Jun 092013

Tough to say exactly what’s going to happen to Madison Square Mall, but it’s not so hard to guess it probably won’t be good.

I worked in the mall, off and on, until the summer of 1993 at Computers & More, a satellite store of Madison Books & Computers.  Walking north (more or less) out of the food court toward the mall interior, if you kept going straight you’d walk right in the store.  That’s where it was.

The mall was vibrant then.  Vacancies were rare, and when they occurred they didn’t last long.  There were several good places to eat (inside the mall, without heading to the perimeter).  About December 15 every year, a small orchestra set up in the central atrium and played Christmas songs every night.  It felt like a destination—something worth leaving the house for all by itself.

Doesn’t feel like that now.  I can’t tell that it’s gotten much worse since the last time I wrote about it, but it’s definitely not any better.  I’m occasionally on the property, generally after having eaten with Melanie at Lone Star.  When I drive around the south side to leave via Sanderson Road, the acres of empty parking feel positively mocking.  I marveled the other day at the fact that there’s a parking lot actually outside the mall’s perimeter road, and wondered when it was last necessary.

Yet for its current ailing, it’s nowhere near the decade-long thorazine shuffle The Mall did before it finally expired.  Madison Square is definitely not healthy, but neither is it so far gone that you can’t even imagine a recovery of some kind for it.  There are pockets of successful retail immediately around it.  It’s not far to Research Park.

Ah, it’s not far to Research Park indeed.

Check out what I noticed on Google Maps not long ago:

malldiscIt’s barely a football field from the easternmost part of Discovery Drive to Madison Square Mall property.  It’s only that far again to the mall proper.

What if a developer took an interest in making Madison Square Mall a walkable destination, with a covered foot bridge over Research Park Boulevard?

Think about it.  Research Park is directly adjacent to hundreds of stores and restaurants, but how many of them are truly pedestrian-friendly?  How much more attractive would/could the Madison Square Mall food court be were it part of a newly imagined indoor-outdoor space, literally only a ten-minute walk from your office?  It wouldn’t be cheap, but neither would it be particularly expensive, considering the scope of the potential transformation.

(We can work on the monorail between Gate 9, Bridge Street, Madison Square, and the U.S. Space and Rocket Center later.)  For now, let’s just get this done.

What say you, restless developer with a few million burning a hole in your pocket?

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 Posted by at 6:14 pm

  9 Responses to “An idea for saving Madison Square Mall”

  1. I owned the Subway for a bit. The problem was not the mall but the bulling security. They enforced it like it was a prison. The mall management also was not willing to do anything. So High rent and low traffic equals dead mall.

    You can ask on how many stories about how under 17 year old students and patrons of the mall were kicked out.

    • Have to agree with you there. I worked in that mall off and on from 93 to 96 and the security was pretty insane. I recall mixed-race couples being divided by racist mall security under the guise of “avoiding having fights break out.”

  2. Yeah, I’ve heard the safety thing from a number of folks—both that there is a security problem and that it isn’t productively addressed. I get that it can’t be a madhouse and that the mall can’t be a babysitter, but indiscriminately tossing the kids isn’t good either, because they’re really one of the only demographics that reliably spends money at the mall.

    I hope someone takes an interest in making it a destination again. I remember very well it being a neat place.

  3. That’s a really good idea, and might very well catch on. I had thought we should turn it into a nerd’s paradise, and use the huge, open spaces for war-games, comics, D&D and all things geek. Your idea would generate a lot more revenue, though.

    I love the Dead Malls website … there’s something oddly fascinating about those places!

  4. Thanks, Keith. I like it too. Maybe someone with a few bucks will read it and like it!

  5. Build a new Movie Theater, add a Dave & Busters, add a Cheesecake Factory, Maggiano’s Little Italy, add Vegetarian Resturants, Macy’s Stores, Microsoft, Nordstrom, IKEA North America, Coach, Huntsville Aquarium, Trampoline Arena/Jump Center, Bush Gardens, Game Time…

    I have plenty of ideas! Please contact me so we can boast out of city/state tourist which will increase our economy and provide more jobs in our beautiful city. We can offer far more attractions and make Huntsville, AL the Melting Pot of North Alabama.

    Thank you

    • Love to see Dave & Buster’s, Microsoft, IKEA…lots of good ideas there. I would encourage you to contact CBL & Associates, who own the mall, and explore potential relationships.

      It remains a fantastic location. It seems clear to me its future is largely retail.

  6. The idea that my hubby and I have tossed around is taking one of the huge stores and turning it into an indoor skateboard rink. Heck, you could turn that whole mall into different entertainment zones. Indoor skateboard rink, indoor skating rink (ice or otherwise), it’s still got the arcade, and I think it has an indoor putt putt still. Add more food vendors, some bars, and figure out a way to move the movie theatre so that it’s attached and you could have a playground for kids and adults. I can image spaces with huge rock walls for climbing, a fitness center, all kinds of things.

    I do like your idea of finding a way to bridge it over to Research. I’m with you I have a lot of nostalgia attached to that mall. Between 93-96 I helped open The Shoe Dept, The Nascar store, & Suncoast, and also worked at Boot Country.

    • I just hope the “answer” isn’t raze it and start over. Selective reimaginings? Sure.

      I continue to think that making it walkable from Research Park would be a master stroke.

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