Southwest Center Mall (Formerly Red Bird Mall); Dallas, Texas

southwest-center-mall-08Located 10 miles southwest of downtown Dallas, at the interchange between US 67 and Interstate 20, Southwest Center Mall is both an anachronism and an eyesore. But what an amazing eyesore it is. One needs only to take a look at the photos to understand what a unique specimen this is, in terms of design, decor, and blatant inadequacy. But let’s dig a little deeper and try to figure out what happened.


Located 10 miles southwest of downtown Dallas, at the interchange between US 67 and Interstate 20, Southwest Center Mall is both an anachronism and an eyesore.  But what an amazing eyesore it is.  One needs only to take a look at the photos to understand what a unique specimen this is, in terms of design, decor, and blatant inadequacy.  But let’s dig a little deeper and try to figure out what happened.

It wasn’t always this way.  Opened over 30 years ago in 1975, Southwest Center Mall opened to the masses with a different set of principles, and a different name – Red Bird Mall.  The DeBartolo Group developed this two level mall with a simple layout, and Red Bird Mall was anchored by four stores –  one on each end of the mall and two flanking center court.  Sears anchored the east end of the mall, JCPenney the west, with Dallas based stores flanking the mall’s center court – Sanger-Harris on the north, and Titche’s on the south.  Red Bird Mall enjoyed instant success as south Dallas’ only enclosed mall, inspired by a proud neighborhood and a good location.   

southwest-center-mall-08Several anchor changes took place at Red Bird Mall throughout the 1970s and 1980s.  In 1979, Titche’s became San Antonio-based Joske’s, and in 1987 two changes took place – Joske’s became Dillard’s, and Sanger-Harris became Houston-based Foley’s.  Also, at some point a large Montgomery Ward was constructed at the southeast corner of the mall next to Sears. 

As early as the mid-1980s, demographics began to change dramatically in the area surrounding Red Bird Mall, and at the same time a perception of crime began to brand the area – numerous car break-ins, vandalism, and robberies caused even loyal shoppers to begin taking their business elsewhere.  And, in 1988, this became a lot easier, as a massive super-regional mall opened just 15 minutes from Red Bird Mall in Arlington.  Called The Parks at Arlington, this new mega-mall would ciphon customers from Red Bird’s south Dallas consumer base more than any other, as most of its other competition is way up in north Dallas.

During the 1990s, Red Bird Mall continued its downward spiral.  A man named John Wiley Price, a flamboyant Dallas politician, decided to make the mall and its woes part of his political platform, and staged protests outside the mall demanding retailers change their stock to reflect the black community, making statements it was ‘their’ mall.  All the while, the mall got continuously worse, and DeBartolo, owners of the mall since it opened in 1975, unloaded it to NAAMCO Financial of California in 1997.  At the time of the sale, the 1.12-million square-foot mall was only 65 percent leased.    

southwest-center-mall-39In an attempt to disassociate the mall from its troubled environs and checkered recent past, NAAMCO gave the mall a small refurbishment and a new name – Southwest Center Mall – in 1997.  A new food court, begun under the reign of DeBartolo, was finished and occupied in 1998 at the mall’s northwest entrance.  With a price tag of $18 million, the food court took up the lion’s share of updates to the mall upon its change of hands and change of name.  In addition, though, Dillard’s increased their store size from 100,000 to 150,000 square feet, and Sears renovated their entire store in 1998. 

The new millenium brought more of the same problems for the newly named mall.  In 2001, Montgomery Ward closed as that chain folded, but it was swiftly replaced by a Burlington Coat Factory which moved from a nearby box center.  Also in 2001, JCPenney closed their store in Southwest Center Mall, which remains vacant today.  In 2006 Foley’s became Macy’s, and Dillard’s left the mall in 2007 for a new development 10 miles further out – its store is also still vacant.   

Also gaining speed in the early 2000s was a movement to bring more retail to Cedar Hill, a suburb of Dallas approximately 10 miles southwest of Southwest Center Mall along US 67.  Cedar Hill, combined with surrounding communities such as DeSoto, Duncanville, and Lancaster – known locally as the Best Southwest  – represent a portion of south Dallas with higher incomes and demographics expanding national chain stores like to see.  In addition to a glot of big box centers and other retail which seemingly sprang up overnight, Cedar Hill is the home to the DFW Metroplex’s newest lifestyle center – Uptown Village at Cedar Hill – which opened in March 2008.  This new urbanist-style shopping center is anchored by Dillard’s (the one that moved from Southwest Center), Dick’s Sporting Goods, Barnes and Noble, and features 725,000 square-feet of retail space – featuring stores found in better malls like Hollister, Chico’s, and Aveda.   It’s an outdoor mall and features nicely landscaped courtyards between the modern-looking buildings contaning stores, and has a decidedly upscale feel not found in other centers in south Dallas.  From the perspective of Southwest Center Mall, Uptown Village is not only a slap in the face, but a few more nails – possibly more than enough –  in the coffin.

southwest-center-mall-41Perhaps another factor in Southwest Center Mall’s troubles is the lack of commitment from ownership.  In the past eight years, the mall has had four owners, and its value on the tax rolls has decreased from $22 million in 2000 to just $6.25 million in 2008.   In 2008, Southwest Center’s then-owner Thomas E. Morris – owner of other faily malls like Six Flags Mall in Arlington – declared bankruptcy, and in January 2009 the mall almost closed because the electricity was going to be shut off due to nonpayment.  Whoops.  An eleventh-hour save by a new owner – Madison Capital – who paid the bills, collected outstanding rent from some of the tenants, and even hired a professional security company.  It’s no wonder the mall’s been in peril with such terrible past management problems, but Madison Capital is looking to sell the mall again to a more responsible owner.  We’ll keep our fingers crossed.

In June 2009, nine economic development experts from the Urban Land Institute, with briefing books in hand from the Dallas Economic Development Office, will descend on Southwest Center for an intense week of study.  Hired by the city of Dallas, the Urban Land Institute – a non-profit education and research organization focusing on land use and urban planning – is being paid $150,000 to study the mall, inteview patrons and tenants, and tour the environs in order to offer suggestions on how to make it better.  In addition, Dillards – which relocated to Cedar Hill in 2007 – is currently marketing its dark anchor store to interested suitors. 

southwest-center-mall-44Despite all of these problem, however, there remains a niche of stores which are making it at Southwest Center Mall.  Most of these stores cater exclusively to an African-American clientele, and feature clothing and knicknack shops which reportedly attract shoppers from a multi-state region.  According to the article, these tenants also realize the mall’s in poor shape and wish there were typical mall stores like Bath and Body Works, Victoria’s Secret, and discount boxes like Marshalls and Ross.  One tenant even wants the old name, Red Bird Mall, to be re-established.  Also, others have expressed frustration and concern that while there is direct access from the US 67 freeway, there is no direct access from Interstate 20. 

Whatever happens to Southwest Center Mall, one thing is for sure – something drastic needs to happen in order to change fortunes here.  The reality may be that demographics have shifted and other centers have opened to ciphon consumer pennies away from this particular mall, but even today a dedicated group of tenants and local residents still want this property to succeed.  The photos featured here were taken in Summer 2005 (images 1-13) and January 2009 (images 14+).  As usual, feel free to leave your own comments, experiences, and opinions about the mall and its plight.

76 thoughts on “Southwest Center Mall (Formerly Red Bird Mall); Dallas, Texas”

  1. What’s tragic about this story is it was owned by two terrible owners who drove the mall into oblivion: NAMCO Financial (Summit Place Mall) and Tom Morris (Six Flags Mall). A dead Mervyn’s sits across from this mall, but other Dallas malls have this problem, too. Now both New Jersey and Texas have 13 malls on Labelscar. Excellent work.

  2. @Jonah Norason,
    Since you have knowledge of texas malls I have a question for you. How menny large format malls are in the DFW metroplex? I can think of about a dozen off the top of my head right now. Going one step beyond, how menny of those are within 7-10 miles of DeadBird. LOL

    Sorry I couldn’t resist that shot. *cracking up*

    Thanks JN

  3. Won’t you take me to…Funky Town?

    That one store, along with the vintage Sanger-Harris and groovin’ spiral staircase, make this mall a winner in my book, bad center court paint job notwithstanding.

  4. Wow. Just, wow. Love the mosaic at the former Sanger-Harris but yet again I will be at work tomorrow checking the archives to see if we had a store at this location. I hope I don’t fall off my platform shoes while researching this mall!

  5. @SEAN, in this “quadrant” of DFW, there is NorthPark Center, Town East Mall (which put the hurt on Big Town) and about ten lifestyle centers or outdoor shopping districts (Uptown Village included). There are, in total, about 20 enclosed malls altogether, 25 outdoor shopping districts or lifestyle centers, and Trader’s Village.

  6. The Red Bird name became quite tarnished as gangs roamed the area.

    The “protests” outside the mall are insanity. Can you imagine whites doing that to a “black mall”?

    Earguzum, from Six Flags Mall, is here as well. Actually, the whole thing smacks of Six Flags Mall a few years ago…a fourth-stringer mall clearly suffering but staying afloat by its “eccentric” retailers, and holding onto a bit of hope. However, because they were both ripped away from Tom Morris at the same time, Southwest Center holds onto a bit of hope, while Six Flags Mall is pretty much deep-sixed.

  7. Macy’s and Sears seem to do ok catering to African American clientelle, but Dillard’s seems to give up pretty quickly. (Columbia Place Mall is another example of this.)

  8. This mall seems destined to repeat what I can piece together as the history of Wynnewood Center a dead strip that is further North, near the slowly gentrifying Oakcliff area. Wynnewood Center was part of a planned community also known as Wynnewood. The housing stock is mostly okay, although the apartments have problems and the center has slowly shrunk. It was an attractive open “shopping village” with over 150 stores at one point. Red Bird was probably part of its decline, along with the economic decline of the Wynnewood area. It seems doubtful that a one-time regional mall can attract traditional mall tenants. Wynnewood is a good is example of why strips are more practical than malls–it can be turned into something else and slowly is, but Southwest Center just sounds like it might wind up as a dead mall with perhaps a live wing, at best.

  9. @Steven Swain, I completely agree with your analysis of this mall!

    I wonder what NAMCO(or whenever the owner was at the time the mural in the center court was painted) was trying to do by painting that mural in the middle of the center court. Regardless, it’s ironic that both the mural and the tall palm trees in center court help to hide the struggles of this mall.

    Is the Melrose store that’s in this mall supposed to be like a clothing store, or a different type of store? Too bad with many national retailers setting up shop at Cedar Hill, that it’ll probably add to the challenges of successfully reviving this mall. Hopefully, this mall could somehow come back, if dead malls at one time, such as Mall 205 in the Portland, OR area, can successfully make a comeback.

  10. @Jonah Norason,

    I maybe wrong on this, isn’t the population in the metroplex somewhere around 5.3 million? Using your figures from above that would equal 1 center per 120,000 residents in a sprawling area larger than Connecticut or Rhode Island. New York & it’s suburbs have nearly 50 malls & a population of about 20,000,000. That equals 1 center per 400,000 residents covering a 25 county region including Trenton, New Haven, Poughkeepsie & all of Long Island.

    I realize this is an apples to oranges comparison & I didn’t look at demegraphics of density in particular neighborhoods, just raw numbers wich don’t tell the whole story.

  11. @Allan Marshall, Melrose is a chain womens’ clothing store located mainly in malls all over Texas and other southwestern states.

    Mall 205 is a great example of a dead mall coming back as an ancillary, box-anchored mall. It transitioned from tier-a mall to dead mall to that. This mall has gone from tier-a mall to a mostly-vacant mall catering to a minority niche, so that progression alone probably would lead to different redevelopment avenues. And yeah, the competition in Cedar Hill pretty much kills this one’s chance of having any of its former glory.

  12. @Prange Way: Mall 205 failed ultimately because despite its big box anchors, the in-line spaces, despite being saved, ultimately fell by the wayside.

  13. @Alpha, Typical Dillards. They did the same thing in St Louis. Dumped Northwest Plaza and Jamestown as soon as the clientelle changed. As seem to be the first to jump ship.

  14. Was Titche owned by Marshall Fields at one point? The Foley/Macy looks like an early 70’s Fields design. Story of this mall mirrors that of Lincoln Mall in Matteson IL. Demographic changes and perception of crime (real or imaged) killed off the mall.

  15. – I meant to say “eclectic”, and also I forgot to mention Sunrise Mall…there’s hope for that one, too. Sunrise is a different story, though…it’s in Corpus Christi, and made the mistake of building virtually right next to an existing mall. Still, Sunrise was a lot cooler (not literally, both were air conditioned) than Padre Staples…and less crowded.

  16. @Prange Way: Thanks for explaining what the store Melrose was. That’s definitely a chain I’ve never heard of, but I’m not surprised I haven’t heard of it. Is it re

    @Jonah Norason: I thought the interior space was kept at Mall 205, despite that I’m sure you’re correct that virtually all stores open there have exterior entrances, and very few(if any) interior stores remain there. I recall the dead mall Deerbrook Mall in the north suburbs of Chicago(and was profiled by Labelscar in the past) was similar to Mall 205, since it redeveloped itself with box stores, once the owners realized they couldn’t compete with nearby mall Northbrook Court.

  17. @Prange: One more thing, I initially(and probably not surprisingly) thought at first that Melrose was a chain that was ran by Stage, a la Peebles, Bealls, etc.). Guess it’s safe to say they aren’t, after just looking at Stage’s website.

  18. @Jonah Norason,

    True. Another thing about Portland OR is most of the retail is west of the Burnside Bridge in the hart of downtown & in the burbs beyond the West Hills. Of course you have the enormus Loyd Center on the east side & a box center in Gresham as well.

  19. In Photo #33, is that not the saddest (and smallest layout) kiddie train ever to be seen in a dying mall?

    The spiral staircase rocks. I miss the days of the 1970s malls with the wide-open interiors, and outrageous stairways and giant walkway ramps.

  20. I grew up in Duncanville in the 80s. Oh man, looking at this is sad. Just 20 years ago this place looked so much different. So very different. I remember the Toys R Us with the huge aisles stuffed with GI Joes, Transformers, and Nintendo aisle. I remember the Mervyn’s next to it, that always had oddball toys you couldnt find anywhere else. I remember the Colters bbq smokehouse on the corner that I used to think was so awesome.

    I really wish I hadn’t seen these photos.

  21. @Steven Wilson, what’s the date on the directory? I”m finding a lot of vacancies, surprisingly.

  22. Jonah: Thanks for the feedback!

    Bobby: It doesn’t have a year on it. I believe, however, it’s from the first year of operation.

  23. @Alpha, From what I’ve seen, Dillard’s, Belk and especially JCPenney tend to close quickly when demographics change.

  24. @Steven Swain, You’re so right about JCPenney often being among the first tenants to jump ship when demographics change. JCPenney closed at several Chicago area malls during the early 2000s when I noticed some local malls starting to decline, and/or demographics who frequented a mall changed. Lincoln Mall(Matteson, south suburbs), the now-dead Randhurst(Mount Prospect, northwest suburbs), and Lincolnwood Towne Center(north suburbs) being examples of what I mean.

    I do find it slightly surprising JCPenney kept their store at North Riverside(west suburbs), considering how many stores JCPenney seemingly closed in inner-ring suburbs of Chicago during the early 2000s. But then again, JCPenney I believe wasn’t doing very well in general during the early 2000s, IIRC. Belk seems to be similar too, based on dead mall accounts/stories I’ve read on southern malls. Won’t comment on Dillard’s, since I know even less about that company. But looking back to the rumor I remember reading about them looking at space at Marquette Mall in Michigan City a year or 2 ago, I wouldn’t be surprised if they are trying to find a way to someday establish a presence in the Chicago area. (say, if any anchor openings ever occurred at some of the more successful malls, and/or attaching a store to a new lifestyle or box center)

  25. @Allan Marshall, JCPenney did close their store in Market Place Mall in Champaign IL around the same time. However they moved back into that location in 2006 after a major remodel

  26. @Allan Marshall, JCPenney closed a slew of stores around 2000. Because of there was Wards in those malls too, the malls would end up dead in a few years (Blue Ridge, Randhurst, Mall of Memphis). Others were simply underperformers regardless of the mall (Pyramid Mall Ithaca)

  27. @Chip, Interesting they did reopen the store at Market Place. I do remember reading they did reopen at Lincoln Mall in Matteson(south suburbs), so I think the period they went through when they closed many stores is different than the period JCPenney is in today, since I know they have been expanding and opening many new stores.

    @Jonah Norason, I’m sure some JCPenney stores that did close in that period were definitely underperformers. I have heard the theory before that many people consider malls that had Montgomery Ward anchoring it at one time to be malls that later become weak, or dead malls. (guess you could theoretically say a curse) Although I have yet to reach a conclusion on whether this is true or not, since I haven’t researched enough malls that did once have a Ward’s store anchoring them.

    And speaking of Blue Ridge, it’s sad how many malls in the Kansas City area seemingly have died and/or are struggling, other than Oak Park Mall on the Kansas side. I do remember reading articles and blog entries on Blue Ridge Mall in the past.

  28. Thanks for doing another Texas mall. I have a kind of dumb question – so many times I see malls in areas hit by newer, fancier competition, demographic changes, lack of freeway access, etc. (like Richardson Square Mall) and I see statements like “then they spent a zillion dollars remodeling the mal…l etc…” I have not seen a case where it is not throwing good money after bad. A few years later it’s still empty or torn down. Are there examples where remodeling actually worked? Just curious.

    It will be interesting to see what the study group has to say.


  29. Unlike the other two dead or dying malls nearby (SIx Flags and Forum 301), I never went into Red Bird. Still, it’s sad that despite all of the existing space in the area, developers would rather build newer malls such as the Parks at Arlington or lifestyle centers further out than investing in what’s there.

  30. @Chris Whittaker,

    There are a few ways to answer that question.

    1. Follow the roof tops as the old retailing saying goes.

    2. Along the lines of #1 as sprawlburgs keep growing, more retail is being built. Even if that ends up diluting the entire market. Dallas is a great example of this.

    3. It is cheaper to build NEW than remoddle what already exists. That is unfortunite because there are plenty of viable centers being killed by newer malls that didn’t need to be built.

    I saw this in practice when visiting family in the miami area over several years. A mall would be built, be hot for a few years then die quickly because it wasn’t the newest in spot. A few malls have stood the test of time like Aventura, but that is in the minority of cases.

  31. @Laura, well, ParkSide Mall (in Florida) is a good example. They repainted and gutted the place, added a new ice rink, and tore down a few years later.

    Memorial City Mall in Houston was not doing so well, but it wasn’t really dead, but then it remodeled (circa 2002) and has become one of the nicest malls in Houston.

  32. Thanks for the info. Dallas really is a good example of that. If something is not brand spanking new, people don’t want to go there. NorthPark mall being the exception. Even NorthPark is going to have to fight to keep up because even in this already-dense area, it’s is being surrounded by new lifestyle centers. Including one across the street that is almost completely impossible even on a weekday to navigate in and out of but that is another story.

    Since the credit crisis, I wonder if the days are gone when millions of dollars are put into a mall that stands no chance due to permanent demographic and development shifts. It seems horribly extravagant now.

  33. Did you know that two developers put a contract on the mall for $15,million and Madison rejected it. The had another 60million for re-development.

  34. @Jonah Norason and others; some of the underperforming malls wdefinitely were in malls that were doing well like Perimeter mall in Atlanta, which probably skewed too upscale for them. they also may have gotten out of expensive leases. Significantly, they have acquired and kept stores in places with minoruity and non-weall-off demographics like PG Palza and Wheaton Plaza in the DC area. I don’t think they can be seen as a early-leaver.

    Dilliard, OTOH, relies on a highly centralized buying model which means that when a store’s clientele changes, they aren’t very able to adapt. They have closed stores in changing areas, esp. in their more noethern markets, where they tend to be more out of step in the first place.

  35. @Allan Marshall, Wards usually got stuck with bum malls that either had a bunch of anchors jump ship all at once (such as Maple Hill Mall in Kalamazoo, which had a shaky Target, as well as two local chains that went splat) or large, once-first-tier malls that got killed by changing demographics (Eastland Mall in Harper Woods, which is huge but very ghetto). I think one of the only exceptions is Genesee Valley in Flint, which had Wards for only about a decade.

  36. @Bobby, I seme to recall only one Wards in metro New York. It was located at the Poughkeepsie Galleria a mid-level mall owned by the boaring Pyramid Company.

  37. Oh yeah, another mall that once had a Wards and isn’t suffering: Spotsylvania Mall in Virginia. Their Wards is now a Costco, of all things — one of the only malls I know of that has a nonconventional big box anchor that isn’t sucking the life out of it. Usually anchors of that ilk coincide with dead, mostly big boxed malls.

  38. @SEAN, some other mall Wards that lived to move on.
    In Texas alone, there was Barton Creek Square (Nordstrom), Parkdale Mall (Foley’s), Sunrise Mall (a furniture store…after nearly seven years of vacancy!), Memorial City Mall (Target), Baybrook Mall (Foley’s), and several others.

    And in Metro New York? Monmouth Mall.

  39. I just realized how picture 41 and 43 are geographically right next to each other. And how creepy the food court looks, what with all the HVAC, bizarre neon icons, and the old Sbarro (hastily converted to “Italy Express”)

  40. @Jonah Norason, Also to an extent Lansing Mall in Lansing. It was replaced with a Younkers, although most of the Wards wing has been big boxed with Dunham’s, Old Navy and Barnes & Noble, and TJ Maxx took up another section of mall stores near the middle. Even so, Lansing Mall is still mostly full, save for a dead Mervyns/Steve & Barry’s near the back.

  41. @Jonah Norason,

    And in Metro New York? Monmouth Mall. I forgot that one.


  42. “The Red Bird name became quite tarnished as gangs roamed the area.”

    And it didn’t help that, as the area’s demographics changed, people started referring to it as “Black Bird Mall.” That’s probably the main reason for the change to the (admittedly rather sterile) Southwest Center.

    “The “protests” outside the mall are insanity. Can you imagine whites doing that to a “black mall”?”

    Good ol’ John Wiley Price; he’s really a brilliant and effective county commissioner (who gets reelected again and again), but he’s rather extremist in the area of race; the protests can grow tiresome after a while. (One of those protests made a bunch of us wait through about five traffic light cycles to cross the street on the way into the Cotton Bowl game. Considering the cost of the tickets, the protest accomplished little aside from ticking off everyone in the crowd, even those who might have otherwise been sympathetic to his cause.)

  43. That store entrance for Macy’s looks exactly like other store entrances I have seen at Valley View and Collin Creek malls too. I guess either it was from the same architect for all three malls or a long gone store chain with a signature entrance may have been at each of them. Those tall white columns with the bright tile mosaic behind them can be found at all three malls as entrances for anchor stores.

  44. @Steven Wilson, thanks for the link! The center court from the modern pics looked odd to me (not just because of the mural) and I couldn’t figure out why until I saw the old pics. They used to have that mid-level area in the center court that wasn’t part of the second level or the first.

    For some further historic info, there was a nice Aladdin’s Castle inside and a cookie store by one of the anchors that made proper M&M cookies (a sugar cookie with M&Ms on it). We used to get one and eat it in that center court.

    There were two bookstores (B Dalton and Walden) which was pretty fancy for its day. The anchors I remember were Sanger Harris, Sears, and JC Penney. For some reason, I have absolutely no recollection of Titche’s, Dillards, or Joskes being there. Go figure.

    It had one of the larger Oshmanns Sporting Goods I’ve seen. The center court had a ton of red carpet and the wood back then was all dark instead of that lighter color. While it was technically the only enclosed mall in south Dallas, Six Flags and Forum weren’t too far away. Sometimes, we’d make a Saturday of going to all 3.

    For years and years, there was a mattress store right off the Interstate. Outside the mall in the same parking lot there was a Best and a Showbiz Pizza. Other things in the mall area I remember are a Highlands electronics, a Luther’s/Colter’s, Mervyn’s, and an awesome Mexican restaurant called the Monterey House. We probably ate there once a week when I was younger.

  45. @Laura,

    I feel those days are gone Laura. At least for the most part. A recent addition to the city of Atlanta is called Atlantic Station. This project combined large retail space with residential towers that were in high demand in the area. A micro-community of sorts where a resident has full access to amenities and retail on foot. As usual, prices for residential space was kept high to discourage the criminal element, and if the area can be kept safe, it may stand the test of time.

    Outside of that model, it would seem that shifting demographics and crime statistics are making a hit-and-run retail model much more attractive for a retailer to avoid heavy losses. I would think that high rent and energy costs will easily stifle the old enclosed mall model. Couple that with shifting economics and urban flight, and many nails go into that coffin.

    It would seem that the tactics of Walmart are good example of hit-and-run retail. Their model is mainly a stand-alone facility that is not expected to anchor a retail mall model. These facilities can be opened and closed quickly, and are designed to pay for themselves in short order. That model is highly mobile, and reacts instantly to fickle economics, demographic changes, and shifting crime rates. It’s much more survivable.

  46. Does anyone know if the foolowing really happened there; I’ve been told that this occurred in the early 90’s and that ever since its when crime started to take over…a boy was assaulted, attacked sexually somewhere in the 1st floor restrooms when they were located down a long hallway? it supposedly happened between 1990-93

  47. Good old Red Bird Mall was my haunt growing up in the 80 living in Duncanville. I knew this place inside and out as iI found myself working there in 88.
    In 76 i was a kid still and loved the trips or drop-offs anytime that i could get there. In the beginning there was a kick ass accade called the Sportarama. All the Freaks used to smoke pot in the UV lit pinball room in the back while guests could ride bumper cars and play games till the wee hours.Ahh the smell of the games in there,, nothing like it !. Then it became the Kalidescope and things got freaky. This was prolly about 80 or 81.The bumper cars were enclosed and a freaky light show and vid projection screens were added along w/ very loud music. Man that was the shit for a young stoner like myself,lol. And we knew the dude that operated the ride ! hed let us go and go if no one was waiting in line to take this trip,lol.
    But yes, RBM was THE destination of choice for years to come . Am going to look at these pics and maybe comment more but this really caught my eye,,, damn ,mom used to take me school clothes shopping there every year,,memories.

  48. RB that was an urban myth come to find out. The story was that a kid got his penis “:chopped off” in the bathroom. Years later was found to be untrue. I got to see all the cool long hallways and tunnels of that place when I worked @ Aladdin’s castle for a breif stint.

  49. I liked yor story and the details too. Good job. I was hoping you could answer a question about a mall in Texas,no sure of the location as I was a child when I was taken but had fond memories of it. The place was called Ola padrea mall? Or a variation of that? Neat place and I can’t find it. Is it gone?

  50. @Thomas blackmon, Olla Podrida Mall (O-ya po-DREE-duh, Spanish for potpourri). Opened in the 1970s, closed in 1996. It was on 12215 Coit Rd. south of the LBJ. Looks like there’s an extended stay hotel there now.

  51. @Bobby P.,
    thanks…I finally found out I had spelled it wrong. Lol. Now it’s a Hebrew school from what I’ve read. Great…

  52. The crime hit a peak in 1991 when the manager of the General Cinema was killed during a robbery when making the night deposits at the bank in the area. I remember that because I worked in Arlington and Cinemark made managers take a employee with them when they went to the bank to get money and to make the night deposits. I went to the bank at night a few times because he bank we used was across from where I lived.

    I too remembered the cookies from the shop outside of Joskes and the metal tower fountain featured on the directory. That was located down by JC Penney.

  53. I used to visit Red Bird quite a bit in the mid-late 80s, as my mom shopped there quite often on school nights looking for work clothes as well my dad going to sears for tools or parts for our washer. I remember blowing my allowance at Aladdins Castle, Eating at Corn Dog On A Stick, Orange Julius ,Brothers Pizza or if it was a special occasion, El Chico.

    Like many things, it looks better in the past than it does now. Its run down and a total crime-ridden dump. The city has been talking about sinking money into the property to convert it. The best thing for this mall would be for it to be converted for another purpose (soundstage/studio lot) or have it and the surrounding properties demolished and converted into an urban park

  54. @Steven Wilson, Oh my goodness, I had completely forgotten that Wyatt’s Cafeteria used to exist! I knew there used to be an alternative to Luby’s and Furr’s! Man… that brings back some big childhood memories with my grandparents.

    @Dante, That Showbiz Pizza is likely the one where I celebrated my 4th and 5th birthdays when we lived in Duncanville in the mid-80s. I really do miss that place because none of their locations were quite the same once they changed over to Chuck E Cheese’s.

  55. @Bryan D, Sanger-Harris was the old regional chain they used to be a part of – a chain that was bought out by Foleys in about 1987, then subsequently bought out by Macy’s in the past few years.

    Sanger’s was nice too, I believe it used to be up there with Neiman’s as far as snazzy DFW area department stores went. My grandma looovvvved Sanger-Harris and every time I see that distinctive arch-and-mosaic entry on one of their old stores, it makes me remember the great times we had when she’d take her granddaughters out to shop around.

  56. @Amanda, Sanger-harris was part of Federated and was combined with Foley’s (also a part of Federated) after they were spun off to May. The Federated-May merger brought them back to their old owners under the Macy’s banner. Foley’s never bought them, nor did Macy’s.

  57. @Rich, actually, Sanger-Harris combined with Foley’s in 1987, and introduced a new Foley’s logo (with a triangle as the apostrophe). May Company bought Foley’s in 1988 (during the Campeau fallout) along with Filene’s and downscaled both. By the time they were reacquired by Federated, Federated had changed and was not interested in bringing the stores back to their more upscale roots: it was going to convert them to the Macy’s nameplate.

  58. Back in the day, or at least for me, Red Bird Mall was the top mall that did truly appeal to mostly the black and Hispanic communities. It was no galleria but it was a cool place to shop a little. Even in the late 90s before all the trouble, the mall was still hanging on. I mean in the late 90s they at least had a decent food court. They at least had a decent music store, and other clothing shops. As for today, sadly that’s not the case. Me and my mom popped by just out of curiosity to see how things were. It had been almost 10 years since I last visited this Mall. It was almost heartbreaking to see that the parking lot was practically empty. And surrounding buildings that use to be thriving back then, were deserted. An old movie theater is still sitting, empty, outside but near the Mall. Why they didn’t tear that down or reopen it I don’t know. They have abandoned even giving the place a decent paint job. Today Southwest Center is practically Hispanic based. The few of the stores that remain looked to be run by Hispanics. Me and my mom were looking for something to eat, but we were shocked to see an empty food court. All that remains there is two or three little rinkydink hole in the wall restaurants. The only thing that remained eatable was some cookie joint. All the popular food joints are gone. It looked worse than Kiests Bizarre when it was hitting rock bottom. I’m not saying this to put the place down, I’m just giving a honest say of what I saw. I mean I use to shop here and grew up coming here as a kid in the 80s back when it was thriving. I just found it to be kind of sad, the way the owners and the city just seemed to let this place go down. And it’s not just this place either. John Wiley Price tried to help but it wasn’t the right type of help and it wasn’t enough. I’m also African American and I respect John but I also have to admit that he did it all wrong. Over the years numerous well know historical businesses in Oak Cliff especially have bitten the dust. They will let this mall sit practically empty for another 10 years before they decide to tear it down or do something with it. There have been talks of redoing RedBird mall, but that was over 8 years ago. There are still a few stores here and there inside, but as far as being the way it use to be, in my opinion that’s no more. Even the street gang kids that use to hang out there don’t even bother. The few shoppers today I swear are mostly older Hispanic and senior citizens. Southwest Center is gone folks.

  59. @Christina,

    I totally remember this mall when it was well-kept (post 1986 remodel) and it was pretty decent even into the early 90s, when my grandad used to walk the mall and shop at the Sears. After the Parks opened in 1988, it was pretty much the beginning of the end of Red Bird and the surrounding retail. JWP made the situation MUCH worse, as he has with most of “sunny south dallas”, because he wants his piece of the pie, and its destroyed the community at large, sad to say. I always get a hurt in my gut when I drive by the place on 20/67 when im headed to my grandparents in Desoto

    Ive said this numerous times about the Red Bird property is the fact its pretty much “dead weight” in its current form(even as a mexican flea market), and it would do better as:

    A) A community DCCCD campus, similar to what ACC is doing with Highland Mall in Austin,

    B) A production/soundstage facility for TV/Film, as Dallas and the region are finally getting wise to the money it can bring in

    C)knock it to the ground and build a large city park for the southern sector of the city to enjoy.

  60. Look i got two suggestions for everybody look the mall was what that was when it had all its damn stores REMEMBER, bring them back and stop taking every damn thing from RED BIRD MALL to give to CEDAR HILL UPTOWN VILLAGE WHICH IN FACT SUCKS TO ME as prices are to damn high and TAXES ridiculous.



  61. My wife went in that mall a year or two ago so because we were in the area and I was curious how it had changed since I was a kid. It was really depessing, and even a little creepy.

    That mural in the center section looks even worse in person than in the photos, plus the place was deserted at mid-day. It didn’t even feel safe to be there.

    As someone else pointed out, the center section used to have a very distinctive mid-level, which I recall was popular for special exhibitions or church choirs at Christmas. Removing it struck me as a stunningly stupid move. What’s left in it’s place is just a great void. If someone wants to save and renovate that mall, they should start by putting it back.

  62. My wife and I went in that mall a year or two ago because we were in the area and I was curious how it had changed since I was a kid. It was really depressing, and even a little creepy.

    That mural in the center section looks even worse in person than in the photos, plus the place was deserted at mid-day. It didn’t even feel safe to be there.

    As someone else pointed out, the center section used to have a very distinctive mid-level, which I recall was popular for special exhibitions or church choirs at Christmas. Removing it struck me as a stunningly stupid move. What’s left in it’s place is just a great void. If someone wants to save and renovate that mall, they should start by putting it back.

  63. It was disheartening to read the above descriptions of Southwest Center Mall. It is no secret that the mall went through a definite period of decline which ultimately resulted in bankruptcy. The mall obtained New Owners in 2009. The mall was sparsely occupied at the time of purchase. Southwest Center Mall has 24/7 security and ironically the crime stats for the property are better than 95% of the malls in Dallas/Fort Worth ( I checked). Their occupancy is now at 80%. The property has numerous National and Regional Stores: Macy’s, Burlington’s, Sear’s, Champs, Clear Wireless, Footaction, Harold Pener Menswear, Hibbett’s, HYP, Image, Jimmy Jazz, Kids Footlocker, L ‘Patricia, Lids, Simply Fashions, Underground Station and World Footlocker. Additionally, a new 20,000 square foot store is slated to open October 1st; Gen X. These are all things I learned when I went to the mall and introduced myself to the General Manager. I was not only impressed but encouraged to find someone that truly cared about their job and this community. I was further surprised to learn what all has transpired with the redevelopment since the new Ownership came about and the Manager created a Team to bring the property to 100% occupancy by summer of 2012. She was aware that the property currently draws people from surprisingly far distances to purchase items that cannot be found in a traditional malls; she embraces this. I think this is brilliant and any attempt to cast the Mall a “usual” shopping experience would be a mistake. They need to embrace being unconventional. People that come there seeking the “usual” will always be disappointed! They should concentrate on pleasing their current users
    Additionally, they should not revert back to the name Redbird Mall as it was a failure. Who wants to re-associate themselves with any sort of negativity or failure, whether real or perceived. Additionally, they need to drop the name Southwest Center Mall; it has never been liked nor accepted by the user community or the residents of Dallas in general. It resonates none whatsoever with the people who shop there. It is inappropriate and technically incorrect on two levels: (A) neither Texas nor Dallas is in the Southwest as the name suggests, (B) the two Saguaro cactus depicted in the logo are not native to Texas, but to Arizona and New Mexico (two states which, incidentally, ARE located in the Southwest). The name needs to reflect the user and what they are most proud of – which is: community, Oak Cliff, and being COOL.

    It is easy to throw rocks but I suggest checking out the property for yourself! They have events FREE for the community every weekend ( Concerts, Dance Recitals, Stomp Festivals, Health Expos, Job Fairs, Symphonic Band Concerts, Fashion Shows, ETC) Don’t take my word for it. Go to the Management office and stop in, they were very accessible and open to discuss the property.

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  65. Does southwest center mall have a photo studio still? & how much please reply ASAP

  66. Just seen on Yahoo News, on Friday the 13th around 7.30 AM, a man named Arthur Walker rammed his red Dodge pickup truck into the entrance next to the old Macy’s/Foley’s in Southwest Center, drove into the mall, hit several kiosks and crashed into the Champs Sports store where he stole clothes (did we mention, he was naked?) and a pair of Air Jordan Nike shoes, cops arrived and arrested him, it seems he tried to carjack a woman who thankfully got away but before that he was involved in a domestic violence call with the cops about a mile away from the mall.

    Just hope the link works:–abc-news-topstories.html

    Just another manic FRIDAY THE 13TH!

  67. @Matthew, Don’t forget the countless other murders and violent attacks, some right inside that mall. None of which were committed by young black men.

  68. @RB, Just to let people know the nickname that has carried from this mall was black bird mall. Yes, a small boy was assaulted and had a private part cut off in one of the restrooms. It was kept hush hush. I am from the area. It is not a safe area.

  69. When I was there in the mid to late eighties I thought the name should have been changed to the BLACKbird Mall! Another example of an area desimated by a dark demographic change

  70. Hell yeah!!! Who can forget, wyatts cafeteria , and my mom loved to go to the foleys red apple sales and take me to Orange juelious to have a corn dog. And once in a while dad would take me best friend to a movie at one of the two theatres which I beleive are now both churches and the toys r us that used to be across the street, with Mervyns on the other end of the shopping strip. Remember petco in front of the mall? & Ross just down the road , then go to grandys for lunch and get chicken strips and rolls. Yeah grandys is about the only thing left, even the bank of the southwest Is gone where my mom used to bank. Show biz pizza changed to Chuck e cheese pizza. And I think it might be holding on by a string but could possiably be gone too. Ballys gym closed that was behind the mall and even the movie trading company is gone now.the shopping mall and stores that now just sit vacant but full of memories all fellow oak cliff and Duncanville residents. Too bad its all gone to crap and hasn’t been made nice or turned into something that would bring life back like it was in the late 80′ early 90’s. Of my childhood.

    Thanks for trip down memory lane.
    Edith M.

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