Editor’s Note: Today’s post is a guest submission from HHR’s good friend Anonymous in Houston with the photos being taken by Mike.
The topic of today’s post takes us back to Galveston County for a quick update about a bit of a Houston-area retail comeback story. The Mall of the Mainland in Texas City, TX has long stood for failure and broken dreams. While plenty of malls around the United States, and Houston for that matter, have gone from successful malls to vacant or closed dead malls over the years, the Mall of the Mainland started out as a mall that struggled to win over retailers and customers when it opened in 1991 as customers generally preferred shopping at the already established Baybrook Mall further north on I-45. The mall tried many schemes over the years to try to raise interest. This including painting fake stores on vacant storefronts and putting up clearly preposterous advertising. This aspect of the Mall of the Mainland was famously lampooned on the old Labelscar blog.
The mall closed in early 2014 after years of significant underperformance and the loss of important anchors such as JCPenney, Dillard’s, and Foley’s/Macy’s. Je of the Louisiana & Texas Retail blog covered the history of the mall in-depth and his post is highly recommended reading for those wanting to understand the history of this unique failure of a mall. Friend of blog, Pseudo3D of Carbon-izer, has a blog post chronicling his visit to the mall in 2008. At the time the mall closed, a few anchors with access not requiring the main mall corridor remained open such as Sears, Palais Royal, and Cinemark Movies 12.
Fast forward to 2022 and the three major remaining anchors at the Mall of the Mainland property, Sears, Palais Royal, and the Movies 12, have all closed. You might be thinking then that this update is chronicling the decay of a closed mall, but reality is quite the opposite! The mall has been rather successfully redeveloped into a very functional community/entertainment center.
In early 2015, the mall was sold to local real estate developer Jerome Karam. Since then, Karam has filled the majority of the mall space with new tenants. First Baptist Church of Texas City moved into the old Dillard’s, Altitude Trampoline Park moved into a spot on the eastern edge of the mall, the Odyssey Academy charter school moved into a spot on the western edge of the mall, the JCPenney was redeveloped into self-storage, the original Palais Royal was turned into a wresting studio for local wrestler Booker T, the food court bar was turned into Stuttgarden Tavern, and the Macy’s was turned into a large World Gym and a newer, fancier Palais Royal. After Sears and Palais Royal closed their Mall of the Mainland stores, the World Gym moved from the old Macy’s to a larger spot in the old Sears and the Palais Royal was turned into a cosmetology and continuing education center for the nearby College of the Mainland community college. These college centers were previously housed at the old Gulfway Plaza VF Outlet outdoor mall.
Perhaps the most ambitious part of Karam’s redevelopment plan was to turn a part of the old mall near the food court into a ‘Restaurant Row’ where several restaurants would be next to one another. In recent years, the Restaurant Row has filled up with several eateries such as Texas Pit Stop BBQ, Sweetfrog frozen yogurt, Brick & Spoon, and more.
The Cinemark Movies 12 closed at the end of 2021, but Karam plans to open a dine-in theater on the old Movies 12 property. This would be an ambitious redevelopment as the Movies 12 had long been a discount theater. Furthermore, Karam has built an outdoor festival grounds at the front of the mall with a large Texas-shaped fountain and a rotating stage.
Earlier this year, Karam announced that he was purchasing the old Gulf Greyhound Park racetrack in La Marque, which is located near the mall, with the intent of turning it into a Las Vegas-style concert venue. Unfortunately, just a few weeks after that announcement, news came out of sexual assault allegations against Jerome Karam which allegedly occurred on the Mainland City Centre property. It is unknown at this time what impact this could have on the redevelopments, but certainly this could hamper the future of these properties.
Nonetheless, the redevelopment of the Mall of the Mainland property has been rather stunning. When the mall closed in 2014, I expected the property to rot since there was always so little interest in the mall itself when it was open. Although the Mainland City Centre development is clearly relying on non-traditional retail development and on non-retail tenants, it’s amazing that almost the whole property has been successfully redeveloped into a functional center. Perhaps the owners of other struggling Houston area malls, West Oaks Mall, Macroplaza Mall, and Greenspoint Mall most notably, ought to study the Mainland City Centre to see if that redevelopment success can be replicated.
Do you have any thoughts or memories about the Mall of the Mainland/Mainland City Centre? If so, feel free to share them with us in the comments section below! We love to hear from our readers!
This development is an excellent example of why malls need a local developer to bring these spaces back to life. The Kohan’s and Namdar’s of the mall world either can’t or don’t care to see these projects through. So many malls could have been saved like this one was. Thank you guys for the update on this property and the link to my blog post.
You’re absolutely right that the Kohans of the world could learn a lot from Jerome Karam about redeveloping a mall and making malls sustainable for the future. Sadly, with Kohan now owning Almeda Mall, we might have to keep an eye on Almeda Mall to see if it is declining after another local developer, Fox Properties, put a lot of effort into freshening and keeping Almeda Mall viable through the 2010s when a lot of people were ready to write it off.
Your Mall of the Mainland posts were too good not to mention here! Really, you have a lot of great posts about the mall, but I picked the biggest, most comprehensive one to link. It really is a great post covering the history of the mall up to the time it closed initially.
This was an interesting space to visit. As someone who had never visited while the mall was open, the remaining interior definitely does not feel like a mall. The second set of doors, along with the seating and games from the beer halls diminish the feeling as soon as you walk in. However, once you look around for a minute, it’s unmistakable that it was one.
Yeah, the space that is still open certainly looked a lot more mall-like when it was an actual mall. The loss of the neon and late 1980s/early 1990s lighting makes this space look less spectacular now, but at least there is retail activity in the space now because it was really dead there in the last few years it was a mall. It was Macroplaza Mall level dead in there around the time the Mall of the Mainland closed the first time in 2014.
One odd thing about the old Mall of the Mainland is that even with it being as dead as it was, it was maintained quite well. I would often see the custodial staff (well, one person at least) working in the mall to keep it clean. Perhaps the hard work to maintain the mall has paid dividends here almost a decade later as the building is still in good enough shape to make for a good redevelopment. While West Oaks still looks like it is physically in good condition, Greenspoint Mall might be too decayed at this point for a feasible redevelopment using the existing structure. Of course, Greenspoint Mall is more than a decade older than the Mall of the Mainland so that doesn’t help either.