Howdy Folks, and welcome to my (Mike’s) contribution to the Month of Malls! Today we’re taking a look at Pasadena Town Square/Plaza Paseo/Marcoplaza Mall, a location that has been on my radar for a few years so let me start off by explaining how I found out about Pasadena Town Square Mall. In 2017 when my coverage of Northwest Mall began to gain popularity I had a reader get in touch with me about a place named “Plaza Paseo Mall” the first of a few short-lived rebranding attempts for Pasadena Town Square Mall. I was quick to look up photos of the mall and thanks to the Je from the Louisiana and Texas Retail Blogspot, whose been covering retail in Houston longer than anyone else, I was able to get a great snapshot of how the mall looked in 2009. The photos made the mall seem relatively nice, but based off the dead mall vibes, which multiple folks had described online, I was prepared to find a nearly empty building. Making a trip to the mall just prior to Macy’s closing in early 2017, my drive into the parking lot seemed bleak. However, upon entering the mall I found it essentially half occupied, and in a position somewhat similar to West Oaks. It wasn’t the empty corridor nightmare I was expected, but rather a semi-stable mall. While I didn’t take any photos of this trip, I did take a good amount of video, trying out a new camera gimball (so forgive the shakiness).
Upon returning home, I began to dig into the history of the mall. Some of the first mentions I can find of the mall come from 1979, which puzzled me, because the Foley’s was clearly quite older. The Foley’s store was in fact the second branch location for the chain, the first being their Sharpstown store, which opened in 1961. Alongside Frank Sharp’s, mall portion of what was then known as the “Sharpstown Center”. While I’ve had trouble finding out what exactly happened in Pasadena, it seems that a mall was planned from day one with this Foley’s. The store sat on land that had been developed only about 10 years prior as a neighborhood. While I’m unable to find exactly how Foley’s got their hands on the property, around the same time their store was built, the City of Pasadena government buildings, which are still located next door to the mall, appeared. So it’s possible that eminent domain was used to redevelop this area as a true new “town square”. The Pasadena Foley’s would open in 1962, amongst slabs of demolished homes, and along with a few holdouts who refused to leave their homes. However over the next 5 years, these slabs, roads, and remaining homes, would for the most part be removed, although a few bits remain to this day, including the majority of Ellsworth Drive. For the next 17 years, the now vacant former neighborhood would remain untouched. In mid 1979 Federated, who had by this time come in control of Foley’s announced their intentions to build a new mall on the site. The mall was to be 225,000 Square Feet, would have around 80 tenants, and include at least one other department store. When construction began, there were reports of a second story being in the works for the mall. While this wouldn’t come to fruition, the mall did receive an increase of 25,0000 Square Feet, to allow room for a Palais Royal junior anchor, and about 20 more tenants. By June 1981 the new anchors tenants were officially announced as Joske’s and Palais Royal. By March 4, 1982 the mall held its grand opening, and for the next few years things would go just fine.
Throughout the years the mall would gain a large amount of popularity. Despite the less than prefect traffic, and lack of a major highway for access, Pasadena Town Square flourished. It basically served its intended purpose as a “town center”, attracting in folks from all parts of Pasadena and the surrounding area. The mall would even feature a rentable community space to provide local organizations with a meeting space. Other than a name change from Joske’s to Dillard’s occurring in 1987, the mall would never loose any anchors. Although in 1997, an entire 15 years after the mall had opened its doors, and 35 after Foley’s first debuted in Pasadena, a new anchor would be announced. Sears announced plans to build, what would end up being their final Houston location. At the time Sears was attempting to promote themselves as more of a clothing store, than department store. With their come see the softer side of Sears campaign in full force, this new store was easily the nicest in Houston for many years past its grand opening. By the time the 2000s hit, cracks began to appears in Pasadena Town Square Mall’s tenant list.
Some of the first rumors of the mall’s demise circulated around Macy’s planning on shutting down the Foley’s location, rather than convert it. Although in 2006, this was proved incorrect as a rebranding did take place. Like most other Macy’s rebrands in Houston, this was little more than new signage, and a few cans of paint. Although, things could have been worse as demonstrated by Dillard’s who decided to close their PTS Mall location, the same year. While this was far from a death blow to the mall, the exit of Dillard’s did kill off a few other mall tenants. For the most part these were local stores, in the same wing, relying on foot traffic that was no longer there. After a few years of sitting vacant, an oil equipment manufacturer named Ventech leased the old DIllard’s, despite brining the tenancy rate back up, Ventech did not attract any other measurable business to the mall. During this time the mall would be sold to different property developers, most of which came in promising remodels and updates which never occurred.
Although in 2016 this would change, at least somewhat. As Pasadena Town Square Mall, was renamed to Plaza Paseo Mall, and redecorated. The new theming could most accurately be described as “Mexican-American Heritage”, and featured Spanish inspired design cues throughout the mall. During this time, Macy’s would close, along with their Greenspoint and West Oaks locations. Outside of the new name, and fresh coat of paint very little was changed. The prominent food court fountain still operated during this time, and the structure was untouched. In 2018, the mall again had its name changed. This time to Marcoplaza Mall. The same general design cues were kept, but the fountain was drained to be replaced with a new wooden dance floor. At this point, the mall’s tenancy rate was relatively high, with all anchors, except freshly closed Macy’s (and the now re-leased Dillard’s) continuing to operate.
While researching this my mind was consistently drawn to West Oaks Mall, and not without cause, despite West Oak’s lavish first days, their longest running tenants have/had been Foley’s/Macy’s, Dillard’s, Sears, and Palais Royal. All of these anchors left both malls as part of nationwide closures, and not the malls dying. Except for Dillard’s which is still open as a clearance center at West Oaks. Outside the similarity in tenancy, the malls also shared developers, and some design cues. However, as of 2021, West Oaks is in a much better place. The malls do have lots of similarities, but one major difference is West Oak’s location at the intersection of Highway 6 and Westheimer. The mall has easy access, and tons of traffic passing by, which has proved it fruitful enough to find replacement anchor tenants, where Pasadena Town Square is without any anchor tenants, food court tenants, and around half the mall is walled off. As of 2020 the bankruptcy of Stage Department stores, shut down Palais Royal, and in 2021 Sears closed the PTS Mall store, their final Houston location.
Houston Historic Retail guest blogger Anonymous in Houston offers some thoughts about his experiences visiting the mall:
I did not visit Pasadena Town Square until sometime in late 2013 or early 2014, but I then visited the mall a handful of times between then and around 2017 or so when the mall had been renamed Plaza Paseo. The mall did not really change much when it was renamed Plaza Paseo. Perhaps my biggest memory of the Plaza Paseo period of the mall’s existence was a set of murals that were painted on a blank wall near the food court. Perhaps the most memorable mural was of George Lopez. Seeing George Lopez hanging out at Plaza Paseo like that was somewhat strange!
Aside from the pretty empty ex-Dillard’s corridor, most of the rest of the mall had active retailers and shoppers. The mall itself absolutely felt like a tribute to the early 1980s. The earthtone brown brick flooring, planters, fountains, and skylights in the mall corridors at the mall are all features that were very common at malls built or remodeled in the early 1980s. The abundance of skylights also gave the mall a different feel during the day than it had at night when the mall became much darker inside.
The busiest part of the mall during all my visits was the Sears. In many ways, the Sears was the nicest part of the mall. Some might think this is a real insult to the rest of the mall, but the reality is that the Pasadena Town Square Sears was very nice inside and out. The Pasadena Town Square Sears was the newest full-line Sears in the Houston area having relocated from down Southmore Avenue in 1997 and it ended up being the last Houston area Sears to close when it closed in 2020. Like many Sears stores built in the late 1990s, the Pasadena Town Square Sears had a common design shared with other Sears that had a very striking look. Unlike some older Sears, the Pasadena Town Square Sears legitimately looked like a department store. The product mix and prices at the Sears must have been a hit with the Pasadena Town Square shoppers as the store was always busy during my visits.
While the Pasadena Town Square Sears was a hit, the Pasadena Town Square Macy’s looked like a time warp and was usually devoid of shoppers during my visits. Unlike most Macy’s which have a grand mall entrance, this Macy’s just had a basic mall entrance which more or less dumped the shopper right into the men’s department that had much less selection than most Macy’s stores. Walking further back through the store revealed many retro features like wood paneling, worn out carpets from a bygone era, door handles with old Foley’s logos, and so forth. Things got even worse upstairs as many of the ceiling tiles up there were water stained.
The Mall in 2021
Let’s Start off with a look at the exterior
The Food Court
The single open Interior Corridor
While I’m not completely sure on the future of Marcoplaza Mall, if conditions don’t improve, then it’s obviously not going to last very long. The mall appears to be locally owned, and Greenspoint who is similarly dealing with low tenancy and lack of anchors, has noted publically that they’re not interested in selling the mall. With city government on the same parcel of land, it may be difficult to redevelop this without causing issues. Although it is possible that homes may finally return to this area.