Northwest Mall opened on October 24th, 1968 in Houston, Texas. Included in the opening day festivities were a county judge, the mayor, President of Palais Royal, and Chairman of the Board of Foley’s. If you think that’s already an eclectic mix, I forgot to mention there was also a Presbyterian Priest who preformed an invocation, and the John H. Reagan Senior High School Band.
This grand opening scene may have been somewhat familiar to a few in attendance, as the entire show was essentially a repeat of the grand opening ceremony for Almeda Mall which took place on October 10th, 1968. Northwest and Almeda Malls were considered pioneering at the time of their construction. The malls were designed at the same time, using the essentially identical plans. The interiors were constructed using the latest design techniques. It was definitely a step-up from the boring straight line malls of the late 50s.
The modern design, was marked with a wide variety of stores. From full line department stores to five and dimes, the mall appealed to many different consumers. The mall experienced its best years throughout the 70s and early 80s. Northwest and Almeda were never destination malls, meaning that people didn’t tend to drive from elsewhere to visit them. However, they filled an important role as regional malls serving both the Northwest and Almeda areas.
Throughout the 1990s Northwest Mall began to lose tenants. For the most part this was due to a decrease in the value of the area surrounding Northwest Mall. What had once been the suburban edge of down, quickly became increasingly urban and further from the edge of Houston. Spaces were eventually leased again, but the damage was done. Chains began to leave the mall, being replaced by less stable independent stores. This began the slow demise of Northwest Mall. The leasing issues aside, the 2000s brought a bevy of new issues to Northwest Mall. Freeway construction at the I-10 and 610 interchange meant that many shoppers who had come from South of the mall now faced major difficulties in getting where they were going. This decrease in traffic, combined with lowering property values led JC Penney to close their store in 2000. Macy’s would follow suit in 2008, although they blamed it on Hurricane Ike.
As the anchor stores dropped, leaving only the smaller Palais Royal at Northwest Mall, the final remaining chain stores began to flee Northwest Mall. In its final years Northwest Mall was notorious for its high vacancy rate, high number of independent stores, and lack of shoppers. This really did become an example of a dead mall. An antique center moved into the JC Penney Shop after 10 years of vacancy. This did bring a small amount of foot traffic back into the mall, and helped to keep Palais Royal operational. Despite this, in 2017 Levcor decided to close the interior of the mall. At the time Levcor claimed it was to remodel the mall, some demolition and construction did take place. Unfortunately the project seemed to be abandoned by the end of 2017.
Northwest Mall has sat shuttered and vacant since then. Waiting for its next mission, which at this point may be as a high speed rail station. If you would like to see more recent photos of the mall check them out at the link below.