06 April 2024

NorthTown Mall, Spokane, WA

 An extant asset

NorthTown Mall Mallmanac ca. 1985.  View the full PDF version here.

To the north of downtown past aging mid-century retail on one of Spokane’s major boulevards, Division Street, sits the largest mall in Washington located east of the Cascades.  Not really urban and just outside of the suburbs, the nearly 1,000,000 square foot complex sits on a compact parcel of land in an older part of town surrounded by parking decks and skybridges.

1- NorthTown Mall’s main entrance.  2- The former Macy’s store.  3- Barnes & Noble.  4 & 5- Lower and upper level mall entrances.  6- The Kohl’s store.

I would have loved to have seen NorthTown before all of the renovations as I’m sure it fit with other fantastic examples of mid-century modern architecture found throughout the city, such as Spokane International Airport’s concourses A and B along with downtown’s Parkade Building.  But just like many of its first-generation peers, all semblance of the past has been modernized away.

NorthTown Mall Mallmanac ca. 2000.  View the full PDF version here.

What’s left is a maze-like, boxy monolith once home to five different traditional department stores.  It is now home to only a couple of full-size anchors, JCPenney and Kohl’s, a few smaller big box anchors and plenty of unoccupied square footage.

1 to 3- The now darkened Sears anchor.  4 to 6- The JCPenney façade.

While walking the bright and whitewashed concourses of NorthTown, just a few steps seemed to separate vibrant and lively areas from places more desolate.  Both the interior and exterior entrances to the former Sears anchor are adorned by the company’s 1990s nameplate while the labelscar to the empty Macy’s is still quite visible.

The winding corridors of NorthTown Mall.

NorthTown Mall debuted in 1955 as an open-air center with two anchors, Sears and The Crescent, added in the early sixties.  Just over 40 small shops joined the anchors as one of the city’s first suburban shopping centers.  The walkways were enclosed in 1983 while an additional 17,000 square feet of leasable area was added to the complex.

NorthTown Mall lease plan ca. 2011.  View the full PDF version here.

In the late eighties, a major expansion was announced that would bring NorthTown close to its current footprint.  A second level was to be added in addition to several new department stores and a new Sears.  It was joined by a new JCPenney, which moved from downtown’s River Park Square, an Emporium store and only the second Mervyn’s built east of the Cascades in the state.

1- Outside of the darkened Sears mall entrance.  2- Looking toward JCPenney’s interior entrance.  3- Kohl's mall entryway.  4- The desolate hallway leading to the former Macy’s entrance.  5- Marshall’s and Barnes & Noble from inside.  6- The Regal Theaters at the end of the concourse.

Another large renovation happened in 2013 when a sizeable portion of the northern section of NorthTown was demolished and replaced with 63,000 square feet of new retail space and reconfigured parking.  Not long after, in the late 2010s, two more anchors would be lost as Sears departed in 2019 and Macy’s followed suit in 2021 from their space, where they replaced the Bon Marché.

NorthTown Mall Mallmanac ca. 2021.  View the full PDF version here.

Today, in addition to the two remaining full-size anchors, major tenants as of this writing are Barnes & Noble, Marshall’s, H&M and a Regal Cinemas.  Overall, while an attractive enough destination, the mall itself is a tough one to classify; parts of it are definitely dead but others are very much alive and filled with contemporary tenants.  I’ll leave this one as an extant asset for now but will watch out in case anything changes in the future.

1- The former Macy’s corridor.  2- The bottom level looking toward the former Macy’s.  3 & 4- The second level food court.  5 & 6- Scenes within NorthTown Mall.

Central Park Mall, San Antonio, TX

 A dead mall

Central Park Mall Mallmanac ca. 1968.  View the full PDF version here.

My first time visiting San Antonio in the late nineties, during the days just before Christmas, included seeing the cheery lights at the Riverwalk, a tour of the cool aircraft at Kelly Air Force Base and, of course, shopping.  Naturally, one of our destinations was the highly trafficked and successful North Star Mall with their big ole boots.  But just before turning into their chaotic parking lot, I noticed something just across San Pedro Avenue that completely stole my attention.

The parking surrounding the monolith saw much less activity.  On the far end of the structure, highlighted by rows of sixties style arched columns on the exterior, was a mid-rise building dressed in the international style once popular in a bygone area.  We never turned toward this nameless entity at the time, but after fighting North Star’s crowds and being blinded by their gaudy neon, I really would have much rather gone to its neglected sister across the street.

I found out later that this fascinating remnant of past retail was the Central Park Mall, which opened a few years after the originally open air North Star in 1968 as San Antonio’s first fully enclosed mall.  Sears and Dillard’s served as the two anchors in the barbell shaped, bi-level retail facility and were joined by about 100 smaller shops.  Innovations found in the early shopping center included a water fountain in center court representing the four seasons as well as a Venetian carousel.

Central Park Mall saw much success through the nineties until its neighbor to the east embarked on a large expansion that added new anchors and even a second level, while Central Park never really changed.  The interior concourse was shuttered in the early aughts, with the balance of the structure not including Sears demolished just a few years later.  Sears finally closed their store in 2018 and the building was demolished as well, leaving no trace of Central Park Mall at what is now called Park North.

201 Central Park pamphlet ca. 1968.  View the full PDF version here.

UPDATED- Southcenter, Tukwila, WA

 New mallmanacs, photos and words have been added to the post for the Southcenter in Tukwila, WA.