UNIVERSITY CENTER
Old Seward Highway and East 38th Avenue
Anchorage, Alaska

The second major Land of the Midnight Sun shopping hub, UNIVERSITY CENTER, was designed by Anchorage's Crittenden, Cassetta & Canon firm. The fully-enclosed complex was built by Anchorage-based Hickel Development. It occupied 32 acres, located 2 miles southeast of downtown Anchorage.

Plans for the mall were announced in July 1971, with construction, on a 147,000 square foot first phase, getting underway soon after. A (28,000 square foot) Safeway supermarket became the first operational store, on April 30, 1972. All twenty-six tenants were open for business by June of the same year.

The initial phase of UNIVERSITY CENTER was anchored by a 1-level (47,000 square foot), Seattle-based Pay 'n Save Drug / Ernst Hardware. Other charter tenants were Bering Sea Originals Gifts, Tape & Platter Music and Stallone's men's wear.

A second phase, added to the south end of the complex, was started in mid-1974. Its anchor, a 1-level (50,500 square foot), Bellevue, Washington-based Lamonts, held a grand opening April 28, 1975. New stores in the UNIVERSITY CENTER South Wing included Kinney Shoes and The Book Cache.

BONIFACE CENTER {2.9 miles northeast}, which was the city's third enclosed retail hub, held its grand opening in June 1976. In August 1977, DIMOND CENTER {2.7 miles south} was dedicated. May 1980 brought the completion of NORTHWAY MALL {2.5 miles northeast}. The most recent dedication was held in August 1987, when downtown's FIFTH AVENUE MALL opened its doors.

A third construction phase added 66,000 square feet to the south end of UNIVERSITY CENTER. This project was completed in 1985. New mall tenants included Round Table Pizza, The Chocolate Chippery, Hickory Farms of Ohio and the Mann's Festival Cinemas 6 multiplex.

The GLA of UNIVERSITY CENTER now measured 360,000 square feet. The late '80s brought the first anchor rebranding, when Pay 'n Save became a Los Angeles-based PayLess Drug.

With all of the shopping mall competition, it wasn't long before UNIVERSITY CENTER began to suffer. The oil pipeline boom of the 1970s, which was an impetus for the mall's development, went bust in the 1980s.  The mall's decline was exacerbated by new big box stores built in its vicinity in the 1990s. By 1998, UNIVERSITY CENTER was a dead property.

Lamonts was rebranded, by Fresno-based Gottschalks, in September 2000. Unfortunately, this new store failed to slow the decline of the mall. Gottschalks was shuttered in May 2001. By this time, PayLess Drug had been rebranded by Rite Aid. This store was short-lived. The UNIVERSITY CENTER Safeway closed April 29, 2000 and was replaced, by Natural Pantry Fresh Market, in June 2000.

UNIVERSITY CENTER was placed on the open market in October 2001. In December, a joint venture of Anchorage-based Furniture Enterprises Alaska and JL Properties acquired the retail hub.

In May 2002, a 92,000 square foot section (mostly comprised of the 1985 expansion) was sold to the University of Alaska Anchorage. They reconfigured the area into classrooms, administrative offices and a Student Services Center (which occupied the old cinema). This satellite campus was dedicated in January 2003.

At the same time, the retail area of the mall was refurbished, with a small warehouse addition built at the rear of the structure. The anchor boxes now housed a Sadler's Home Furnishings store and La-Z-Boy Furniture Gallery.

Other stores and services in the renewed -and retenanted- UNIVERSITY CENTER included Museum Source, Peppercini's Deli House, Seams Like Home Quilt Shop, Wind River Silks and La Bodega Wine & Spirits.

The Natural Pantry Fresh Market was shuttered in January 2014. The store relocated into a newly-built, freestanding structure, that was not a part of the shopping center.

Sources:

"Malled To Death" / Anchorage Press, 2000
"Local Companies Purchase University Center Mall" / Alaska Business Monthly, February 2002
http://www.universitycentermall.wordpress.com


FAIR USE OF UNIVERSITY CENTER IMAGES:

The graphics and photographs from The Anchorage Daily News, Anchorage Post and KTUU illustrate a key moment in the mall's history that is described in the article. The images are of lower resolution than the originals (copies made would be of inferior quality). The images are not replaceable with free-use or public-domain images. The use of the images does not limit the copyright owners' rights to distribute the images in any way. The images are being used for non-profit, informational purposes only and their use is not believed to detract from the original drawings and photograph in any way.