center shopping malls. Sure, in places like here in Seattle with Pacific Place as well as in Chicago with Water Tower Place, we have the population density to assure their success. But even in other larger cities like Saint Louis with the Saint Louis Centre and Sacramento's Downtown Plaza, just being a bigger city does not guarantee profits. That's why I especially love smaller city retail facilities like that of the capital of Oregon's Salem Center. It grew up around a Meier & Frank store, expanding with skywalks over streets and with enclosed concourses to bring us to the quite accomplished destination that we see today.

Salem Center in the early 2000s.

Opening Date- 1979
Gross Leasable Area- 650,000 square feet
Tiers- Two
Anchors- Four
Spaces- 80

Salem Center Lease Plan, ca. 2015. View the full PDF version here.

Owner- Jones Lang LaSalle
Location- 401 Center Street NE
Online- Official Website

Salem Center as of this writing.

The Mall, Huntsville, AL

A dead mall

The Mall was a classic.

But first of all, let's get the most obvious question out of the way that most people not from The Rocket City have... Yes, the official name of this early shopping center was indeed just The Mall.

1- The Mall as I first saw it.  2- The main entrance to The Mall with its four balls.  3- Looking south down the strip-mall like front exterior fronting The Parkway.  4- The front side of the JCPenney building after an exterior repaint.  Note the banner advertising the availability of the site for events.  All photos courtesy of Evans Criswell.

I loved it. Its developers felt that there was no need for a play on any words; neither did it warrant any gratuitously posh descriptive elements. Most thankfully, there was an absence of the use of pretentious spellings like Centre or Pointe. All it needed was a capitalized definite article, followed by the rest. Boom. It was short and to the point. No worries that the Parkway Center (later Parkway City Mall,) Dunnavant's Mall and Heart of Huntsville Mall were already in the mix. This place trumped them all. This was THE Mall. 'Nuff said. It seemed a tradition for Huntsvillians to shorten and simplify the names of our major landmarks (i.e. Memorial Parkway became just "The Parkway" while Redstone Arsenal was always referred to as just "The Arsenal" and the Saturn V at the Space and Rocket Center is always referred to as "The Rocket"), its moniker fit right in.

1- The Mall sign on Memorial Parkway.  2- The unique sculpture at the center court fountain.  3- Very inaccessible and creepy stairs leading up to what had to be some of the rapiest bathrooms ever.  All photos courtesy of Evans Criswell.

I first serendipitously came by The Mall in 1990 just after having moved from Virginia Beach to Huntsville. We were heading back toward the city on University Drive just after having spent some money at Madison Square. As we approached that thoroughfare's major intersection with Memorial Parkway, I observed an expansive, empty and hulking structure laying sleepily to my left. Closest to me was a quite pronounced and much alive Toys R Us abutting a Books-a-Million. As we turned north onto The Parkway and cleared the overpass which was blocking my view, I could then clearly see the entire facility in all of its glory. It was a single level, elongated and flat stretch of nameless storefronts, much like any other tired, mid-century strip mall. However, a great many of the doorways were darkened. I looked a bit more closely and realized that, almost lost in the subdued façade of the center, there were three large glass entrances with tall, slightly bent, thin columns topped by globe lamps.

1- The rear exterior of the former JCPenney.  2- The classic Alabama Theater located to the south of Penney’s.  3- The backside of the mall looking south.  At the far end is the old Loveman's building with its distinctive aquamarine exterior.  4- The mall entrance in the rear is just as noteworthy as the ones in the front.  All photos courtesy of Evans Criswell.

This was an indoor shopping mall.

The Mall opened in 1966 as one of Huntsville's first major, automobile centered shopping malls. It was, perhaps most notably, the first to be fully enclosed from its opening day. At around 500,000 square feet with sixty inline shops, the ultra-modern mall of the future was a major commercial juggernaut in the booming town, out sizing Memorial Parkway peers Heart of Huntsville Mall, Dunnavant's Mall and Parkway Center by a wide margin. Its footprint displayed the basic template of the first generation shopping mall with its dual anchors represented by JCPenney and Birmingham based Loveman's at opposite ends of a straight concourse. From above, it was just another run-of-the mill barbell. But its design elements, however, a little bit mid-century modern with a touch of googie architecture, was anything but.

The Mall lease plan ca. 1970.  See the full PDF version here.

Man, I would have loved to have seen The Mall in its heyday. It survived as a viable retail entity for nearly twenty years, anchoring the ever expanding city's retail core. But the increasing population that had been the reason for its success would soon be the impetus for its downfall. By the time the eighties had come around, Huntsville was one of the state's major cities and needed a much newer and all-encompassing retail complex as a reflection of this new status. The city received this when CBL Properties opened Madison Square Mall just a few miles to the west on the city's fringes. The exurban folks then had a world class, 1 million square foot place of their own, and no longer had a reason to venture further into the city.

1- Just inside the northeast entrance of The Mall.  Here you can see some of the original polished concrete floor before it was overlaid with tile. 2- A narrow corridor.  3- The tile floor of Lorch’s Jewelers.  4- Looking north toward center court. Just behind the wall to the left was Calhoun Community College's "Mallege."  All photos courtesy of Evans Criswell.

In the early 1980s, Loveman's had closed and the building was never occupied again by a full-line department store. The large JCPenney anchoring the northern spot of The Mall closed a few years after Madison Square had opened, joining the lineup as the easternmost anchor of the newer and shinier development. Numerous peripheral properties relocated to more relevant areas or simply closed up shop completely. The site, at the edge of one of Huntsville's busiest intersection, was dying.

1- Ahh, the red barn of the old Hickory Farms.  2- Wood and dark stone at this store's entrance. One of my favorites.  3- Another mall store all decked out in the bitchin’ style of the day.  4- The original mall entrance to Loveman's, then occupied by Toys R Us and Books-A-Million. The latter's entrance was open until a renovation following a fire.  All photos courtesy of Evans Criswell.

By time that the nineties rolled around, the mall was languishing with an increasing amount of vacancies. Toys R Us and Books-a-Million shared the former Loveman's space which continued to sport its original exterior with walls of groovy aquamarine brick in a rectangular block pattern. Its northern companion JCPenney, showing its never replaced seventies Penny's logo label scar, sat empty and neglected. Just behind the anchor on a rear outlot was the home of the spectacular Alabama Theater. The Huntsville branch of Calhoun Community College, dubbed the Mallege, occupied a large part of the leasable area just beyond Toys R Us's and Book-a-Million's interior doors, which were still open to the interior concourse. These major lease holders were joined by a scattered selection of local and not very well known B-level establishments. I remember that in the mid-nineties a 50% Off Store, where they enticed the gullible by doubling the price of their stock before slashing that price off by half on the tags. Their presence was indeed temporary, and their rather large footprint was again on the market. But no one ever came. Few ever did as the millennium came to a close.

I remember that the empty square footage of the old Penny's was offered for hire as a venue for trade shows and event rentals. In fact, the annual Moonshot charity event was considering leasing the space for their first function. Every May brought the Spring Fling fair to the mall's northern empty patch of crumbling asphalt. As a kid, it seemed that rides of questionable safety being operated by seedy looking individuals was the perfect way to ring in the summer. But one of the more unorthodox uses of the malls deserted grounds was one of the more unique.

In and around The Mall’s distinctive center court.  All photos courtesy of Evans Criswell.

Huntsville, being one of the smaller cities where I had lived, didn't have a whole lot to offer us young 'uns to do on the weekends. Soon after I started my sophomore year, however, I was invited to participate in some late night activity called cruising at The Mall. I thought, perhaps, that even though the wide corridors of the shopping center were empty during the daylight hours, maybe it was actually a cool place to gather on Saturday nights, with its absence of responsible adults and all of their rules. But, when we left rather late at night (just after 9:00 at night when most places were already closed) we approached our darkened host. When I looked close enough, I noticed that in the roadways encircling the façade, a line of vehicles traversed these pathways in opposing directions. I witnessed girls in the back of pick-up trucks shaking their booties to the latest Vanilla Ice or Bobby Brown hit being blasted from a low-rider's speakers. I was bewildered at this weekend ritual, but love how today among people of my age that The Mall is remembered more for this than for shopping.

I remember a few years later that The Mall's owners put the kibosh on that weekend tradition, saying that the kids were responsible for scaring shoppers away... That was a laugh. Whether the children of Madison County made their weekend pilgrimage or not, the mall was deader than dead.

Google Earth images of the area in the vicinity of The Mall in 1995 (1) and 2013 (2.)

But why do I insist that The Mall was a classic? Well, from the oversized sign on Memorial Parkway with its own set of four balls suggesting that one Meet your friends at our beautiful fountain, to the car park's veritably distinct lighting lamps, to those entranceways straight out of the Jetson's, the place was a living time capsule of the dawn of the shopping mall as we know it today. The focal point of the layout, the fountain itself, with its strange amorphous shape and oxidized metal, provided one hell of a statement for itself. Unfortunately, few could hear it. The walls lining the concourse were exceptionally preserved, as if all of the tenants had rushed to evacuate after some kind of apocalyptic occurrence. I loved those old storefronts (the Hickory Farms red barn was a favorite) that had been in place since the mall had opened and would never be supplanted. So despite the mothball-ish, old person smell wafting through the air due to the occasional mall walker, the center was in relatively great shape. Its floors were covered in marbled, dark brick colored tiles, standard for its generation. They were one of the few "updates" performed during The Mall's lifetime. In places, one could still see the original polished concrete floor. They lay underneath a canopy of horizontally hanging copper slats giving the ceilings their unique texture. It was a feast for the eyes.

There’s just something that I’ve always loved about The Mall’s original, unique light poles.

The mall contained another design element with which I was unfamiliar at the time. All of the businesses facing the Memorial Parkway side on the east had entrances abutting the inside corridor in addition to the car park facing exterior promenade. I always wondered why this type of design was not emulated more often; it seems that a lot of the reasoning for the contemporary increase in construction of "lifestyle centers" is based on timed starved people's desire for the convenience of driving right up to their needed destination, purchasing only what they came for then departing. Of course, this really neglects the inclinations of those like myself who find that it's certainly not a catastrophe to have to walk more than ten feet to an establishment and who just want to browse without worrying about the elements. The Mall's 1960s blueprint very sufficiently caters to both types of patron.

The Mall’s former fountain sculpture now stands in a roundabout in the center of The Fountain redevelopment.

Soon enough, in the waning years of the nineties, the inevitable happened. The mall's final days were upon us when it was announced that it was going to be replaced by an exciting (!!) new outdoor facility more in tune with the market. Conceptualizations showed a vibrant and colorful set of pedestrian friendly buildings, very thin shoppers and some sort of lit tower thingy hovering over it all. The name would be The Fountain, as the centerpiece of the old place would be retained for display somewhere at the new plaza. The rest of the old classic, sans the original Loveman's building which was still home to Books-A Million and Toys R Us, was to be demolished. Before I could make time for one last visit to memorialize The Mall on film (which I was thankfully able to do before Heart of Huntsville's demise) it was but a pile of rubble. In its place, the glorious new replacement shop-opolis took shape. In a roundabout in the parking lot's center the old fountain was settled, inaccessible and in a sea of asphalt. In every direction was built none of the vibrance or flash shown in the drawings. Just a disconnected power center. Everything else, all of the mall's history and personality, are dead.

1- The whitewashed walls of the old Loveman's/Toys R Us.  2- The canopy over the entrance to Books-A-Million, one of the few remnants of the original center.  3- The backside of the Loveman's. There used to be a mall here...  4- On the southeast corner of the lot still stood this old auto center. Was it ever a part of Loveman's?

Man, it was tough to see this one go. It was so much more difficult than watching the slow death of its neighboring establishments located down the Memorial Parkway corridor. The Mall was a living, breathing museum of mid-century commercial architecture, and it was no more; unceremoniously replaced by a scattered concoction of big boxes. Since leaving Huntsville, I know that Toys R Us has vacated their space and it seems a revolving door of restaurants occupies what was originally Bennigan's. But it still seems to be doing okay, even as Madison Square, the old blonde just up the street from it, faces its own grim future.

The Mall lease plan ca. 1995.  See the full PDF version here.

Find some of the above photos and even more at Sky City's post on The Mall, courtesy of Evans Criswell.