Howdy folks, and welcome back to Houston Historic Retail. Today we’re heading back to Almeda Mall, where I haven’t been in a few years. Long-time readers of the blog may remember that HHR’s first “big success” was the Chron republishing some of my photos of Northwest Mall after it had closed. On the advice of readers and my own curiosity, I quickly ventured to Almeda Mall afterward. While I knew the malls were identical twins, this was my first visit to Almeda. Checking out the mall, I was shocked at how similar they were. I knew that Almeda had a reputation as being the better-kept mall, but my first visit showed me how similar the malls still were. When Almeda and Northwest opened, they had a nearly identical tenant layout, only differing in a few small shops. While I knew that some of the anchors had survived, my 2018 visit was astonishing as it showed that the evolution of the malls had continued into modern times. Almeda was undoubtedly nicer, but it was like walking into a carbon copy of Northwest Mall. Which, while great for nostalgia, was not as kind to the future of the mall. Even in 2018, many predicted that Almeda Mall would be the next to fall. The fear of failure was nothing new for the mall, though, as many had feared it was too close to Gulfgate and Baybrook Malls. However, Almeda has managed to hold its ground for years. However, as of late, it seems that the mall’s future may be shifting in an unsustainable direction. In 2020 the mall was foreclosed upon, being purchased at auction by Kohan Retail Investment Group. A company that sells itself on its ability to “turn around” failing malls. However, in retail circles are more known for failing to pay taxes and utility bills on time, slowly driving tenants out.
Almeda Mall has had a good tenancy rate for most of its life, with few to no vacancies. However, the future is a bit uncertain for the shopping center. The first major anchor to depart the mall was JC Penney back in 2006. Then in 2008, Macy’s opted to temporarily close their location due to damage from Hurricane Ike. At that point, speculation began that Macy’s may never reopen. However, with Burlington Coat Factory taking about half of Penney’s space, Macy’s made the decision to remodel and reopen the first floor of the former Foley’s. Over the past 10 or so years, Almeda has easily hung on. With the 2018 closure of Northwest Mall, some of the smaller shops were able to relocate here, bringing the tenancy rates to nearly full. However, the past few years have not been as nice, with junior anchor Palais Royal closing their store in 2020 as part of bankruptcy proceedings. The space was picked up recently by off-price retailer 365 but represents an issue with the mall’s falling relevance. The next planned exit is Burlington, which is taking over a much smaller space in a former Woolco across the street from the mall. While the transition has yet to happen, it does not appear that anyone is stepping up for the former Burlington space. Almeda Mall is a bit of a treasure, a tiny homegrown leftover that you would usually have to travel to a small town to see. If you’re in the area, I’d highly recommend you take a look while you still have the chance.
My mother used to take me to Almeda Mall for Santa photos when I was a little boy in the early 1970s. Glad to see the tradition survives 50 years on. They also used to set up a “winter wonderland” with a little train running around it in the central court. For a young boy it was truly magical. There are some photos of it at this link: http://southbelthouston.blogspot.com/2014/11/christmas-at-almeda-mall-1976.html
There aren’t too many malls which can say all their anchor spots are filled with retailers. Even Baybrook, Deerbrook, and Willowbrook Malls can’t say that. Even if Burlington is, well, Burlington, and even if Burlington only used half of the old JCPenney space, at least Almeda Mall could say they had a retailer in both anchor pads. After Burlington moves, however, they won’t be able to say that. I think it’ll be difficult to fill that anchor space, but hopefully Kohan will be able to do so.
Of course, with Kohan being Kohan, the more likely result will be that Kohan falls behind on their taxes and the property will become foreclosed upon like what has happened to them elsewhere in the country. Kohan is essentially a bad word to those who follow malls. That said, Almeda Mall looks to be in good condition from the photos so at least it is still an interesting place to shop and a nice alternative to the crowded Baybrook Mall and the useless Pasadena Town Square.
It should be noted that the Pancho’s Mexican Buffet near Almeda Mall closed this summer. Some new Mexican restaurant has opened up in the mall though.