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!