Saturday, September 12, 2009

Westwood Mall: Southwest Corporate Center

Welcome to the Southwest Corporate Center formerly known as Westwood Mall.



Anchored by Sears, a small movie theatre, and Dillards; this two story mall did not last very long. It opened in the mid 1970's and closed at the end of the 1990's. The mall was built two freeway exits southwest of the Sharpstown Center to cater to the growing population of the area. The mall was renovated once in the late 1980's also. Foley's at one point was in talks to move their Sharpstown location to Westwood in the mid 1990's, but that never panned out. The mall began to rapidly decline when the First Colony Mall in Sugarland opened in the mid 1990's. A shooting at the Wyatt's cafeteria in 1993 did not help the image of the mall and may have been another contributing factor to the declining sales at the mall. The death knell for the mall was the closure of Dillard's in 1997. The few remaining mall tenants were given the option to leave and break their leases. Sears was left as the lone anchor tenant while the rest of the property was redeveloped. I never went to the mall when it was open and there is not much information available online about the mall history; the Houston Chronicle archives helped to create this article. Today the mall has been turned into offices called the Southwest Corporate Center with Sears still attached and open for business. The entire mall including the Dillard's was gutted out and remodeled to this design. The new development has had three names since being re-positioned as an office complex. The center went from Westwood Technology Center, to Southwest Technology Center, and now Southwest Corporate Center. This has been a great example of mall re-use but this model will not work everywhere. If anyone of my readers has any other information please let me know.




Sears is the only retail outlet available at the former mall. Sears owns its own building and opened before the mall did. Maybe the Sears would consider relocating to the Sharpstown Mall if they did not own that site.



This was the former Dillard's at the mall. This is as close as I could get without a parking pass.



Here are a few shots of the mall. The pictures are not easy to get since most of the former mall complex has been fenced off for private parking.





From this next view it looks as if this part of the mall had a second floor entrance; Dillard's might have had a second floor entrance as well. Once again; this site is very hard to get pictures of due to the gates around most of the complex.

17 comments:

  1. This was the mall closest to me when I was growing up. I used to relish every chance I got to go there, because my mom didn't believe in letting me go to the mall to hang out with my friends, deeming it a colossal waste of time (according to her, I could have been studying... well, duh, but all work and no play...).

    Anyway, Westwood Mall was the first time I actually got to go with friends to the mall without parental supervision. I was about 13, and after some rudimentary shopping (we bought stickers at It's A Small World), we went to see "Kiss Me Goodbye" at the movie theatre. We were supposed to meet up with my parents about an hour after the movie ended, but we all got our signals crossed, and after spending an extra hour roaming the mall searching for my folks, we finally met up with them, and though my mom was relieved that I was okay, she blamed the mix-up on my best friend and swore that I was NEVER going to the mall unsupervised ever again. Gosh, we sure could have used cell phones and texting back then...

    Fast forward to 1992... I was working for a doctor whose office was near Westwood Mall, and during my lunch breaks, I would go there and eat my lunch and maybe play a game or two of pinball at Tilt by the food court. My game sessions at Tilt soon led to another major event in my life, but that's another story.

    Suffice it to say that some of the more interesting moments of my life happened at or because of Westwood Mall, and when I saw in 2001 that it had been turned into the Westwood Technology Center (now the SWCC), I was pretty bummed out.

    RIP Westwood Mall.

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  2. I worked security at Westwood Mall but had moved out of state prior to the 1993 shooting. During the time I was there the mall was managed by Marathon Realties. I do not recall any period of time when the mall was not financially struggling. I believe they charged the merchant stores approximately $9 per square foot to lease space in the mall and their limited marketing budget never seemed to get a large enough flow of customers into the mall to offset the overhead costs. Crime was never outrageously bad, but it was continuous...shopliftings...buglarized vehicles...an occasional assault. Of course there were exceptions: One night during a midnight shift, someone backed a truck through the glass doors at Sears, grabbed all the electronics they could get their hands on, and then got away within 4 minutes. On another occasion a shoplifter (female) was captured by security, taken to the security office, and then escaped...only to be found an hour later hiding on the mall roof. Upon being recaptured she ripped her own shirt off and screamed that security was trying to rape her...in retrospect...not a bad strategy...the onlooking mall patrons were giving security some skeptical looks.

    Despite the ongoing low level battle with crime, Westwood Mall was a place that many people enjoyed. Mall walkers often came there on Sunday mornings to take a few laps and get exercise in a pleasant and rain free environment. It was a nice place to work and will be remembered fondly.

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  3. I used to go to this mall in the early 80's. I remember in 83' going to a store there frequently called the 'Game Player' and buying D&D relelated stuff. Also playing Pac-man and Defender and other arcade games at the Gold Mine arcade at this mall. I moved from the Houston area in 1985, but I remember fondly this mall from my youth.

    I saw the mall after the remoldeling in the early 90's. I was there in early '93 and thought it had been buthchered. But it was still a mall not the tech center or whatever they call it now.

    I still remember, fondly, the original mall from the early '80s.

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  4. I used to go to this mall all the time in the early 80's. I lived in Southwest Houston from 1980-1985.

    In vino veritas Westwood Mall.

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    1. Stay tuned John, I have a new update coming in the next few months with photos of how the mall looks like on the inside today. The center court of the mall still looks very much like a mall, but it is bland in comparison of the photo that I saw of the mall in the 1990's.

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  5. I grew up in Sugar Land and began going there in the late 70's. Fond memories of childhood. I have tried to find photos of the mall in its prime (even when it was a mall) and have had no luck whatsoever. Are there any photos out there?

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  6. I grew up in Sugar Land and began going to Westwood Mall in the late 70's, fond memories of childhood. I have tried to find photographs of the mall, in its prime or even when it was a mall, and have had no luck. Has anyone seen any photos anywhere?

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    1. There is only one online that a reader sent to me, it is an awesome one but it does not show too much of the former mall.
      http://www.neoteklighting.com/images/mall_westwood1.jpg

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  7. It sucks what happened to this mall. There are malls in my AO that are older yet still viable. AO means area of operation or where I live.

    God speed Westwood mall, I loved you in my youth.

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    1. I have a more recent update that will be posted sometime later this year with interior photos of the mall as it is now. The mall still has corridors and the center court is wide open similar to the few photos I have seen of the mall.

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  8. I always liked Westwood a lot. Between it and Sharpstown Mall (and that tiny mall a few exits up from Westwood), this was the mall I preferred. It was less crowded, had decent stores and the multilevel interior staircase design of the main entrance area was quite unique. It had a bunch of criss-crossing stairways that led up to the various levels with a glass elevator anchoring it all together in the middle.

    On the bottom floor, in kind of a cave, was the theater. Not intending to date myself too badly, I saw Buckaroo Banzai there. The theaters were decent enough, but the screens were a little small. I used to also go there to play pinball at Tilt and buy laser discs at an electronics store that I can't recall the name. The interior of Tilt also felt like a cave.

    The person I worked for (a leasee jewelry maker at Astroworld.. also now defunct) opened a kiosk one December (possibly 87 or 88) to sell Jewelry in Astroworld's off season. I helped her work that jewelry kiosk throughout the holiday season. We did well enough, but not great due to the slower amount of foot traffic. Even as poorly as the finances may have been for that mall, of all of the interior designs for a mall, it was the absolute best for its size. Though, the Galleria was nice enough and the ice rink at the bottom was unique, Westwood still had the best interior design and was small enough not to feel like the Galleria. Unlike Sharpstown, which was pretty much a long corridor with shops, the multi level staircase design in the center of Westwood kept the mall feeling less like a mall.

    I also remember a Hastings on the second floor where I would occasionally shop for records. But, the prices at this store were far higher than I could get at stores like Sound Warehouse (also defunct). Though it was a longer drive to get to Westwood, I preferred shopping there over shopping at Sharpstown Mall.

    What brought me to this site is that I was searching for interior shots of Westwood during the 80s. I was hoping to find some on Google images, but nothing so far.

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    1. Here are a couple of links to Westwood back in either the 80's or 90's. http://www.neoteklighting.com/clients_malls.html
      http://www.neoteklighting.com/images/mall_westwood1.jpg

      There were also a couple of photos from I believe at the old KTRK news story archive around the time that the mall was going to close that had a picture of the center court and part of a hallway, but I have not been able to locate it again.
      I never went to the mall when it was open and I regret it but it was not a priority and I did not live in Houston at the time it shut down.

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  9. Since you're moderating comments, you don't need to publish this one in relation to Westwood Mall and please delete the duplicate that you may have received from my previous. I'm posting this here only because I don't know how else to get in touch with you.

    As an FYI, you might look into adding Fame City to the list of 'older' malls for Houston. It has since been renamed 'Funplex'. While it wasn't exactly a retail shopping mall, it was nonetheless a mall. Instead, it was an entertainment mall experience. The interior had, instead of shopping, entertainment, amusements and attractions. For example, it had a black light version of goony golf, a bowling alley, go carts, kiddy rides, a food court, some souvenir and merchandise stores, several arcades and a few other attractions.

    The exterior looked more like an office building than an amusement park, but it also had a somewhat Vegas look also. It was fun to visit when it was Fame City. The Fame City owners later opened a water park that had some problems and was shut down, then torn down. They never could keep the pools properly maintained. The building remained named as Fame City until the new management named it Funplex (http://houstonfunplex.com/). Funplex is still operating today, you can read the reviews of it on Yelp.

    Thanks.

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    1. I appreciate the information about Fun Plex/ Fame City. I can see what I can dig up from the Houston library Chronicle archives. I found information on several malls in Houston that were never built and the Plaza Del Sol. I will keep you posted.

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  10. I enjoyed reading your memories about Westwood Mall and Sharpstown Mall, Brian. I did not visit those two malls often as I didn’t and still don’t visit the SW side all that frequently, but I did visit both malls back when they were still popular places. I don’t have a ton of memories about either place, but I would agree that Westwood was the more unique looking mall though based on what I remember. I liked that Sharpstown had Montgomery Ward, but Sears is a good option too. At least the Westwood Sears still exists. I believe that Sears predated the mall itself too.

    I also visited Fame City back in their glory days. It was a pretty big deal in Houston in the 1980s. I believe that I have written a little bit about it before as a comment on one of the posts on this blog. I may have some old photos of the place, but I don’t know. I did find this 1987 video clip of a KPRC-TV news story about a Tiffany concert (ha!) at Fame City with some clips of the place that brings back memories. It's funny how the parent called it a safe place for kids as that perception changed somewhat just a few years later (perhaps unfairly). Fame City did look kind of mall-like as far as I can remember. It has been Funplex now for at least 20 years now. It’s still around, but it certainly does not have near the amount of “fame” that it used to. Fame City also opened a small location at Memorial City Mall in the late 1980s, but that did not last long at all.

    I definitely also enjoyed reading about your memories of Sound Warehouse and Hastings from back in the day. I have great memories of looking at videos (VHS/Beta and LaserDisc) and music at Sound Warehouse. I actually recently came across a sealed Billy Joel cassette with a Sound Warehouse price tag on it at a thrift store. I didn’t buy it, but I did consider buying it just because of the Sound Warehouse price tag.

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  11. according to the Houston post archives, Dillard's and sears started off without a second floor mall entrance then later one was added. Also according to a Dillard's article, the Westwood store was fully remolded to look like the post oak location with marble and wood trimmings. This store was the model store they were showing off how the other former joske stores would look like.

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    1. Thanks for the extra information, where are the Houston Post archives located online? I am sure that I could find some great information to add to my posts past, present, and future.

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