Arts & Culture News

A Look Back at Four Dallas Malls That Have Faded From Memory

This sign is all that remains of Big Town Mall in Mesquite.
This sign is all that remains of Big Town Mall in Mesquite. YouTube Screenshot
Dallas' Valley View Mall has been on its death bed for years now. The demolition permit, which was finally pulled back in December, gives Lloyd D. Nabors Demolition 180 days to get the wrecking ball started or it will expire. There's not too much sand left in that hourglass. Before they get that party started, here's a retrospective look at four once-vibrant DFW malls whose fates were also sealed with bulldozers.

click to enlarge Valley View Mall - ALICE LAUSSADE
Valley View Mall
Alice Laussade
Prestonwood Mall
Belt Line Road and Dallas North Tollway, Addison

Before there was the Galleria, back when the concept of Addison was a grassy-fielded gleam in the eyes of Dallas real estate developers, there was Prestonwood Mall, which opened in 1979. Anchored by fancy pants department stores Neiman Marcus and Lord & Taylor, it was the epicenter of the social universe for teenagers who lived in or near Far North Dallas in the 1980s.

In fact, they flocked to it in such high numbers that peripheral restaurants figured out they could really make bank if they began serving minors alcohol. Perhaps for this reason, establishments like Mandarin House on Arapaho Road were especially popular with the youth.

The opening of the Galleria in '82 took some business from Prestonwood, but its ultimate demise was wrought by those damned teenaged hooligans. In 1985, the opening of the DART Transit Center nearby meant that kids could ride in from all over Dallas by the busload. Ride in they did, with zero adult supervision.

They appreciated Prestonwood for the breadth of extracurricular activities it afforded them: Shooting intervaneous drugs behind dumpsters, having sex in the elevator at Dillard’s. Standard teen fare. For whatever reason this didn’t sit well with mall patrons, and tenants began trickling out. In 2006, it was razed to make way for Prestonwood Place, now occupied by youth-deterrent big box stores like Barnes & Noble and Office Depot.

Prestonwood Mall 1998 from BazzLevi on Vimeo.

Big Town Mall
U.S. 80 East and Loop 12, Mesquite

Big Town really stirred the pot when it opened in 1959. It was the first enclosed, air-conditioned mall in the Southwestern United States. It had a lot going for it, namely Bowlanes, the sweet bowling alley next door, and its proximity to the Mesquite Rodeo, which supported the existence of an exhibit hall and numerous Western wear stores.

We conducted a cursory investigation, and concluded Big Town never really stood a chance, because its owners were nuts.  OK, maybe not nuts, but they did put a Neiman Marcus in Big Town. Please take a moment to process this information. They put a Neiman Marcus in Mesquite, Texas, a town whose claims to fame are barbecue and calf roping. Nowhere on the Venn diagram have Neiman Marcus and Mesquite ever overlapped.

Thunder stealer Town East Mall opened a few miles down the road in 1971. After that, Big Town’s decline was gradual but steady. It wasn’t completely useless though, because in September 2005 it was designated a staging point for victims of Hurricane Katrina upon their arrival in Dallas. In 2006 (an ominous year for Dallas malls, apparently) the decision was made to tear it down. Its exhibition hall still hosts gun and boat shows.

click to enlarge "Six Flags Mall" opened just 2.7 miles down the street from Forum 303 in 1970. - WIKIMEDIA COMMONS
"Six Flags Mall" opened just 2.7 miles down the street from Forum 303 in 1970.
Wikimedia Commons
Forum 303 Mall and Six Flags Mall
Pioneer Parkway and State Highway 360, Arlington

In addition to the fact that Roy Clark performed at some point after it opened in 1970, Forum 303 Mall has the distinction of having the worst name for a mall in the history of mall names. Did they really expect a mall with a name like that to stick for the long haul?

It’s surprising it lasted as long as it did. Six Flags Mall also opened in 1970, 2.7 miles down the street. Did they not know about each other? Forum 303 also sounds like the most awkward mall ever, because there were no interior entrances, so the only way into the mall was to walk through its stores, namely Dillard’s, Montgomery Ward, or Service Merchandise. That’s like having to walk through the bedroom of someone you don’t know to get to the bathroom, and the bedroom has stuff lying around that you really didn’t want to see.

The Parks at Arlington opened in 1988 and it was downhill from there for Forum 303. The final kiss of death came in 2004 when the air conditioner blew out. The owner of the building, by that time known as Festival Marketplace,  decided bulldozing was a better idea than replacing the air conditioning. What a way to go.

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Rachel Williams is the social media editor for the Dallas Observer.
Contact: Rachel Williams