Over the years we’ve spent a great deal of time investigating why malls die. We’ve found a great number of reasons, and one of the most popular of these has been competition. We hate to sound general, but it’s happened all over the place, and probably close to you too. The newer, shinier mall (replace ‘mall’ with ‘Lifestyle Center’ or ‘Big Box Power Center’ or whatever, same difference) becomes instantly popular and leaves the smaller, older center by the wayside. However, this process usually takes a while, typically at least several years if not longer before total dominance is shifted from one retail center/area to another, and the losing mall finally gives up and meets Mr. Bulldozer. However, that’s not necessarily the case here. What we’re about to investigate is rather unique, in that the dominance of one center shifted to another instantaneously; as one shiny new mall opened, the older, smaller mall was immediately abandoned, seemingly overnight.
First, a bit about the area. With just about 60,000 residents and over 150,000 in the metropolitan area, Jonesboro, Arkansas is the regional anchor city for the northeast part of the state. Jonesboro is, however, culturally and economically linked to the larger metropolis of Memphis, Tennessee, about 70 miles to the south. That said, Jonesboro does enjoy a degree of autonomy, being the seat of local government as well as for having Arkansas State University, and being a regional center for agriculture and trade.
Most of the typical Big Box strip malls, chain restaurants, and businesses in general in Jonesboro are located in the southeast part of town along Highland Dr, S. Caraway Rd., and Stadium Blvd. Indian Mall, named after the University mascot, is located in this area, and opened here in the late 1960s featuring Blass, TG&Y, Sears, and a supermarket.
By the mid-1990s, Jonesboro’s population had doubled since the 1960s debut of Indian Mall and, as the commercial center of all of Northeast Arkansas, could definitely support a larger and more modern mall. The small Indian Mall chugged along into the 1990s, when its owner, Warmack & Company, proposed building a new mall just to the east of Indian Mall along Highland Dr. at Stadium Blvd. Under the plans, Indian Mall was to have been changed into a Big Box or mixed-use retail center. The new mall even got a name, Southern Hills Mall, and land was set aside for the development. Unfortunately, though, due to a myriad of reasons it never materialized, and a competing mall developer stepped in to take the reigns and build Jonesboro a new center.
David Hocker & Associates was the competing developer’s name, and offered up plans which did materialize in 2006 in the form of The Mall at Turtle Creek. The new 750,000 square-foot center opened then, and took with it most of Indian Mall’s stores. JCPenney and Dillards had brand new digs there, and almost overnight many of Indian Mall’s remaining in-line stores seemingly packed up and moved down the street. Almost immediately, Indian Mall was left completely vacant, except for Sears and Dillard’s Clearance Center.
The Mall at Turtle Creek features JCPenney, Target, Dillards, a large center court food court, as well as junior anchors Circuit City, Bed Bath & Beyond, Barnes and Noble, and Steve and Barrys. The mall has become quite popular with both locals and college students alike, as the only enclosed mall within a one-hour-plus drive to Memphis. Well, that is, unless you count the dead mall down the street this one killed…
Turtle Creek also holds the distinction of being the only enclosed mall to open in all of 2006 nationwide, showing that enclosed centers are fast falling out of fashion to be replaced by ‘Lifestyle’ and Big Box-anchored power centers. But as far as new mall construction, Turtle Creek isn’t half bad. Turtle Creek is actually designed to woo Lifestyle and Big Box center shoppers. By placing restaurants and junior anchors toward the front of the mall, and having the main corridor wrap around behind it, the mall has more functionality and efficiency, which is what draws shoppers to the Lifestyle and power centers. In addition, there are more attractive common areas in front of the mall for sitting cafe-style in front of restaurants. The mall’s interior corridor is also offset to be a slight curve rather than a squared-off straight shot between the two abutting anchors, making the mall appear slightly longer than it is. All of these design features are attempts at catering to the modern shopper, who demands aesthetic conveniences.
So, because Indian Mall’s owner’s plans fell through, this mall got built in virtually the same location and Indian Mall now sits empty. The pictures here were taken in June 2007. Also, don’t forget to check out Indian Mall, the mall this one outmoded.