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 shoppers on January 27, 1972. Wards would anchor the south end of EL CENTRO MALL, with a 1-level (80,000 square foot) Woolco discount mart presiding over the north.

A 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 and El Centro Sound Center. The Texas Cinema Corporation Cine II showed its first features on June 1, 1974.

EL CENTRO MALL was the region's only roofed retail center 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 enlarged by 41,100 square feet in 1989-1990. A new West Wing included a Luby's Cafeteria. On the east side of the complex, the existing twin-plex was expanded into the Cinemark Dollar Cinema 8. This venue opened for business October 26, 1990. The shopping hub now housed approximately 426,000 leasable square feet.

In the year 2000, the Woolco / Sam's Club space was divided into three sections, with the largest being a (66,500 square foot) Convergys Call Center and (23,000 square foot) Joy Dollar Store. The latter was shuttered in early 2007.

The south anchor had closed, along with the entire Montgomery Ward chain, in March 2001. Like the north anchor, it was partitioned into smaller spaces. In 2002, one of the sections opened as the (56,800 square foot) Graham Central Station nightclub. This closed in late 2008.

Meanwhile, Houston-based Levcor had acquired EL CENTRO MALL in 2007. They devised a plan to renovate and remarket the center as an open-air facility. As a first step, the complex was renamed PHARR TOWN CENTER.

Implementation of the plan was delayed by The Great Recession. However, a freestanding restaurant, Houston-based Pappadeaux Seafood Kitchen, opened in August 2010.

The redevelopment was fully underway by 2012. Its first phase entailed construction of a freestanding megaplex in the mall's north parking area. The Cinemark Pharr Town Center 16 & XD showed its first features December 12, 2013.

Inline mall stores had been evicted in August 2013. The structure 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.

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

Sources:

The Pharr Press
http://www.labelscar.com
http://www.carpenteraustin.com
http://www.levcor.com
http://www.movie-theatre.org / Mike Rivest
Hidalgo County, Texas property info
http://mcallenheritagecenter.com
www.themonitor.com