NORTHLINE SHOPPING CITY
Crosstimbers Street and North Freeway / Interstate 45
Houston, Texas

The Bayou City's fourth shopping mall was developed on an 80 acre plot, located 4.3 miles north of Houston's urban core. The site was adjacent to the Interstate 45 / North Freeway, which had opened, between said site and downtown Houston, in July 1962.

The single-level, fully-enclosed NORTHLINE SHOPPING CITY started out with a 2-level (210,000 square foot) Montgomery Ward, which was completed in October 1960. An 850,000 square foot mall was added to the freestanding Ward's, that was dedicated March 15, 1963.

Boston-based Theodore Berenson & Associates, builders of Houston's GULFGATE SHOPPING CITY, also developed the NORTHLINE SHOPPING CITY complex. The Sumner Schein firm handled the shopping center's design. They would also be commissioned for Greater Boston's NATICK MALL (1966) and Rochester, New York's (GREECE) TOWNE MALL (1967).

In addition to the aforementioned Ward's, NORTHLINE was anchored by a 2-level (163,000 square foot), San Antonio-based Joske's. This store began business February 6, 1964.

A predominantly 1-level (76,000 square foot), New York City-based Britts was a junior anchor. Inline stores included Walgreen Drug, Craig's Family Apparel, Bond Clothes, a Piccadilly Cafeteria, Weingarten's supermarket and S.S. Kresge 5 & 10. In all, there were forty-five stores and services in the original complex.

The mall opened its first motion picture venue April 14, 1965. The General Cinema Corporation Northline Cinema I & II was built in the northeast parking area. It was identical to twinplexes built simultaneously at the GULFGATE SHOPPING CITY and MEYERLAND PLAZA centers.

Commercial competitors of NORTHLINE SHOPPING CITY were NORTHWEST MALL (1968) {4.7 miles southwest, in Houston}, GREENSPOINT MALL (1976) {7.6 miles north, in Houston} and DEERBROOK MALL (1984) {13.6 miles northeast, in Humble}.

A name change, to NORTHLINE MALL, was done in 1972. This was followed by an interior facelift, in 1977, and exterior remodeling, in 1985. The latter included canopies and banners, new landscaping and the installation of a Food Court in the mall's Center Court.

By the late 1970s, the Joske's at NORTHLINE MALL was "underperforming". It was downsized into its lower level in 1985. In early 1987, the chain was acquired by Dillard's. They never rebranded the store, but shuttered it in July 1988.

The mall had been in a state of decline since the early 1980s. Crime had proliferated in the vicinity of the shopping complex, with customers being robbed, carjacked and shot. Jewelry stores within the mall were even held up at gunpoint.

All of this led to the closing of many of the original mall's national chain stores. These were replaced by mom & pop-type tenants, such as Leeftold Men's, Service Jewelry, Marlon Sporting Goods and The 50 % Off Store.

Houston-based Academy Corporation Sporting Goods opened, in a lower level section of a downsized Montgomery Ward, in June 1990. Britts had closed in 1982. In 1992, its space was refitted as a satellite campus for Houston Community College. The twin cinema, which had been quaded in the 1970s, closed for good in May 1996.

By this time, NORTHLINE MALL tenants included Kay-Bee Toys, Palais Royal, Foot Locker and Walter Pye's apparel. The vacant Joske's was razed and replaced by the Magic Johnson Northline Mall 12, which opened January 19, 1998. It was the cinematic chain's third location. During construction of the Magic megaplex, a wall connecting with the mall collapsed. Three mallwalkers were killed and seven others injured.

One vacant anchor store had been dealt with, but the mall was presented with a second when Montgomery Ward shut down, in January 2001. This time around, the empty store building would not to be retenanted or replaced.

Berenson & Associates, who still owned the mall, entered into a joint venture with Buffalo-based Eastbourne Investments in December 2004. A redevelopment plan for NORTHLINE MALL was announced in February 2005.

The circa-'60s center was to be demolished in stages, with new quarters built for inline tenants in an open-air, power-format complex. As new stores were opened, portions of the old mall would be razed.

Montgomery Ward's vacant store became the first to go, in 2006. With its area cleared, space was made to start construction of the power center. A new name was bequeathed for the undertaking in June 2007...NORTHLINE COMMONS. The Magic Johnson megaplex, operating under the AMC banner since 2005, closed in May 2007 and was demolished soon after.

First phase stores in NORTHLINE COMMONS opened in July 2007. Stores in the second opening phase, wrapping up in early 2009, included Conn's, Ross Dress for Less, Marshalls and Shoe Carnival. Original mall tenants, such as Palais Royal, PayLess ShoeSource and Foot Locker, had also relocated into new stores.

The Houston Community College portion of NORTHLINE MALL was the last part of the old shopping center left standing. A new, 100,000 square foot, Northline Campus building was built on 14.4 acres, at the northwest corner of the site. The new educational institution was dedicated May 19, 2008. With its completion, the remainder of the mall was bulldozed.

A 1-level (194,000 square foot) WalMart SuperCenter opened October 27, 2010, as a shadow anchor of NORTHLINE COMMONS. The complex now encompassed 460,000 leasable square feet and fifty-four tenant spaces. It was managed by Houston-based Fidelis Realty Partners.

Sources:

"Northline Mall" article on Wikipedia
http://www.northlinecommons.com
http://www.preservenet.com
http://www.houstonbizjournals.com
www.cinematreasures.org
southernretail.blogspot.com
http://www.berensonassociatesinc.com
http://www.frpltd.com (Fidelis Realty Partners)
http://www.texasfreeways.com