Tucson Mall; Tucson, Arizona

Tucson Mall in Tucson, AZ

Tucson Mall, opened in 1982, is located on the north side of town along Oracle Road.  With a central location, it is strategically positioned against the Tucson area’s other large, successful mall – Park Place Mall on the east side.  With 1.3 million square feet of retail space on two levels and five anchor pads, Tucson Mall recently went through a major expansion project which demolished the largely unnecessary sixth anchor pad, replacing it with a roofless collection of stores in 2009.

Throughout Tucson Mall’s history, several anchor changes have taken place on the mall’s 6 anchor pads, with only JCPenney and Sears remaining open in the same location the entire time.  Dillard’s was the next currently-operating anchor to arrive on the scene, taking over Phoenix-based Diamond’s in 1984.  Texas-based Foley’s was swapped out for LA-based Robinson’s-May in 1993, and eventually became Macy’s in 2005.  The Broadway, another LA-based department store, folded to Macy’s in 1996 and operated as Macy’s until 2005, when the Macy’s “moved” to the former Robinson’s-May location and is still in operation there.  The Broadway/Macy’s space remained dark until it was demolished in 2007 and replaced with a set of roofless stores which will open in 2009.  Finally, Tucson Mall’s Mervyn’s closed in 2008 when that chain folded and was promptly replaced with an anchor-sized Forever 21 store.  This Forever 21 store is part of a regional rollout of anchor-sized, apparel-based formats for Forever 21, combining all of their brands under one roof.  Many of these first jumbo Forever 21s replaced dead Mervyns, but their size and product mix could also easily replace many of the dead Steve and Barry shells sitting across the country. 

Tucson Mall Forever 21 in Tucson, AZIn terms of design and decor, Tucson Mall features a mosly modern design with small elements of datedness.  For example, the food court’s side corridor has relatively low ceilings and is more dimly lit, in comparison with the rest of the mall’s wide open spaces.  Also, other dated features which have remained through renovations in 2002-2004 and 2007-2009 include huge pillars and a giant, mirrored JCPenney facade.  In addition, the mall features a long two-level design with a slight turn, and the food court exists on an interesting alternate hallway on the first level. 

We visited Tucson Mall around closing time in March 2009 and took the photos featured here; however, not without resistance.  At the Macy’s end of the mall we were “caught” by a security guard who informed us that taking pictures in the mall is forbidden, and not to take a camera in the mall.  Since the mall was closing anyway, we left through the same entrance we came in, and were speedily encountered by one of the security vehicles which sped up to us as we exited the mall into the parking lot, with its yellow lights blaring.  The driver of the security vehicle then leaned out of his open window and barked something like, “Don’t bring your camera back here if you visit this mall again!  We have you on tape taking pictures and it has been recorded!”  He sure was mad.  He then drove off to a nearby section of parking lot and waited for us to leave, and that was that.  I wasn’t too ensconced by the whole ordeal, and in fact I actually kind of laughed at them.  Whoops.  \

Tucson Mall directory in Tucson, AZWe’ve encountered various levels of enforcement to this rule, with certain security guards looking the other way and others simply giving us an empathetic and polite warning.  Yet others choose to use their positions for apparent power-tripping or maybe even boredom as we’re singled out and read the riot act.  We understand they’re just doing their jobs, but one time a group of them followed us onto an interstate shouting and screaming at us after taking pictures.  Inside a mall.  The horror… 

Once again, the age-old debate emerges regarding conduct in private spaces meant for public use.  Obviously these malls have the legal right to prohibit photography, and these security officers are doing their jobs to enforce them, but to what end?  We think these policies are incredibly short-sighted, especially when the ostensible reason for prohibiting photography inside malls is to prevent financial gain from said photos.  Clearly, archival sites such as this one are meant for preserving whever history resides with these retail centers, and by taking pictures here we’re literally taking snapshots of time, for whoever is interested.  And we think that’s a good thing, and many others agree with us.  So we soldier on.

At any rate, enjoy the pictures.  P.S. Security Guard Anti-Photo Enforcer #1 is pictured in the middle of picture #17.

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Tucson Mall in Tucson, AZ Tucson Mall in Tucson, AZ Tucson Mall in Tucson, AZ

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Tucson Mall in Tucson, AZ

42 Responses to “Tucson Mall; Tucson, Arizona”

  1. I hope security is as watchful on gang activity & shoplifters as they were with you LOL. Keep up the good work.

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  2. Tell Paul Blart to call me when they’re not using tax breaks from my local government to boost occupancy. I think it makes a good argument for a cell phone that takes high quality pictures. The irony is that the retail industry loves when people document these facilities.

    Also, does anyone else get the vibe that Forever 21 is becoming the new Steve & Barry’s?

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  3. I don’t know about Forever 21…but them buying the old Virgin Megastore in Times Square…worries me.

    Security guards are bullies. Ask XISMZERO, the most recent one deals with Danbury Fair.

    I love new Labelscar entries. And in my opinion, GGP should split into two.

    The last one is the best decor.

    And isn’t Labelscar turning three around this time?

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  4. Did he really tell you that you were on tape? That’s not good.

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  5. Actually, it’s a month away, but maybe do something cool for it…?

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  6. I just remembered there’s another mall called El Cann on East Broadway Boulevard. It is not to far from Park Place. Both centers feature 20-screen Century theatre complexes as anchors.

    As for Forever 21, they are instyle as aposed to S & B’s witch never was hip in any shape or form. The stamford T C STORE MOVED FROM CENTER COURT TO A new 2-level store across from H & M/ Barns & noble. They are transforming from inline tennent to junior anchor in many centers.

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  7. No, you mean, El Con Mall. I’m sorry to correct you

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  8. @Sean

    Well, I’ve seen two of the new junior anchor Forever 21 locations and they seem kind of… cheap. (The store, not the clothing.) Kind of a hack job like how S&B operated when they’d take over failed department stores. (S&B got profits by getting lease ‘bonuses’ for each store opening, which is why they’d expanded in a pyramid-scheme fashion.) I have a suspicion Forever 21 operates in the same manner.

    S&B used to be trendy in the counter-cultural way- especially when I was in high school. As long as you checked the clothing before you bought it, their stuff held up way better than more established brands.

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  9. security guards taking their jobs too seriously are a pet peeve. thanks for taking the “risk” to get us these documentary photos.

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  10. Security guards do take their jobs too seriously. Its one thing to ensure safety and order in a large space (mall, parking lot, etc) but someone taking a picture is hardly what I call “a federal offense”. Geez….

    that said, nice photos. :)

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  11. Tucson Mall…meaning Arizona: America’s most aggressive police state and surveillance state. If you got out of that state without a photo radar ticket or worse, you were doing well. Arizona deserves to go broke and everybody up and leave for their attitude.

    Back on topic…neat mall, though. I really wonder how you guys find the time and money to fly all over America just to visit malls. I do well just to go to the ones within a 200 mile radius of me, and I’ve got a lot to go.

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  12. Was the “giant, mirrored JCPenney facade” on the exterior, because I’d love to see it if it was.

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  13. Yeowch, those encounters with security that you tell us about always send a shiver through the body. Really, some of them take things TOO seriously. They should be more worried about serious issues like theft, terrorism, or some crazy possibly getting into the mall and shooting the place up. Not someone who’s just there to document the place.

    Not all security personnel are that brash though. I’ve dealt with them in the past, and so far, they’ve just either politely warned me (I had nothing confiscated, nor was I asked to leave…just asked not to take pictures any more), or I was allowed (especially if you’re in a tourist trap), but just to be wary of what I’m getting pics of, (ie: no pics of individual storefronts).

    It also really depends on the time of day and the area you’re in too. I play it safe…..when in doubt, I don’t bother doing photoshoots at malls. I make sure I know what area of town or what region of a state I’m going into beforehand. Some areas are less tense about such matters than others.

    Nice work though, none the less.

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  14. @Steven Swain: The mirrored Penneys facade is facing the interior, and is visible in some of the pics. It’s a pretty common facade for the early 80s; I’m sure you’ve seen it a lot. It would have been incredibly awesome if they coated the entire exterior of a ~100,000sf store like that though.

    @Matt: Yeah, I’ve definitely encountered “laissez-faire” security guards – whether they’re just lazy or they really feel bad harassing me for taking pictures, who knows. Touristy areas and really huge malls that tend to be tourist attractions in and of themselves – ie. the MOA, they probably wouldn’t bother anyone? I should try it out sometime…

    @JT: Arizona sure was nuts about the photo radar on all their freeways and in many neighborhoods. They even had roving vans with radar cameras that they’d set up in totally random locations to catch speeders! Lucky for me I don’t really speed on vacation in weird/new places…

    @Alpha/SEAN: Forever 21 seems to have similar pricepoints/quality than S&B, but their fashions seem to be much better by comparison. Also, it seems Forever 21 is focusing exclusively on fashion apparel/accessories, whereas S&B only started fashion brands as an afterthought (Bitten by Sarah Jessica Parker, Starbury by Stephon Marbury, and that surfer stuff by some surfer guy) once they realized their huge stores were full of nothing but college sports apparel and graphic tees with crude jokes on them. I haven’t bought anything from Forever 21 yet but the stuff I bought from S&B was mostly of cheaper quality/materials from what I observed.  We always had a S&B here in Madison, Wisconsin, long before they branched out and became anchor stores, and all the store sold was University/sports apparel.

    @SEAN/Josh: El Con Mall is 1000% dead inside; I walked around in there too. They promised some redevelopment but due to the economy there’s nothing going on at all, and the mall is basically a court to access Ross. Target opened there recently, it seems, and shunned the mall completely.  This is weird, considering the strip the mall is on is 100% successful, and this mall is the closest to the middle of Tucson of any of them, not to mention U of A.  I guess Park Place, La Encantada, and Tucson Mall did them in. 

    @Jonah: Yeah we’re 3 at the end of May. Time flies so fast! We should do something, I agree, but what? Any (reasonable) suggestions?

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  15. @JT: To some degree, it’s all a carefully crafted illusion :-)

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  16. @ Josh No problem. Spelling just isn’t my forte.

    @ prangeway You mean to tell me a 20-screen megaplex theatre cant draw enough people to keep El Con viable? What development plans are on the table. I hope it is a mixed use project of some kind.

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  17. Prange Way,

    Nice post and pictures!

    I recently had my own little run in with security at a mall I had taken hundreds of photos at (Danbury Fair Mall). The entire ordeal ended up with me being kicked off the property! Of course, my annoyed, bullish demeanor contributed to that. I’ve had various other run-ins, especially one at Latham Circle where I practically laughed at the rules “enforcer” as we whipped out his dollar store badge. Only one instance have I walked away and gotten a green light for shooting (a maintenance worker questioned me, then let me be on my way).

    To this day I still cannot understand why photography in a shopping mall is such a forbidden practice and the overzealous treatment one receives for taking a photo. Honestly, I think guards have nothing better to do so they use their faux powers to trample over so-called offenders. It’s pathetic really, they could always just say ‘don’t let me see you taking photos’ or something and just let you be.

    Ultimately, my mantra is when things have changed, I feel all the better about the photos I have (and I have a good collection now). Just gotta be careful, take as many as you can before you’re caught. You can only plead ignorance once (even if the jerks don’t put up no photography signs). That’s just the duties of any documentary photographer, I suppose.

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  18. Hmmm…the third year…

    …the addition of a third staffer would be cool…
    …or three Labelscar entries that day (one of which had better be Cincinnati Mall :D and maybe Tanglewood Mall?)
    …or one new case study and a mall related to it (there’s plenty where two or more malls from it have already been featured: Chicago, Houston, Dallas-Fort Worth, Miami-Fort Lauderdale)
    …begin a way to get at least two malls from every contiguous state in the United States of America.

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  19. Yeah it’s been a while since you’ve done a case study somewhere. Preferably something east coast, since it’s been a while since you’ve done east coast malls (only 2 in the past 6 months) even though I understand it’s more difficult for you now. 3 malls in one day would be cool too.

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  20. Seriously? “We have you on tape doing something that’s not illegal and at worst can result in being removed from the mall!” Ooh, I’m so scared…

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  21. @ prangeway: Thanks for the clarification. Mirrored glass JCPenney entrances are dated now, bur were the bee’s knees a generation ago. Still one of my favorites, in fact.

    If you want to see a heavily mirrored facade from that era, check out the Macy’s (Rich’s) at Gwinnett Place in Duluth, Georgia: it’s covered in mirrored glass!

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  22. Still have a couple locations with that ‘mirrored’ JCPenney entryways inside the mall, here in WI. Two right off the top of my mind are Regency Mall (Racine)’s location, and the location at Fox River Mall (Appleton area). Opened in 1981 and 1984, respectively.

    Before 1981, they often used a wood facade to many locations opened up around from 1972-73 through the early 1980s.

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  23. Got a couple here in NJ as well. Woodbridge Center comes to mind and Cherry Hill Mall used to before the big renovation (haven’t been down that way in a while so I don’t know if it’s still there). Quakerbridge at one time had one and Brunswick Square did until about 2 years ago.

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  24. I know woodbridge still has the mirrored entrance i guess i’ll check the next time I go over there.

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  25. It didn’t look like the new Forever 21 store didn’t put much effort into renovating or remodeling the former Mervyn’s anchor pad. It makes the store seem cheap, and I hope it doesn’t fall into the same position as Steve & Barry’s. Maybe they’ll eventually expand to children’s clothes to appeal to more people. If they do, Old Navy better step up it’s game. Nice mall, looks very sleek and modern, and obviously doesn’t have much of a vacancy problem. I wonder if this would be one of the properties General Growth considers selling, unless it’s only a property that is managed by General Growth (i.e. Swansea Mall, Swansea, MA)

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  26. About photos…malls aren’t the only ones who tend to get touchy about that sort of thing..recently on another site I read a number of posts where even amusement parks like Six Flags are now not only cracking down on those who are taking photos at their parks but even going after websites who pubishes them without their OK..like pics of Six Flags New Orleans for example. Just last month I heard on the radio where the Denver based King Soopers supermarket chain ( Kroger ) actually had fired two of employees because they had taken pics from inside of a King Soopers and had put those pics on their My Space pages. Clear Channel won’t allow pics be taken inside their radio stations and now after the recent You Tube incident involving Dominos Pizza..well chances are I am sure other restaurants will get into the “no photos or videos allowed” game.. I guess it is a sign of the times.

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  27. Looks like Steven beat me to it about that mirrored facade at Gwinnett Place. It is quite a neat looking sight, and I have been meaning to do a post on that place for awhile. I did not seize the opportunity in 2006 to get pics of the place when I was STRANDED there on a short-lived college job…what a shame. I do have pics of the mirror glass RICH’S galore inside and out, though…yes Rich’s…not the Macy’s that took its place. The old three-story Macy’s (Davison’s) next door is about to become a huge Korean-owned store known as Super H Mart. That was a very sophisticated looking Rich’s exterior indeed for a very 80’s-modern mall.

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  28. Some great pics and interesting to see a still opened Suncoast video. I thought they were long gone. Here in Mass, they have been closed for a few years now

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  29. Shoppers shouldn’t notice bankruptcy of malls’ owner, but some retailers will

    Dale Quinn

    April 17, 2009

    Shoppers shouldn’t notice any difference at Tucson Mall and Park Place, even as owner General Growth Properties Inc. works to restructure $27 billion in debt under bankruptcy protection.

    But some retailers ready to move to Tucson have said the mall owner’s financial woes have caused delays.

    Chicago-based General Growth, which counts the malls among more than 200 properties it owns or manages in 44 states, filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection Thursday. Under Chapter 11, a debtor is protected from legal action while it works out a plan to repay creditors.

    The company said day-to-day operations at its shopping centers and other properties would continue as usual.

    General Growth’s president and chief operating officer, Tom Nolan, said during a conference call Thursday that the collapse of the real estate and financial markets — not property performance — kept the company from being able to restructure its debt.

    “Our properties are desirable and performing well,” Nolan said.

    The company is not looking at selling a major number of its properties, Nolan said.

    The move by General Growth had been anticipated since the fall, when the company warned it might have to seek bankruptcy protection if it couldn’t get lenders to rework its debt term. Negotiations with creditors fell short late last month.

    A General Growth spokesman, David Keating, told the Star in December the company had no plans to sell either Tucson Mall, 4500 N. Oracle Road, or Park Place, 5870 E. Broadway.

    Craig Finfrock, a broker with Commercial Real Estate Advisors, said the two Tucson malls are core assets General Growth would want to hold onto through the bankruptcy.

    “Both the Tucson Mall and Park Place are regional malls and they are high-performing assets,” Finfrock said.

    If it sells anything, General Growth would be more likely to sell peripheral assets like strip centers adjacent to major malls, he said.

    Officials at the Tucson Mall have been tight-lipped about whether General Growth’s financial woes have delayed an expansion there that includes popular outdoor retailer Recreational Equipment Inc. — or REI.

    Also included in the development on the south-facing side of the mall is a Cheesecake Factory. Representatives from both REI and the Cheesecake Factory have said they’re ready to move into the Tucson market, but development delays have forced them to postpone their opening dates.

    Seattle-based REI had planned to open at the mall this spring but has now pushed that date back to fall 2010.

    Construction of the Cheesecake Factory appears largely complete and the company has obtained a liquor license from the state of Arizona.

    But Cheesecake Factory Inc. won’t open the restaurant until the property is completed, said company spokesman Mark Mears.

    “We are very far along with the development of the Cheesecake Factory restaurant,” Mears said. “Unfortunately our landlord (General Growth) is not as far along. We’re essentially waiting on them to complete the property.”

    Mears could not provide an estimated date of when the restaurant would open.

    “We’re in a bit of a holding pattern ourselves,” Mears said.

    Shares for General Growth, which trades on the New York Stock Exchange, closed at $1.05 Thursday, down from its 52-week high of $44.23.

    The Associated Press contributed to this article. To see more of The Arizona Daily Star, or to subscribe to the newspaper, go to http://www.azstarnet.com. Copyright (c) 2009, The Arizona Daily Star, Tucson Distributed by McClatchy-Tribune Information Services. For reprints, email tmsreprints@permissionsgroup.com, call 800-374-7985 or 847-635-6550, send a fax to 847-635-6968, or write to The Permissions Group Inc., 1247 Milwaukee Ave., Suite 303, Glenview, IL 60025, USA.

    Copyright (C) 2009, The Arizona Daily Star, Tucson

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  30. Once the retailing industry starts to bounce back, I think I see serious retractions for Forever 21.

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  31. Lived in Tucson for the last five years. The mall with GGP(General Growth Properties) in bankruptcy. It is business as usual going on.

    New tenants including The Chesse Cake Factory is coming but, Opening has been delayed until further notice.

    Also Park Place and Foothill is business as usual with El Con(El Conquistador) mall will be on the closure list.

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  32. I hate security guards that harrass people! It’s like take a chill pill!

    I took like 3 pictures inside Macy’s at El Centro’s Imperial Valley Mall and some jerk is like “excuse me, you can’t do that” all smug, luckily I know some Italian so i started talking in Italian and told him in broken English “I came to USA on vacation, didnt know” (I lied, i live in San Diego) :P

    And he just left looking all stupid! Ha! I mean sure, they do their duty but they should worry about actual criminals, people that steal your freaking socks without taking your shoes off or something! Is like back off, is not like we’re killing people with the flash or something! God! :)

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  33. You mentioned about the surly mall cops. My sister works for a TV station in a city whose mall is owned by Simon. And she said that the mall cops had frequent bouts of asshole behavior. She said that one time they were conducting an interview with chief of police and mall security tried to kick them (including the Police chief) out.

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  34. Simon is bad with the mall cops. They have a stake in the Lehigh Valley Mall, and a few years back I was floored to see their mall cops riding around on Segues.

    Seriously?

    Paul Blart: Mall Cop was dead-on for a Simon mall.

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  35. A bit late to the party but if you’d like to see some of the Tucson Mall as it originally was check out “Can’t Buy Me Love” with Patrick Dempsey.

    Lots of memories in that mall for me. They used to have a fountain in there right in the middle by the food court that shot all the way to the ceiling.

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    ak3437 Reply:

    @Fred,
    yes, I remember the fountain by The Broadway that shot all the way to the ceiling. Do you remember how they would turn it into a huge tree at Christmas time? I am sad to see so many people on this forum, who have never been to Tucson, or who have only lived in Tucson for a few years, speaking so negatively about the Tucson Mall. Like Fred, the mall holds so many memories of growing up in Tucson and I remember life there during a time that most on this forum don’t understand.

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  36. When Tucson Mall first opened, there was an oyster/seafood restaurant bar that was located where Red Robin currently is. There was always an awful stench right in the entrance area during the time the oyster bar was there. Does anyone else remember that? I also remember merry go round and walgreens were in the mall during its early years

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  37. BELIEVE ME guys I feel your pain…I’ve been told by security guards and management teams to not take pictures…generally I stop after they tell me…but sometimes I take a few afterwards because I see something I like.

    At Wal-Mart on Elmore Ave in Davenport, Iowa was the worst chew out I’ve ever received, and that was on March 9. 2010. She was WAAAAAY pissed off believe me! I’d go more into it, but I don’t feel comfortable putting the story online…for ethical reasons. But there are times when I haven’t been bothered…like at King of Prussia Mall in Philadelphia, The Gallery in Philadelphia, among other malls and stores. I’ve never got yelled at for taking pictures at a Target store, but there’s a first time for everything. ANYWAYS…

    @Jason and Ross: PLEASE email me or call me! My cell is 515-227-0846. I’d like to talk to you guys about mall profiling and the such, whenever you have time. Thanks!

    Nathan Bush

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  38. I remember when Tucson Mall opened. They had the best Gyro shop in the food court.

    I also remember the second floor would sometimes shake… freaked us out the first couple times I felt it.

    at the sears secondary exterior entrance there was a little arcade room where I would go and play Galagia.

    That fountain was awsome.

    We always thought the Tucson Mall was the best of the Tucson Malls. Park Mall seemed to be more upscale, El Conn was showing it’s age even then. Foothills Mall was a good place to catch a movie, but we did not feel comfortable to “hang out” there.

    All in all, good times and memories of Tucson Mall.

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  39. What is the name of the old studio portrait?or better:whats the name of the photograph??+
    please can somebody answere..?

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  40. As someone born and raised in Tucson, I have a lot of fond memories of Tucson Mall. Some of the comments here bring back some of that nostalgia for me…

    As Fred said, the movie Can’t Buy Me Love was filmed in the Tucson Mall several years after it opened, and you can see what it originally looked like. I remember the railings on the second level were made of steel bars painted white, and they were spaced about 6 inches apart. It was rumored that a small child nearly fell through the bars, so sometime in the late 80’s they went through the entire mall and welded another row of bars in between. But those metal railings were removed and replaced with glass panes during renovations in the early 2000’s.

    As was also mentioned, there was originally a water fountain (a more appropriate term would be water geyser) in the center court. I don’t remember the frequency, but my recollection is that every 30 minutes this thing would shoot a huge geyser of water 75 feet up in the air. It was amazing to watch! But the genius minds who were in charge of the renovations in the 2000’s decided that it would be better to tear it all out and put in tile. Woo hoo!!

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  41. Thanks for the photos. I wanted some photos of the mall since I like to walk and hang out there. Security pulled the same thing with photos on me, but since I like to go there frequently I didn’t want to be red flagged and complied with their request to delete the photos. Plus I wanted to be considerate to their rules since for the same type of reasons.

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