OAKWOOD CENTER
West Bank Expressway / US 90 and Terry Parkway
Jefferson Parish (Terrytown), Louisiana

The second shopping mall in -or around- "The Big Easy" was designed by New Orleans-based Curtis & Davis Architects & Engineers. OAKWOOD CENTER was built on a 68.5 acre tract, located 4 miles southeast of central New Orleans. The site, on the West Bank of the Mississippi, was in an unincorporated section of Jefferson Parish known as Terrytown.

The single-level, fully-enclosed complex encompassed approximately 691,600 leasable square feet. Its first operational store, a 2-level (189,600 square foot) Sears, opened for business April 13, 1966. The second anchor, a 3-level (143,000 square foot), New Orleans-based D.H. Holmes, was dedicated August 1, 1966. By October of the same year, twenty-five stores were in operation.

Charter OAKWOOD CENTER tenants included Allens Shoes, Goldring's, Katz & Besthoff (K & B) Drug, Gus Mayer, Steins, McKenzie Pastry Shoppe, a Winn-Dixie supermarket and (26,000 square foot) S.H. Kress 5 & 10.

The General Cinema Corporation Oakwood Cinema I & II showed its first features on August 4, 1967. Built in the southeastern periphery of the mall, it opened in conjunction with an identical theater at LAKESIDE CENTER.

Major shopping venues in the vicinity of OAKWOOD included the aforementioned LAKESIDE CENTER (1960) {8.9 miles northwest, in Jefferson Parish / Metairie} and CLEARVIEW MALL (1969) {10.1 miles northwest, also in Jefferson Parish / Metairie}. A second shopping hub on the West Bank, BELLE PROMENADE MALL {4.2 miles southwest, in Jefferson Parish / Marrero} was dedicated in 1983.

By this time, the Terrytown shopping facility was officially being promoted as OAKWOOD MALL. Maryland's James Rouse Company acquired the complex in August 1982. They performed a 1 million dollar interior face lift in the following year. It appears likely that the mall's S.H. Kress variety store closed around this time. Its space was reconfigured as a Food Court, which was in operation by 1984.

The first physical addition to OAKWOOD MALL, a 2-level (82,000 square foot) Mervyn's, welcomed its first shoppers on November 28, 1986. An official name change, from OAKWOOD MALL back to OAKWOOD CENTER, was adopted in August 1991.

Meanwhile, the D.H. Holmes store had been rebranded by Dillard's in May 1989. A major mall renovation and expansion was being plotted that would extend the existing East and South Wings. This project would be completed in two stages and enlarge the shopping facility from 793,000 square feet to over 1 million.

The first phase, consisting of a 2-level (175,000 square foot) Dillard's, was dedicated on October 9, 1991. The vacant Holmes / Dillard's building was sectioned into several inline stores. The Lower Level accommodated American Eagle Outfitters, Express, Kirkland's and Sam Goody Music. A (35,000 square foot) Marshalls set up shop in the Upper Level.

The second phase (South Wing) mall expansion was delayed by litigation between The Rouse Company and D.H. Holmes. Rouse wanted to add a Baton Rouge-based Maison Blanche department store to the mall; an action bitterly contested by the Holmes parent company. The impasse was eventually worked out...probably due to the Holmes enterprise being sold to Arkansas' Dillard's chain.

Ground was broken for the second stage addition in March 1993. A 2-level (157,000 square foot) Maison Blanche, and twenty-five new inline stores, were dedicated on March 10, 1994. With the 1998 acquisition of Mercantile Stores by Dillard's, the Maison Blanche at OAKWOOD CENTER was shuttered. It re-opened, as a J.C. Penney, on February 18, 1999.

Chicago's General Growth Properties absorbed the holdings of The Rouse Company in November 2004. As a result, the shopping hub was added to the GGP portfolio. Housing one hundred twenty-four stores and services, OAKWOOD CENTER had become one of the most upscale shopping venues in the Crescent City.

Unfortunately, the shopping center was devastated as a result of Hurricane Katrina, in August 2005. The structure was not damaged so much by the storm and flooding but was looted and set on fire in the aftermath. Eighty percent of the stores were damaged by smoke and water.

One third of the mall was demolished, with 95 million dollars expended in its reconstruction. Sears became the first store to re-open, in early 2006, with Dillard's returning in late 2006 and Penney's in late 2007. Mervyn's did not resume operations. A mall-wide grand re-opening celebration was held October 19, 2007.

The West Wing of the mall, vacant and closed to the public since 2005, was finally rebuilt in 2012. New stores, such as Rue 21, Ulta Beauty and Dress Barn, opened, along with a relocated Old Navy. Three of these stores had exterior entrances, which formed a small Streetscape on the mall's southwest facade.

Mervyn's, which had been sitting empty since being closed by Hurricane Katrina, was renovated. It opened, as a Dick's Sporting Goods, October 13, 2013. Sears shuttered their OAKWOOD CENTER store on March 26, 2017, ending over 50 years of business at the shopping hub.

Sources:

The Times- Picayune
http://southernretail.blogspot.com
www.ggp.com (General Growth Properties)
www.cinematreasures.org
http://movie-theatre.org/theatre.html
"Oakwood Center" article on Wikipedia
"Mercantile Stores" article on Wikipedia