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

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

Boston-based Theodore Berenson & Associates, builders of Houston's GULFGATE SHOPPING CITY, also developed NORTHLINE SHOPPING CITY. Boston's Sumner Schein firm designed the shopping center.

The first structure built on the site was a 2-level (210,000 square foot) Montgomery Ward. This freestanding store was completed in October 1960. NORTHLINE SHOPPING CITY, a fully-enclosed mall, was added to Ward's and was dedicated March 15, 1963.

NORTHLINE encompassed approximately 850,000 leasable square feet. In addition to the aforementioned Ward's, the mall was anchored by a 2-level (163,000 square foot), San Antonio-based Joske's, which began business February 6, 1964. A 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 on April 14, 1965. The General Cinema Corporation Northline Cinema I & II was built in the northeast parking area. It was identical to twin-plexes opened 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}.

In 1972, the north side shopopolis was renamed NORTHLINE MALL. This change was followed by an interior face lift, 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 considered an "underperforming" store. It was downsized into its lower level in 1985. In early 1987, the chain was acquired by Dillard's. They decided against rebranding the NORTHLINE location and shuttered it in July 1988.

The mall had been in a state of decline for several years. Crime had proliferated in its vicinity, with customers being robbed, carjacked and shot. Jewelry stores in the mall were even held up at gunpoint.

All of this led to the closing of many of the 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 chain's third location.

Alas, one vacant anchor store had been dealt with. 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 and would sit vacant and deteriorating for several years.

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. Houston-based Fidelis Realty Partners was hired to oversee the 40 million dollar project.

The circa-'60s center was to be demolished in stages, with tenants relocating into a newly-built -and entirely open-air- power center. As new stores were dedicated, vacated portions of the mall were razed. Montgomery Ward's empty building became the first structure to be demolished, in 2006.

With its area cleared, space was made to start construction of the new power center. It was officially named NORTHLINE COMMONS in June 2007. The Magic Johnson megaplex, which had been operating under the American Multi-Cinema banner since 2005, closed May 1, 2007. It was demolished soon after.

A section of the mall housing the Houston Community College was the last portion of the shopping center to be left standing. A new (100,000 square foot) Northline Campus was built on 14.4 acres, at the northwest corner of the site. The new institution was dedicated May 19, 2008. With its completion, the remainder of the mall was bulldozed.

Some of the first operational NORTHLINE COMMONS stores were a (30,000 square foot) Palais Royal and (28,100 square foot) Marshalls. These held grand openings in July and August of 2007 and were followed by stores such as a (30,700 square foot) Conn's HomePlus and (29,900 square foot) Ross Dress For Less.

A 1-level (194,000 square foot) WalMart Supercenter welcomed its first shoppers on October 25, 2010. One of the final NORTHLINE COMMONS stores was a (66,400 square foot) Burlington (Coat Factory), which opened for business in October 2011.

The new & improved retail complex now encompassed approximately 478,500 leasable square feet and housed fifty-one tenant spaces. It was sold, to an affiliate of the Toronto-based North American Development Group, in November 2012.

Sources:

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