I decided to get the bulk of my steps for the day at Parkway Place, the other enclosed mall in Huntsville. As an ancillary interest, as I walked I considered whether I had another mall post in me.
You’re reading it, so I did. (And isn’t it funny how my interest in malls tends to correspond directly with my interest in regular exercise?)
I say without hesitation that Parkway Place is healthy. I counted eight vacancies, but four of them are watch battery/costume jewelry/cell phone case sorts of islands of 20 square feet or so. So, only four in the mall perimeter. None of those are together, and none of them are in the food court. (Apart from the sheer quantity, those two characteristics are the most damaging when I consider the ones at Madison Square.) Here’s a shot of the Parkway Place food court at lunch today:
You can eat at these three thoroughly mallish places at Parkway Place. You can’t at Madison Square (and oh wow, do I miss the Madison Square Chick-fil-A). (UPDATE: There is indeed still a functioning Sbarro at Madison Square.) Is it really still a mall if that’s the case?
The gold standard for mall failure in the Huntsville area—maybe in the Southeast—is The Mall, which used to be on the northwest corner of University Dr. and Memorial Parkway. Its extended decline was so fascinatingly and horribly splendid, you couldn’t look away. At one time, rather late in its death march, it contained—simultaneously—a pet store, a gay bar, classroom space for the local community college, a Books-a-Million, and a Toys R Us. (The latter two were located at the southern end and had their own entrances, so you didn’t have to use the mall to use those stores.) I think Books-a-Million is still there, though now adjacent to Home Depot and Costco. Toys R Us moved to Bridge Street a few years ago.
Understand it contained these things, and The Mall still functioned as a mall, when it was perhaps 80% empty. It was beyond bizarre to walk through the place late in its “life.” I’ve never had another experience remotely like it. Fortunately, an extensive look at The Mall is available on a favorite niche blog of mine. Check out this piece for a lot of great information (and memories, for those of you who remember it).
Madison Square has a long way to go before it’s as pathetic as The Mall was for its final decade-long Thorazine shuffle.
But today, as I type, it’s not ridiculous to consider the notion.
Particularly after walking through Parkway Place today, I don’t understand that at all. Parkway Place and Madison Square Mall have the same owner—CBL and Associates. Parkway City Mall (as which Parkway Place was formerly known), when it received its extensive renovation, looked about like Madison Square does today. CBL stepped up and found Parkway Place a path.
Where is such an effort for Madison Square? What’s happening to this mall feels like inflicted apathy. Come on, folks. Roll with it. Let’s find some viability for this property.