San Dario and West Hillside Road
The Texas border town of Laredo lies 140 miles southwest of San Antonio. The Gateway City's first major shopping facility, RIVER DRIVE MALL, was built in the downtown area and opened for business in 1970. The second shopping mall in Laredo was built on a 90 acre tract, located 2.6 miles north of the center city and 1 mile east of the Texas / Mexico border.
MALL DEL NORTE, developed by Enterprise-Laredo Associates, was officially dedicated August 10, 1977. The fully-enclosed shopping facility encompassed 735,000 leasable square feet and approximately fifty stores and services. Anchoring the single-level complex were a 1-level (88,000 square foot) Dillard's, 1-level (93,900 square foot) Sears and 1-level (30,700 square foot), Laredo-based Richter's.
Inline tenants included Bealls, Chess King, Cole's Books, Musicland, Big Scoop of Ice Cream, Butler's and the in-mall United Artists Cinema Del Norte. Originally a a twin-screen venue, it would eventually incorporate 4. A 2-level (112,700), Laredo-based Hachar's welcomed its first patrons on April 30, 1978. A 1-level (109,700 square foot) Montgomery Ward opened at around the same time.
An interior face lift was done to the shopping center in 1991, possibly converting the cinema space into a 9-bay Food Court. In 1994, a more ambitious project was undertaken which was to greatly expand the existing mall.
A Northeast Wing was added, which extended beyond Montgomery Ward. Encompassing 445,600 leasable square feet and twenty-two inline stores, it was anchored by a 2-level (153,600 square foot) Dillard's and 2-level (126,200 square foot) J.C. Penney. The first stores in the addition opened in March 1994.
J.C. Penney began business March 25, 1995. With its completion, MALL DEL NORTE enveloped approximately 1,180,600 leasable square feet and housed one hundred and twenty-five stores. The original Dillard's was later sectioned into six retail spaces, with the largest being leased as a (77,500 square foot) Mervyn's.
Hachar's was rebranded by Houston-based Foleys in 1996. Richter's space re-opened as a Foley's Home Store. These were rebranded again on September 9, 2006. Foley's became a standard Macy's, with the Foley's Home Store morphing into a Macy's Home Store.
Meanwhile, ownership of the mall had changed. Chattanooga-based CBL & Associates Properties acquired the retail hub in November 2004. They initiated a small renovation, with a new exterior entrance added to the existing Food Court. Bealls also expanded (by 10,800 square feet) into adjoining mall space, with their store now encompassing 37,200 square feet.
There were more modifications in the early 2000s. Montgomery Ward, which had been shuttered in March 2001, was gutted. A large portion was rebuilt into the Cinemark Mall del Norte megaplex. This 16-screen venue showed its first features on June 27, 2007.
The remainder of the old Ward's was sectioned into Kool Smiles and a (21,800 square foot) Circuit City. This store opened in February 2006 and closed for good in early 2009. Along with it went Mervyn's, whose store space re-opened, as a Forever 21, in March 2009.
The existing Sears also added 31,900 square feet to its building, expanding its area to 125,700 square feet. With this enlargement, MALL DEL NORTE encompassed approximately 1,212,500 leasable square feet, with a tenant list of over one hundred and sixty stores and services.
Laredo Morning Times
Malls of America Blogspot / Keith Milford webmaster
http://www.movie-theatre.org / Mike Rivest
http://web.archive.org/web/200107000738/www.generalgrowth.com (archived Mall Del Norte website / Internet Archive Wayback Machine)
"Mall Del Norte" article on Wikipedia