Jamie from Louisiana was responsible for sending us a day-glo set of pics and some information about the Hammond Square Mall back in, geez, early 2007. While not quite as day-glo, the newest set that he’s sent along–for North Shore Square in Slidell, Louisiana–also sports a similar phosphorescent hue. What’s up with your malls down there, Louisiana? This one seems a little quiet but not dead, at least not yet. Enjoy the mountain of pics, it took us eons (and about two glasses of wine) to upload them all. No, really, thanks Jamie!
Here’s what he had to say:
Slidell is the largest city in the New Orleans suburban parish (county) of St. Tammany. This parish is called “the northshore” because it almost completely borders the north side of Lake Pontchartrain, with the western end bordering Tangipahoa Parish (where Hammond Square Mall was). Located at the southeastern tip of the parish close to the Mississippi state line, Slidell is the first major city at the Louisiana/Mississippi state line, and at the intersection of 3 interstate highways, 10, 12 and 59. One of the earliest bridges over Lake Pontchartrain connects just south of Slidell to New Orleans East, and it is still there and is known locally as the Highway 11 bridge. St. Tammany is the 2nd largest parish in the New Orleans metropolitan area, right after Jefferson Parish, and has 2 more major cities, Covington and Mandeville.
A large population boom began in the 1960’s with the opening of NASA’s Michoud Assembly Facility in nearby New Orleans East, that was soon followed by the Stennis Space Center in Hancock County Mississippi just across the state. Both facilities were accessible via the newly completed spans of Interstate 10, including the 5 1/2 mile, 4 lane twin span bridge over the eastern tip of Lake Pontchartrain running east of the old 2 lane U.S. highway 11 bridge. But it was the completion of the second span of 26 mile Causeway Bridge over Lake Ponchartrain in 1969, connecting the New Orleans suburb of Metairie with the northshore town of Mandeville, that propelled St. Tammany parish into the prosperous community it is today that begin with massive population growth in the 70′s and 80′s as part of the suburban flight out of New Orleans. And more recently, the large exodus of people out of New Orleans and the very low lying St. Bernard Parish into the higher grounds of the northshore following hurricane Katrina has some estimates of an increase in 20,000 to 40,000 more residents to St. Tammany since the 2005 storm. Slidell’s population is currently about 25,000 to 30,000, but there is almost 70,000 in the greater Slidell area that does not include the city limits where the actual population is counted. The influx of new residents to the northshore in the 70’s and early 80’s led to many large shopping centers being built in or near all 3 cities, but no regional mall. The closest malls to Slidell, Mandeville and Covington were the big Lake Forest Plaza in New Orleans East, the small Hammond Square Mall in Hammond, and Lakeside Shopping Center in Metairie across the Causeway Bridge.
So the northshore finally got a mall in 1985, a big year for mall openings in Louisiana. That year 3 new malls opened in Louisiana, The Esplanade in the New Orleans suburb of Kenner, Pecanland Mall in the north Louisiana city of Monroe, and of course North Shore Square Mall. Located south of Interstate 12 and Airport Road/Northshore Boulevard exit near Slidell on Northshore Blvd side of the exit, the 1 level mall opened with 4 anchor stores, Sears, JCPenney, D.H. Holmes and Mervyn’s. There was also a 6 screen Carmike Cinema north of the mall and Pier 1 Imports on the perimeter of the mall. The mall was built by Sizeler Properties, the same formerly Kenner, LA based company that built Hammond Square. As a matter of fact, I believe the whole intersection near I-12 where the mall is located was annexed in the city limits for this mall. On a Rand McNally road map of the city, the city limits highlighted in white includes this intersection where the mall is and continues to where Northshore Boulevard south dead ends on US hwy 190. And then only hwy 190 headed east is highlighted as being part of the city limits until you get further into the city center, where the majority of the incorporated limits of the city lie.
Department store consolidation began when D.H. Holmes was acquired by Dillard’s in 1989. Then Maison Blanche opened a 115,000 square foot 5th anchor to the east side of the mall in 1990. Also that year, a shopping center anchored by Delchamps Food Store and Service Merchandise opened across the street, followed by Toys R Us a few years later. In 1998 Dillard’s bought the 107 Mercantile Stores that now owned and operated the 8 Maison Blanche stores in Louisiana, so that store became a second Dillard’s anchor. And at this time and through the early 00′s, big box stores started popping up at the intersection near the mall. Wal-Mart, Sam’s Club and The Home Depot located across the street. Stores like TJ Maxx, Bed, Bath And Beyond, and Office Depot gradually took the anchor space in the shopping center that was formerly occupied by Service Merchandise and Delchamps when both stores went out of business. And more recently, Best Buy, Chuck E Cheese and Chili’s have opened south of the mall across from the original Dillard’s anchor. Olive Garden just recently opened next to the Pier 1 Imports on the mall perimeter. Then on the north side of I-12 along Airport Road, a big power center called Stirling Slidell Center opened with anchor Target along with big box stores like Academy, Petsmart, Circuit City and Shoe Carnival. Burlington Coat Factory took over the old Mervyn’s anchor in 2007 after the chain closed all Louisiana stores in early 2006.
And in the middle of all of this there is something that I think is very unique for a city the size of Slidell. There is a large free standing Gap/Gap Kids store directly across the street from North Shore Square in front of Wal-Mart. The first time I had ever visited North Shore Square, I think was in the summer of 1998, and I remember on that day there was a building under construction across the street. I was wondering what store could this be? So I drove right in front of it. I saw the opening soon banner said Gap. I had just left the mall and remember seeing Gap in the mall. I was wondering why would a store want to leave a mall and be separated from the rest of the stores? Wouldn’t that hurt business? Well this was the late 90′s when the big box craze was just beginning, something I was totally unaware of at the time.
So now this whole intersection is a top retail destination for the Northshore. But as is with many of the older malls, all these new big box stores and power centers opening near this intersection are taking away customer’s and stores from the original attraction that started it all, the mall itself. Other factors taking some shoppers away from the mall are:
- The recent closing and demolition of the Carmike Cinema, with the opening of a 16 screen cinema called The Grand just down the street on Hwy 190(Gause Blvd).
- Relocation of Gap to a freestanding store across the street. Despite the fact that Gap is not the popular store that it once was and the company is currently downsizing, it is usually still one of a mall’s most popular stores.
- In 1999, a small lifestyle center opened in Mandeville called the Premier Centre, bringing with it many very popular stores new to the northshore like Old Navy, Banana Republic, American Eagle Outfitters, Bombay Company, Ann Taylor Loft, Motherhood Maternity and the upscale New Orleans men’s clothier H.W. Rosenblum. It also included some of North Shore Square’s stores like Bath And Body Works and Victoria’s Secret, a Gap/Gap Kids and was anchored by Stein Mart, Delchamps Premier Market and Barnes And Noble. Thus taking away the possibility for any of these new stores from locating at North Shore Square. And now here comes more, 2 new lifestyle centers are on the way to St. Tammany Parish.
About 20 miles west of Slidell near Covington, Pinnacle Nord du Lac is being developed by Colonial Properties Trust and Robert W. Aikens & Associates, and is already well under construction. It will be almost 900,000 square feet, anchored by Dillard’s and Kohl’s, and will have even more stores new to the northshore that you have to go to the New Orleans/Metairie/Kenner malls to shop. And in southeast Slidell, a new development called Fremaux Village is under development by Bayer Properties, the company that developed The Summit lifestyle centers in Birmingham, AL and Louisville, KY and will be located off of Interstate 10 and Fremaux Avenue. It will be a more of a mixed use center than The Summit centers with over 400 acres that is going to include a medical complex, apartments, residential units, a hotel, a movie theater and office space. There will also be a 350,000 square foot University of New Orleans Research and Technology Park that will include training classed for jobs at the Michoud and Stennis facilities. And of course there will be an open air lifestyle center and power center that according to Bayer Properties’ website will have a Dillard’s, Belk and Barnes and Noble as anchors and should be open by 2010. And both these new centers are going to be located at brand new interstate exits, the Fremaux Avenue exit has just opened, and the new exit near Covington is scheduled to open around the time the shopping center is to open. Bayer Properties said Fremaux Village will have the same type of upscale stores that the other Summit centers have, but since Slidell is not a big city, they will wait and see exactly what stores the city can support before they officially announce stores and sign deals. A posting on a skyscrapercity.com forum thread about Fremaux Village said that Dillard’s will probably close the Northshore Square dual anchor stores when the Fremaux Village store opens.
To counter balance the possible future downfall of North Shore Square, there is a shopping center in Slidell that North Shore Square may have totally killed off. In 1989 a factory outlet center opened in Slidell at the intersection of I-10 and Old Spanish Trail Road called “Slidell Factory Stores”. This intersection is south of the brand new Fremaux Avenue exit where Fremeaux Village will be built. It had a few successful years following its opening, but started to fall by the late 90′s, and now is completely closed and waiting for either redevelopment or demolition. I really can’t say for sure if the outlet center’s failure was because Slidell’s population could not support both shopping centers, or that Tanger Outlets built a brand new center in the city of Gonzales in 1992 about 15 miles south of Baton Rouge. Although Gonzales is part of the Baton Rouge metropolitan area, it is in between Louisiana’s 2 largest cities, Baton Rouge and New Orleans, and gave south Louisiana another large outlet center on I-10. And also Gonzales is a small town with the closest regional mall at the time being Cortana Mall in Baton Rouge. Usually outlet centers locate in cities that do not have a regional mall. This center was expanded in 2007 and the exterior remodeled with an all new “New Orleans” inspired architecture that kind of looks like the buildings of the French Quarter.
Northshore Square did not receive much damage from hurricane Katrina or this past summer’s major storm hurricane Gustav. There is a pond in front of the mall that has 2 water fountains near the 2 entries from Northshore Boulevard. The 5 mall entrances have a very unusual maroon and red-orange color scheme. The ceiling inside is yellow with skylights running throughout, a kiosk court is in the middle of the mall, and fountains at each end of the mall. This mall is not really a dead mall, but on my two recent visits–both on a Friday evening–the mall was kind of slow, especially the south end near the original Dillard’s anchor, where there seems ever be any people. But the center court near the customer service center and food court had plenty of people, and Burlington Coat Factory and JCPenney had plenty of shoppers too. This 621,000 square foot mall is about 90% to 95% occupied and has a some locally owned clothing stores and small electronics store, a New Orleans version of Build A Bear Workshop called Jazzy Bear Factory, a very nice art gallery called Brad Thompson Gallery, and something very unique for any mall today, a candy store called Pop Fizz, and even and arcade in the food court. However, most of the mall has national chains like Express, Aeropostale, PacSun, Lane Bryant, Journeys, Kirkland’s, The Limited, Kay Jeweler’s and a brand new Forever 21, and it still has a KB Toys, B.Dalton Bookseller and FYE. There is even a Babbage’s, one of the few locations not converted to EB Games. So there is really quite a variety of stores to choose from still in the mall, even more than the New Orleans area’s top mall Lakeside Shopping Center. It will be interesting to see how Northshore Square will fair when Slidell and St. Tammany finally jump on board of the lifestyle craze.