FORUM 303 MALL
East Pioneer Parkway / Spur 303 and State Highway 360
Arlington, Texas

In April 1969, plans were announced for a new Metroplex shopping mall. This was to be constructed on 120 acres at the intersection of East Pioneer Parkway / Spur 303 and an initial stretch of State Highway 360. The site was situated 15.5 miles southwest of downtown Dallas and 14.5 miles southeast of center city Fort Worth and was entirely within the Tarrant County suburb of Arlington.

Robert and Maurice Alpert developed FORUM 303 MALL, in a joint venture with the Connecticut Mutual Life Insurance Company. The firm of Harrell & Hamilton designed the project.

A 2-level (239,200 square foot), Fort Worth-based Leonards was the earliest section to be completed. It opened October 31, 1969, as a freestanding store, and was the chain's first branch. There was a full line supermarket within said store and an outparcel Leonards Auto Center on a northeast pad.

Leonards was joined by the sixty store FORUM 303 MALL in September 1971. Its second anchor, a 2-level (151,000 square foot) Montgomery Ward, featured a freestanding Auto Center on a southwest pad.

Inline stores in the shopping complex included World Bazaar, Margie's, Helen Gallagher Gifts, Chess King, Cheese Villa, West Piano & Organ, Toys By Roy, Austin Shoes, Hot Sam Pretzels, Forum Fair Arcade, Piccadilly Cafeteria and the Strawhat Pizza Palace and Blue Hawaiian Restaurants. The complex also featured the Forum 6 Theatres, an early 6-plex, and one of the first Chick-Fil-A locations outside Greater Atlanta.

Promoted as "more than a mall", FORUM 303 enveloped 699,100 leasable square feet and consisted of a single retail level built over a three hundred and fifty car capacity parking deck. At its center was The Forum, a three hundred and twenty seat amphitheater, the first of its kind in a shopping mall.

The Forum, which descended to a stage 17 feet below mall level, was used to host free fashion shows, pageants, concerts, karate exhibitions and dog shows. Surrounding the 15,000 square foot area were mini-projection wall screens and, above these, a mezzanine balcony which was planned to connect into a multistory hotel.

As envisaged, FORUM 303 was to be the nucleus of a 1.5 million square foot development which was to include the aforementioned hotel and two high-rise office towers, as well as three additional anchor department stores for the mall.

Alas, most of this never came to pass. A 25,000 square foot Ice Capades Chalet rink did open in May 1972. A third anchor, a 2-level (45,000 square foot), Baton Rouge-based H.J. Wilson Catalog Showroom, began business in October 1980. With these expansions, FORUM 303 MALL encompassed 769,100 leasable square feet.

Nearby shopping centers included SIX FLAGS MALL (1970) {2.1 miles north, in Arlington} and, eventually, THE PARKS AT ARLINGTON (1988) {4.4 miles southwest, also in Arlington}.

The first anchor nameplate change at FORUM 303 MALL took place as the result of Dillard's March 1974 purchase of the three-store Leonards chain. Operations were rebranded as Dillard's in 1975. Wilson's was acquired, and rebranded, by Nashville-based Service Merchandise in 1985. In 1990, the east anchor at FORUM 303 was demoted to a Dillard's Clearance Center.

With two other major malls in Arlington, FORUM 303 was facing unbeatable competition. Its plight was exacerbated by a decline of the surrounding neighborhood and an insidious cycle of murders and muggings that began in 1974 and continued in 1988, 1991 and 1994.

By November 1993, the shopping center was in foreclosure. It was eventually auctioned off to Bob Yari and Ken Mateen of New York City. In March 1995, they rechristened it FORUM VALUE MALL, an outlet-type shopping hub. This endeavor was not entirely successful.

A second repositioning was done in 1998, with the mall renamed FESTIVAL MARKETPLACE and given a 5 million dollar interior and exterior facelift. Much of its mall area was gutted and replaced by a grid of five hundred vendor booths. A Children's Play Area and Festival Food Court were installed, a Farmer's Market opened on the parking deck level and the theater was rebranded as the AMC Festival Cinema 6.

A dedication celebration was held May 21, 1998. The concept of the repositioned retail center was that of an upscale indoor flea market with all-new merchandise being sold at below-outlet prices. Unfortunately, this concept failed to catch on. A third name change, to FESTIVAL INTERNATIONAL BAZAAR, in 2002, did not bring a rebirth of the struggling shopping hub.

An anchor exodus had ensued in 1999, with the shuttering of Service Merchandise. Ward's went dark in February 2001 and the Dillard's Clearance Center moved to SIX FLAGS MALL in March 2005. Soon after, all remaining tenants were handed eviction notices. The mall closed for good May 29, 2005.

Its demolition commenced in September 2007. The center was replaced by the PIONEER 360 BUSINESS CENTER, a 1.6 million square foot business park, which was completed in April 2009.

Sources:

Mid-Cities Daily News
Fort Worth Star Telegram
Dallas Morning News
http://www.fortwortharchitecture.com/forum/index.php?showtopic=2611 / "VJackson"
http://www.uer.ca/locations/show.asp?locid=25631 / "HappieDaze"


FAIR USE OF FORUM 303 AND SIX FLAGS MALL IMAGES:

The graphics and renderings from The Mid-Cities Daily News illustrate a key moment in the mall's history that is described in the article. The images are of lower resolution than the originals (copies made would be of inferior quality). The images are not replaceable with free-use or public-domain images. The use of the images does not limit the copyright owners' rights to distribute the images in any way. The images are being used for non-profit, informational purposes only and their use is not believed to detract from the original images in any way.