Wednesday, March 23, 2016

Almeda and Northwest, the Houston twin malls photographed from 2013-2016

Almeda and Northwest Malls are nearly identical and both opened in 1968. Foley's built and opened anchors at each mall roughly two years before the malls opened. Both malls also opened with JCPenney as a main anchor and Palais Royal as a junior anchor. At the time both malls were in the outer development areas of the city. Both of the malls continue to share many similarities despite renovations at different times. Almeda looked older until the 2014 renovation and still had a 1980's look, while Northwest was last renovated in the late 90's. The food courts at both malls were identical until the recent Almeda renovation. While both malls are currently still operating, the futures of these properties are very different. This article will continue to be updated more news about either mall develops. Here is an article that has more on the history of these twin malls. 

Almeda Mall is doing very well. The mall began a major renovation at the end of 2014 and has new floors, paint, and a modern look. The mall lost JCPenney in 2006, but Burlington opened in 2008 to fill most of the vacant first floor space. Macy's closed after being heavily damaged by Hurricane Ike, and reopened about a year later in a renovated one story store. Most of the store spaces are full and Almeda continues to do well despite many abandoned nearby big box stores.  

The photos were taken on a series of trips between 2013-2016. Some photos may be repetitive.
Mid 2013 images from the old dying camera.
Now for some interior views. We start with the former JCPenney now Burlington Coat Factory.
Some views of the sides of the former JCPenney that Burlington did not renovate.
The front of the former JCPenney that Burlington renovated.
Ross closed, but DD's fashions is moving in.
Macy's looks much brighter on the outside since the renovation. Macy's was closed for about a year after Hurricane Ike damaged the building. During the renovation the store was gutted, roof replaced, and the first level reopened. The first level was completely remodeled with the latest Macy's design with new floors, paint, and signage. 
The new road sign for the mall off of I-45.
Late 2013 images.
The Toyz store was a former Steve and Barry's, as of 2016 the space is now a large clothing store.
This circle of lights and similar lighting was removed in the 2014 renovation.
The lighting fixtures like the circle in this picture were removed during the 2014 renovation.
The photos were taken near closing time which explains the emptiness.
Looking at the Macy's entrance, you can see how Northwest looked before the Macy's closed.
The DD's after opening.
Picadilly left in 2014. This was the final Houston location, several Picadilly Cafeterias were in Houston area malls at one time. The vintage signs have been pulled down and the mall entrance walled off.

The following images were taken in early 2014.

On this visit the cafeteria had closed early. The cafeteria kept different hours than the mall for some reason.
The food court, notice the similarities with the Northwest food court below. All of the decorative lighting around the skylights and ceilings was removed during the 2014 renovation.
The center court looking into Palais Royal. The trees in the center court make it difficult to photograph the entrance to this store.
The entire central court was cleared out during the renovation.
This restaurant was formerly a Taco Bell/KFC. As you can see the signage was slightly modified.
Another close-up shot of Picadilly.
The entrances were remodeled in 2012, and they are being remodeled again in 2016.
March 2016 after the remodel, as you can see the mall looks completely different. New floors, LED lighting, and brighter colors with new couches to relax on. The outside entrances are also being remodeled, but they were not yet complete on my visit.

Now we move onto Northwest Mall. Northwest has continued to operate despite losing both traditional anchors. An antique store, medical school, and Palais Royal are the largest businesses currently operating here. The property was recently sold as a redevelopment opportunity. The occupancy at Northwest is much lower at an estimated 50%. Northwest will probably become another office/town home development in the near future. Northwest is stuck between declining areas of Houston and areas beginning to see new activity. Northwest also received a renovation in the late 1990's which upgraded the floors and look of the mall. The I-610 Southbound exit to the mall is now closed off so the mall is more difficult to get to.

Photos from mid 2013 with the old terrible camera.
The entrances to Palais Royal are different at both malls despite being in the same location at each mall.
The Macy's sign was taken down shortly after these images were taken.
Was this a cafeteria next to the Tilt?
Many of the businesses at Northwest keep odd hours. Some close very early and others keep the same hours as the mall. 
Footaction is in the same space in Northwest as they are in Almeda Mall.
The former JCPenney now operating as an Antique Mall.
Taken shortly before the Macy's signage was removed. Macy's did not reopen after this store was damaged from Hurricane Ike. Almeda and Deerbrook were damaged as well, but reopened after extensive renovations.
The college still currently operating at the mall.
Photos taken in early 2015.
The Antique Mall closes much earlier than the mall.
Notice the similarities of the Macy's side at Almeda to Northwest.
As you can see the food court is nearly identical to the Almeda food court.
A cool retro sign.
More photos from early 2015.
A better image of the Tilt.
Shots from the former Macy's section of the mall. 
As you can see the Macy's signs have been removed from the mall entrance.
This was a short-lived Chik-Fil-A. After this store closed a weekday lunch limited menu Chik-Fil-A opened across the food court, but did not last long.
For some reason this hallway did not get the new flooring that the rest of the mall received in the last renovation.
If you look past the empty kiosks you will see working payphones, so you know where to go if you get paged. Our children will never know the struggle.
As of early 2016 Northwest is still operating and recently lost the GNC store. A few small businesses have opened to replace recently lost chain stores. The food court still has several options and chains like Foot Locker, Champs, Footaction, Image, L'Patricia, and Palais Royal are still here.


  1. This is an excellent blog post, thanks for putting it together. These are both malls that I’ve visited many, many times over the decades. As far as I know, Almeda and Northwest Malls are the only two “twin malls” that operate within a single city. It’s interesting to see how they remain similar in some ways but have changed separately in other ways over the years. I know Wikipedia says that Almeda opened in 1966, but I don’t believe that is accurate. I believe both malls opened in 1968 with Almeda opening a few days before NW. This link seems to confirm the 1968 date. In both cases the Foley’s/Macy’s may have opened in 1966.

    It seemed in the mid-2000s that both malls were poised to become struggling malls, but Almeda Mall has really turned itself around even with the losses of the JCPenney anchor and some of the surrounding big box retail like Target, Best Buy, and Circuit City (even the public library in the parking lot moved at that time). The mall has mostly B and C tier chains, but the leasing rate is good and there’s always a lot of shoppers at the mall. I’ve been keeping tabs on the recent renovations, but the bird looking things hanging from the ceiling are something new that I have not seen before. I have not been to either mall since December.

    NW Mall, OTOH, has struggled as expected. The mall was basically anchorless even before the 290 construction, but the 290 construction has really hurt it. That said, the mall has some how survived even without a traditional anchor and without many chain stores (even C tier chains). The mall has survived with some deep discount type stores like the dollar store, the discount women’s shoe store, and the low price men’s barbershop. There’s also non-retail operations at the mall like the NWX model train club and the Southern Apache museum. The food court has probably done better than the rest of the mall due to the presence of the nursing college at the mall and the nearby HISD headquarters. The food court has mostly privately owned food vendors, like Almeda, but the prices are more reasonable at NW Mall and the food is pretty good. Hopefully NW Mall will survive as a mall after the 290 construction is done and the owners will keep the place as an indoor mall.

    One of the things that’s interesting about NW Mall is that shopping centers were never built around it like is the case with almost every other mall. Perhaps it was never a great retail location, but it did well for many years. Almeda did have big box stores around it as mentioned earlier, but the shopping centers directly around the mall have lost their retailers. I think the Wal-Mart that was built near the mall in the mid 2000s helped draw shoppers back to the area. One famous store near the mall was the Best Products store built with a crumbling facade. That building is still there as a warehouse, but the fancy facade was removed in the mid-2000s.

    One thing that is more vintage at Almeda than NW are the Visible Changes salons near the ex-JCPenneys. The NW one has a 1990s look, but the Almeda one still has a 1980s look unless it’s been renovated very recently. It’s an interesting thing to look at. Of course, NW Mall still has the fountains in that area of the mall whereas Almeda had them removed a long time back.

    I don’t know why NW Mall kept the retro hallway when they renovated the mall in the 1990s, but I’m glad that they did especially now that Almeda has been renovated. It’s a nice throwback especially with the payphones. Neither mall looks really retro now, but there’s some throwback features that are visible especially at NW Mall now. The South Belt Archive blog has some excellent vintage photos of Almeda Mall. NW Mall would have looked almost identical back then.

    1. I have found an additional article that supports the 1968 opening date, so I will change it. The South Belt Archive also has an article dated 1967 that refers to the Foley's being surrounded by the mall by next year. It looks like the Northwest Mall website has finally been updated. They list less than 40 stores and services in the directory. It is hard to tell which stores are still open these days since many keep strange hours. Both malls kept the same retro hallway intact until the recent Almeda remodel.

      I am not sure when Almeda removed the fountain that NW still has but I know it was gone well before JCPenney closed. You are also right about the fortunes of both malls, Almeda looked like it was going to start falling apart with the loss of JCPenney, Steve and Barry's and Ross all around the same time. Then the Macy's was closed for about a year after Hurricane Ike damaged the building.

      I will reply to the remaining comments later. Thanks again for reading the blog and helping me keep the posts as accurate as possible.

    2. Northwest Mall updates their website more frequently than Almeda Mall. I think the mall directory on the NW Mall website is up-to-date as far as I can tell. The Bundt Cake-a-Holic store is a new addition. I have not seen that store before. I went to their website. It looks like a local business. They also have different hours than the mall itself, but like you say, they’re hardly alone in that regard.

      I’m not sure when Almeda Mall removed the fountains. My guess would be that they were removed in the late 1990s or very early 2000s, but that’s just a guess. It is nice that Northwest Mall continues to operate the fountains though (at least I assume that they do, the new owners may have shut them down).

      It should also be stated that The Rouse Company built both malls and operated them until they were sold to Glimcher and company in 1997. They certainly did have a pretty long run under one owner. Glimcher sold both malls around 2007 to Fox Properties (Almeda) and Levcor (NW). I’m not sure if the name of the company that brought NW Mall last year was ever made public, but I guess there may be government documents somewhere with the owner’s name.

    3. The Bundt cake store is at the edge of the food court next to Thirsty's. It has been open on both of my visits to the mall.

      The fountain in front of the antique store is still in service at Northwest.

      The Rouse Company must have unloaded the malls once they feared that the properties were in decline. Almeda benefited from the closing of Gulfgate and Northwest may have benefited from the closing of Northline, but those gains were short lived.