With a population of over 360,000, Arlington, Texas is one of the country’s megasuburbs. An advantageous location sandwiched directly between Dallas and Fort Worth combined with a national trend of growth in sun belt regions has given Arlington an impressive 40% increase in population since 1990. In 1950, Arlington’s population was just 7,000. This explosive growth is similar to the creation of many other megasuburbs across North America: Mississauga, Ontario, Anaheim, California, Plano, Texas, Aurora, Colorado, and Naperville, Illinois, just to name a few. All of these cities share common threads, having been created in the past fifty years and consisting almost entirely of suburban sprawl and the elements which go with it. In addition to the hundreds of thousands of residents, Arlington is also home to the Texas Rangers baseball team, the University of Texas – Arlington, a large General Motors assembly facility, and Six Flags Over Texas with Hurricane Harbor. Also, the Dallas Cowboys plan to relocate to Arlington from their stadium in nearby Irving.
The history of modern retailing in Arlington stems from the construction of two enclosed malls along TX 360 between I-20 and I-30, Forum 303 and Six Flags Mall, around 1970 when Arlington had only 90,000 residents. Forum 303 was located at the intersection of TX 360 and TX 303. It floundered and failed during the 1990s after construction of a new mall about five miles away, The Parks at Arlington, in 1988. During the late 1990s, Forum 303 was retenanted into an outlet/discount mall, but that also failed and closed permanently in 2005. The current fate of Forum 303 mall is up in the air, but it will probably be bulldozed and rezoned for industrial use as much of the area around it is industrial and not retail commercial.
Six Flags Mall is located just two miles north of Forum 303, closer to I-30 and the Six Flags Park. Although it has enjoyed more success than its neighbor to the south, Six Flags Mall has not lived up to the successes of top tier malls like The Parks at Arlington. With a name like Six Flags Mall, one almost expects an exciting theme-park of a mall, not a dated collection of mostly local stores barely holding its own. The most notable and interesting feature about the mall’s decor are the neon-covered archways placed at regular interviews throughout the mall. The rest of the decor appears to be the result of a late 80s or early 90s renovation.
As for anchors, Six Flags Mall currently has only one. In 1997, JCPenney left the mall and in 2002 Dillards and Sears called it quits. This left the mall with only Foley’s, which closed in January 2004. However, in 2005 there was a reprieve as Dillards returned to Six Flags, this time moving from Forum 303 just down the road. Despite the anchor dearth, Six Flags Mall has made some attempts at a continued survival. Replacing the former JCPenney space are an antique mall, USA Baby, and even a college. Interestingly, both levels of the former JCPenney are used, including the original escalators from the store. Take a look at the pictures below for this.
In my opinion, further revitalization needs to occur before Six Flags Mall can be successful again. Its dated storefronts and decor are not going to woo shoppers from Arlington’s successful Parks mall, which is 10 minutes away. Furthermore, the sites around Six Flags Mall are not conducive to retail as most are industrial parks; in fact, a large GM Assembly plant is across TX 360 from the mall. Most of the category killers and new retail development are along the Interstate 20 corridor on the south side of Arlington. Even though Six Flags theme park and the baseball park are very close to Six Flags Mall, it doesn’t appear to be helping and before long, Six Flags Mall will go the way of Forum 303.
We visited Six Flags Mall in July 2005 and took the pictures below. Feel free to leave some comments of your own.