In a circa-2015 depiction, the shopping hub is once again (officially) a CENTER. Its interior mallway has been ripped out and replaced by open-air sidewalks. A great deal of vacant inline store space has also been demolished. New stores include PetSmart, Shoe Carnival and Marshalls.


EL CON CENTER
East Broadway and North Jones Boulevards
Tucson, Arizona

Hotel El Conquistador, a grand, Spanish Revival structure, opened to much fanfare in November 1928. It was situated on the western half of a 93 acre plot, situated 2.6 miles east of center city Tucson.

Development of the eastern half of the site commenced in April 1959. John E. Papanikolas, of Salt Lake City, and Tucson's Joseph Kivel formed a partnership to build the city's first major shopping center, which held its grand opening November 16, 1960.

EL CON CENTER, an open-air venue, housed approximately 427,800 leasable square feet and was anchored by a 2-level (60,000 square foot), Tucson-based Levy's ["lee-veez"]. A 2-level (180,200 square foot) Montgomery Ward opened for business February 2, 1961. Inline stores in the single-level complex included Skaggs Drug, The Tie Rack, an F.W. Woolworth 5 & 10 and Rincon Market grocery.

The hotel closed in 1964 and was razed in 1968. In its place, a new 2-level (193,300 square foot) Levy's was built. The store opened September 15, 1969 and was expanded with a third level (to 290,000 square feet) in 1975. Its original store, in the neighboring open-air center, had re-opened as a Tucson-based Steinfeld's March 27, 1971.

The dedication of the new Levy's was followed by the completion of a single-level, fully-enclosed mall. This included by a 2-level (115,900 square foot) J.C. Penney, which was dedicated August 4, 1971. The 480,400 square foot interior mall and adjacent (but separate) open-air complex were operated as a single entity.

In the mid-1970s, construction commenced on a second phase of the enclosed complex, which served to connect the two shopping centers. Encompassing 215,600 leasable square feet, the connecting section of mall was anchored by a 2-level (120,000 square foot), Phoenix-based Goldwaters. This store was dedicated August 14, 1978.

As the new section was being built, the existing 1960 mall was also enclosed and climate-controlled. Upon completion of the addition and enclosure, in 1979, the amalgamated EL CON MALL encompassed 1,023,800 leasable square feet.

Among the one hundred and sixty stores and services were Hot Sam Pretzels, The College Shop, Grunewald & Adams Jewelers, Dave Bloom & Son Haberdashers and a Farrell's Ice Cream Parlour. The TM Theatres El Con 6 showed its first features August 19, 1979.

The shopping complex had encountered its first competition with the completion of PARK MALL {2.7 miles east, in Tucson} in 1975. 1982 brought TUCSON MALL {5.3 miles northwest, also in Tucson}. FOOTHILLS MALL {9.7 miles northwest, in Pima County} was dedicated in 1983.

Steinfeld's became the first EL CON MALL anchor store to fold, in the mid-1980s. Its space was to sit vacant, being used, on an intermittent basis, as a Holiday Sharing Center for the needy. In 1993, the space reopened as the short-lived Pavilion at El Con Mall, which included a food court (of sorts), farmer's market, bazaar and indoor street fair.

The next anchor alteration involved Levy's, rebranded by Dallas-based Sanger-Harris in 1985 and Houston-based Foley's in July 1987. On February 2, 1997, the store had a Los Angeles-based Robinsons-May nameplate installed. This gave way to one for Macy's, September 9, 2006. Goldwaters became a Dillard's in September 1986. The Arkansas-based retailer pulled the plug on their EL CON MALL store May 9, 2000.

By this time, much had changed at the mall site. The circa-1960 section, save for Montgomery Ward, had been knocked down in December 1998, taking a portion of the 1978 addition, including the shuttered El Con 6 cinema structure, along with it. The Century 20 At El Con Mall was built, which made its debut June 30, 1999. This was joined by a 1-level (123,200 square foot) Home Depot, dedicated in June 2001.

A Food Court and open piazza were installed between the new megaplex and existing J.C. Penney. Oddly enough, the Food Court was never utilized. Montgomery Ward at EL CON MALL shut down March 18, 2001. The building was bulldozed with ground broken, for a 1-level (125,000 square foot) Target, in November 2003. The store held its grand opening in July 2005.

Another "anchor's away" took place in January 2008, with the shuttering of Macy's. This ended up providing a way for Wal-Mart to establish a presence at EL CON MALL...something they had been trying to do since 1999.

At that time, a proposal for an EL CON Wal-Mart was met with so much community opposition that the city passed a Big Box Ordinance which temporarily stopped the Bentonville retailer from SuperCentering the mall.

A few years later, The City of Tuscon met with Wal-Mart behind closed doors and formulated a way to work around the Big Box Ordinance.  A development plan was approved by the City of Tucson in June 2011, but construction was delayed by a lawsuit filed by a "Stop Wal-Mart" citizens group in November 2011.

In the meantime, the owners of the property, Tucson-based MAS Real Estate Management, worked tirelessly to reposition the shopping complex. Its long term revitalization included a new Ross Dress for Less.

Outparcel structures were also been built along the front of the site, including Office Depot, Rubio's Fresh Mexican Grill, Chick-Fil-A and In-N-Out Burger. Moreover, the Goldwaters / Dillard's, sitting vacant since 2000, was retenanted. Burlington Coat Factory renovated the building and opened a store, on its first level, March 5, 2010.

All legal hurdles for the construction of the EL CON WalMart were resolved in August 2012. Work on the 1-level (100,000 square foot) SuperCenter began in the fall of 2012, with its grand opening taking place September 11, 2013.

Real estate and sports entrepreneur Stan Kroenke acquired EL CON MALL in May 2014. At this time, the official name reverted to EL CON CENTER. Marshalls joined the retail roster, with a 23,000 square foot store, on August 20, 2015.

Sources:

http://www.ringbrothershistory.com
"El Con Mall" article on Wikipedia
www.scribd.com/doc / "Arizona Movie Theaters"
http://www.labelscar.com
http://www.shopelconmall.com
http://pcasar.com
Pima County, Arizona property tax assessor website
www.insidetucsonbusiness.com
www.cinematreasures.org