EL CENTRO MALL
North Jackson and West Frontage Roads
Pharr, Texas

The South Texas town of Pharr lies 8 miles north of the Mexican Border and 119 miles southwest of Corpus Christi. Pharr is within a group of Rio Grande Valley cities colloquially known as "P-SJ-A" (Pharr, San Juan and Alamo).

The region's first major shopping center, EL CENTRO MALL, was developed by R. Dan Winn and Lloyd M. Bentsen, under the auspices of El Centro, Incorporated. The "covered mall shopping center" was built on a 39 acre site sitting 1.1 mile west of downtown Pharr.

Ground was broken on May 21, 1971. The first operational store, a 1-level (88,300 square foot) Montgomery Ward, welcomed its first patrons on January 27, 1972. Wards would anchor the south end of EL CENTRO MALL, with a 1-level (80,000 square foot) Woolco on the north.

An official, mall-wide dedication was held in November 1972. Among the thirty-four charter tenants were Bealls ["bellz'], Lerner Shops, La Rue's Gift Shop, Radio Shack, Thom McAn Shoes, Zales Jewelers, Regis Hairstylists, Kinney Shoes, a Curtis Mathes Factory Showroom, El Centro Sound Center and El Centro Mall Cinema Twin.

The complex was the only shopping mall in the region until the completion of LA PLAZA MALL {2.2 miles southwest, in McAllen}, which was dedicated in 1976.

The EL CENTRO MALL Woolco closed in January 1983. The store was expanded by 25,000 square feet and re-opened, as a Bentonville, Arkansas-based Sam's Club, in 1987. Sam's Club closed on September 19, 1991; having relocated to a newly-built store in nearby McAllen.

EL CENTRO MALL was expanded by 41,100 square feet in 1989-1990, with additions on the east and west. The western enlargement included a Luby's Cafeteria; the east consisted of a 6-screen addition to the existing twinplex. The shopping hub now housed approximately 426,000 leasable square feet.

In the year 2000, the old Woolco space was subdivided between a (60,000 square foot) Convergys Call Center and Joy Dollar Store; the latter being shuttered in early 2007.

The center's south anchor had closed, along with the entire Montgomery Ward chain, in March 2001. Like the north anchor, it was sectioned into smaller spaces. In 2002, one of the three sections opened as the Graham Central Station nightclub. This closed in late 2008.

A new owner, Houston-based Levcor, had come on the scene in 2007. They sought to renovate and remarket the center as a more upscale shopping facility. A new name, PHARR TOWN CENTER, was bestowed and a plan for redevelopment envisaged.

Implementation of the plan was delayed by The Great Recession, but a new freestanding restaurant, Houston-based Pappadeaux Seafood Kitchen, opened in August 2010. The redevelopment was fully underway by 2012. A first phase, the Cinemark Pharr Town Center & XD megaplex, was built as a north parking area outparcel. It showed its first features December 12, 2013.

The second phase of the mall's repositioning was to consist of a partial demolition of the existing structure and renovation of the remainder as an enclosed shopping center. This plan was eventually abandoned.

Nonetheless, all inline tenants were evicted in August 2013. The mall was demolished between late 2013 and early 2014, leaving the old Woolco building standing. It was worked into an open-air power center of 375,700 leasable square feet and nineteen stores and services.

Stores in the new PHARR TOWN CENTER  included a (58,300 square foot) Main Event Entertainment Center, which was dedicated August 4, 2014. T.J. Maxx, Academy Sporting Goods, Cost Plus World Market, Bealls, Ross Dress For Less, Jo-Ann Fabrics, Staples and Buy Buy Baby were in business by early 2017.

Sources:

The Pharr Press
http://www.labelscar.com / Article posted by "Prange Way" / Comment post by "John"
http://www.carpenteraustin.com
http://www.levcor.com
Hidalgo County, Texas property info
http://mcallenheritagecenter.com
www.themonitor.com