Sunrise Mall; Corpus Christi, Texas

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Corpus Christi, the largest city in South Texas, is home to 285,000 people with over 430,000 in the metro area.  Home to HEB grocery stores, the Whataburger fast food chain, Corpus Christi is also the 8th largest deep sea port in the U.S.  The following submission is from reader “Jonah Norason” and his experience with Sunrise Mall, one of Corpus Christi’s two adjacent malls:

“I have a special connection with this mall. It was my first dead mall experience. Owned by Tom Morris, the slumlord of Six Flags Mall, Sunrise Mall is another story of why moving very close to an existing mall is generally a bad idea.

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“From what I could tell, the mall started out as pretty upscale, virtually right next to Padre Staples Mall. The opening tenants in 1981 included Sears (which predated the mall by six years),Frost Brothers, Joske’s, and a pre-existing HEB(I’m pretty sure H-E-B did not open into the concourse). Many existing tenants at Padre Staples, such as Foot Locker and GNC, opened new locations at Sunrise rather than moving. The mall was popular at first, even starring in the 80s movie The Legend of Billie Jean(you can see the comparison here.

Sunrise Mall center court in Corpus Christi, TX“But all that would slowly come to an end. Sunrise Mall’s upscale feel dropped off pretty quickly during the ‘80s. It became more discount oriented. Joske’s did not convert to Dillard’s, since there was already one at Padre Staples, so it closed was replaced with Montgomery Ward. Frost Brothers gave way to Burlington Coat Factory. H-E-B closed and became Stein Mart (which has an interior entrance, I’m pretty sure of). Mervyn’s was added as a sixth anchor. Still, over the period of the next decade, demographic shifts, the generally bad local economy, and competition from Padre Staples slowly squeezed the life out of Sunrise. Wards closed in December 2000. From what I can tell, Sunrise Mall’s prosperity (or what was left of it) went from bad to worse around 2004-2006. This was judging by the outdated mall directory that we’ll get to (it still had Mervyn’s).

“The mall was thoroughly uninviting. Partially obscured by uninviting parking garages, untamed shrubbery, and an outdated sign, it was surely to be a treat. Inside the mall, I was overjoyed as it had all the trademarks of a “dead mall”. Escalators shut off. Sections converted to office space. Wooden facades. Dead fronts. Nontraditional tenants. Neon. I love neon, it made me sad because it seemed like there used to be more neon in my local mall that disappeared over the years. There was a Montgomery Ward, which was still mostly intact. The directory, made somewhere between 2000 and 2006, showed that at one time, it was slightly better, but based on the bizarre things listed, like “Girls Rock” and other miscellany, it was obviously proceeding to the dark side.

24-orange-creations.JPG“The food court was interesting. A dark corner of the mall, it almost was if the whole food court was subterranean. A Wendy’s was getting good business, but the majority of the food court tenants were dark. I didn’t pay attention, but there was a shell of a Chick-fil-A within those corridors. Other food court stands included one “Orange Creations” (guess what that used to be!) and “Anna Ice Cream & Deli”.

“What was more impressive, though, was the full-size sails. I liked them, they were a nice touch, but pretty depressing at the same time. There was also a dollar theater, but it was only four screens and the movies showing at the time were pretty sub-par at best.

“And that’s when we left. The mall is currently anchored by Burlington Coat Factory, Stein Mart, Sears, and a brand-new “HomeSource by Wilcox Furniture” in the former Wards store. However, not all is well. The mall faced foreclosure in April to be auctioned on May 6th but May 6th came and went without a buyer. Good, I suppose.

“I took these photos in summer 2007, actually before the Cherry Hill Mall pictures I took.”

Thanks for the submission, Jonah!   I also visited Sunrise Mall, in April 2007.  I found it and its more successful neighbor mall, Padre Staples Mall, to be a curious set.  Considering these two malls are the only two for Corpus Christi, the pair together don’t even really add up to what I’d expect in a market this size.  Padre Staples, Sunset’s more “successful” neighbor, was (as of 2007) pretty dated as well.  In fact, I’d even expect another mall to serve a different part of town, considering the population here. 

My pictures:

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Sunrise Mall in Corpus Christi, TX Sunrise Mall in Corpus Christi, TX Sunrise Mall in Corpus Christi, TX

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Sunrise Mall in Corpus Christi, TX Sunrise Mall in Corpus Christi, TX Sunrise Mall directory map in Corpus Christi, TX

Sunrise Mall Montgomery Ward in Corpus Christi, TX Sunrise Mall in Corpus Christi, TX Sunrise Mall in Corpus Christi, TX

Sunrise Mall in Corpus Christi, TX Sunrise Mall Montgomery Ward in Corpus Christi, TX Sunrise Mall in Corpus Christi, TX

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Sunrise Mall Stein Mart in Corpus Christi, TX Sunrise Mall in Corpus Christi, TX Sunrise Mall in Corpus Christi, TX

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Sunrise Mall in Corpus Christi, TX

More of Jonah’s photos:

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32 Responses to “Sunrise Mall; Corpus Christi, Texas”

  1. Even “Burlintgon Coat Factory” is misspelled on the directory! How pitiful!

    Does that mall have ANY national tenants (other than Sears/Stein Mart/Burlington Coat Factory) or ANY customers?!

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  2. Hmm…there is a Wendy’s, a GNC, and a few service-oriented tenants. But dead mall? Very yes!

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  3. When were your photos taken? (mine were taken in June 2007)

    Also, the summary (it may be my fault) is messed up a bit. It should be “I’m pretty sure H-E-B did not open into the concourse). The italics should end after “Billie Jean” and then space, (you can see the comparison [link]here[/link])

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  4. The Burlington was open on my trip two months after Prange’s. The Anna Ice Cream appears to be closed in this shot:
    http://www.labelscar.com/wp-content/uploads/2008/07/sunrise-mall-25.jpg

    but open in this shot:
    http://www.labelscar.com/wp-content/uploads/2008/07/21-closeup-of-the-neon-drenched.JPG

    One of the photos I botched was this cool model railroader’s club sign. It was a wooden facade where they mounted a whole railroad crossbucks with lights on it, and the photo got really messed up. Rats!

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  5. My photos were taken in April 2007.  I went pretty early in the morning though, so that might be why some stuff wasn’t open then that was open a few months later.  Anyway, I think I fixed all the link problems, let me know if anything else is wrong.

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  6. There’s some spaces that need to be in:

    “(which predated the mall by six years),Frost Brothers, Joske’s, and a pre-existing HEB(I’m pretty sure H-E-B did not open into the concourse). Many existing tenants at Padre Staples, such as Foot Locker and GNC, opened new locations at Sunrise rather than moving. The mall was popular at first, even starring in the 80s movie The Legend of Billie Jean(you can see the comparison here.”. Spaces should be after the comma after “years),”, the word HEB, and the word “Jean”. Seems like we both found Orange Creations and Montgomery Ward to be very interesting…

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  7. The design of the mall itself doesn’t look too bad, could do with some sprucing up. Its looks like its pretty well and clean, those escalators in that first shot at the top look almost new, but not a single soul around except for the receptionist at the dental office (oh and the old people exercising in that other shot, haha)

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  8. http://www.macon.com/102/story/414769.html says Macon Mall in Macon, GA is in the foreclosure throes. A company has been appointed by the court to run the mall. On a side note it has a Steve And Barry’s which itself is troubled. Some say the mall is run-down, others say it isn’t “all that bad”. Parisian’s has gone and so has the Piccadilly (formerly Morrison’s) Cafeteria. Tarps cover the skylights where a tornado on May 11 made vent holes.

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  9. That center court is beautiful. Is that a waterfall between the escalators? That is very unique I have never seen anything like that before. I like all the vintage mall design in Sunrise Mall. Never seen such a nice late 80’s Montgomery Ward sign intact, really cool. I don’t know why a mall developer would build a mall right across the street from an existing mall. I don’t know anything about where is the best location in Corpus Christi to locate a mall, but maybe if this mall would have been built in another part of town, it might stand a chance of surviving. Maybe it would have been the dominant mall in Corpus Christi.

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  10. It’s such a shame to let a nice mall like this fall beneath. The shrubbery, trees and flooring give it a plaza-like feel.

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  11. Sunrise was actually the first mall in Corpus Christi. La Palmera (formerly Padre Staples Mall) was actually built second and yes it was bad design/ a bad idea to build the two so near to each other. I think it would be awesome if the new owners of La Palmera would buy out Sunrise Mall and connect the two together through like a train or a skywalk or something. Just think, two malls, with a train (such as the ones they have at DFW Airport in DFW) would be awesome. I mean it would make more sense to me and would grow interest in the other mall if travel to the both of them was made easier, and if it was fast. I have lots of cool ideas if the owners of the mall would ever like to contact me. I would love to see a Steve & Berry’s come in the mall or an Old Navy.

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  12. No, PSM did open first, and Sunrise Mall was built 2nd. I’d like to see a Padre Staples Mall, excuse me, La Palmera mall entry on this blog as well.

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  13. The best thing that can happen for Sunrise Mall is tenants from La Palmera will move to Sunrise once management kicks them out. A potential instance of this is “Joe’s Comidas” which featured a neon sign reading “Budweiser y Tacos”. That and the fact that Sunrise Mall has virtually full anchors…it’s gonna be OK.

    Now, Six Flags Mall on the other hand…

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  14. First off – I love this site. I just discovered it and am hoping Northcross Mall in Austin is covered.

    Secondly, HEB has a lot of grocery stores in Corpus Christi, but they’re headquartered in San Antonio and as far as I know don’t have any top end staff in Corpus.

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  15. I heard (if Wikipedia is any source) that someone bought Sunrise Mall and got the fountains running again. That’s nice. No website, though, although “www.sunrise-mall.net” was once the address. Unfortunately, the great Wayback Machine doesn’t work because of the Robots.txt goons that own the site now.

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  16. and WHATABURGER is no longer headquartered in Corpus. It too moves to San Antonio.

    Sad to see a city like Corpus with so much potential not going anywhere.
    Dying on the vine and people in Corpus don’t seem to realize they have been left behind.

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  17. Padre Staples Mall was built first, I believe it opened in 1970. I was a sophomore in high school at that time and we would go to PS Mall to the PS Mall Drug Store Grill (where my best friend worked) then we’d visit the record store where another friend worked. Then we’d go shopping at Stuarts for clothes.
    There was an HEB where Sunrise Mall is and it didn’t open to the concourse. It’s where Steinmart is now. It replaced an HEB that was previously located at Parkdale Plaza when Parkdale started to lose its luster. There was also an HEB at Town & Country which was actually the FIRST mall in CC, although it was very small.
    The Orange Creations was Orange Julius and there was also one located at the PS Mall. The PS Mall was remodeled after a fire that actually killed a girl.

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  18. All of the major coorporations that originated in Corpus Christi are leaving. Often we hear that they “out grew” the city or they are moving to a “more central” location, but let’s face it. Corpus Christi is not an inviting place for businesses. We have the highest business taxes in the nation, a very un-motivated work force, and a city council that is wholeheartedly against any sort of development. This place is becoming sad. We need a change…

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  19. I like Dead Malls. School doesn’t start for a week, so I took a trip to Sunrise for some pictures today. I had a good visit. I started to take pictures and was approached by two security guards who asked what I was doing. They took an interest in my “Dead Mall” research and said they’d like me to meet Lee Hassman, the new General Manager of the mall. I was led down some long, drab hallways and thought I was going to be killed, but I emerged at a nice office in the back with a receptionist. I was introduced to Mr. Hassman who is a self-described veteran of rehabilitating dead malls. He said to me “oh, this mall is far from dead” when I referred to Sunrise as a dead mall.

    Hassman was remarkably gracious and had Sam Lopez, Director of Security, escort me through the mall and give me a guided tour of their progress. W-O-W, what a difference 4 months makes. Since being foreclosed on by IBC Bank, they’ve brought in an entirely new management team, headed by Hassman. The place is cleaned up like it had a bath. The 70′s style architecture remains in tact, just like in the movie Legend of Billie Jean. Literally, nothing has changed other than the place being cleaned thoroughly. They have a brand new A/C system that keeps this place at a good temperature. The fountains are working again (I have pics) and the escalators will be running within a month but are waiting on the contractor to begin work on them.

    Lopez said they’re aggressively trying to find new tenants. Padre Staples (now La Palmera) is having major renovations and is raising everyone’s rent. There are a lot of cash-strapped retailers looking for alternatives and Sunrise is marketing themselves toward them. It was firmly stated that IBC Bank is not interested in selling the land to anyone wanting to tear it down. The building itself is worth more than they paid for it. It hasn’t been mentioned, but Sunrise actually is a much nicer facility (in terms of the building) than Padre Staples. Management is what made the difference. Hassman said they are “fully committed” to rehabilitating it and bringing it back to life.

    The cleanliness, security, and the renewed functionality of the building is a good start, but they’ve got a long way to go to get it even close to fully occupied. They’ve got quite a few “non-traditional” tenants there and making it into a full-retail center will require throwing some of these people out. I’m sorry, but having a massive Texas Workforce Commission (the unemployment office) office located in a shopping mall is not something any mall should do. The previous owners were letting anyone move in without any regard for the image they were creating. Un-doing that damage is going to be a heck of a task.

    All in all, the staff were very nice. I actually shook their hands and left smiling like I was some sort of hot-shot for talking to management. I’m glad to see anyone taking an interest in it and think with, a little patience, we could see this once beautiful mall achieve some success. They appear to have a cracker jack staff who are devoted to just that.

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  20. I live in Corpus Christi and just visited the mall a few days ago just to make fun of the interior. The Dollar Movie there isn’t bad, it plays movies that played in regular theatres but just about a month or two later for a dollar. The Sears is still a pretty busy store, so are Stein Mart and Burlington. Honestly….they should close down the entire mall, it wouldn’t affect the businesses i just listed since they sort of work outside of the mall. But….the mall does have a decent and cheap arcade (won a portable tv there :] ) and they also added a glow in the dark putt putt course on the upstairs which I have yet to visit. They might as well close down the mall, the only reason I see good for it, is so that kids can run around and play extreme tag or hide-and-go-seek. Since Padre Staples Mall is looking to expanding, these malls are so close to each other, Padre Staples mall could build some kind of underground tunnel leading to this mall and use it for their mall! (Very impossible im sure, but hey atleast im thinking of some ideas…..since this damn town can’t agree on anything.)

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  21. Wendy’s is Gone. $1.00 plus store is closing.Sears,Arcade, and Special Olympics is still open and the Dollar Cinema is still there.One of the nail salons is closing.Not much is open but I heard that things might get better . There are a few new stores one is a mini golf place and the other is Native American but I forgot the name of it.

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  22. What an incredible opportunity! This mall has so much potential, especially with the renovations and new high end tenant mix the adjacent Palmera Mall is working to achieve. Sunirse will now be able to compete at a whole different level and bring in tenants that cant afford the Palmera rents or fit thier upscale profile. At the end of the day, Sunrise will be the winning mall in Corpus!

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  23. This mall was Corpus Christi’s attempt to go upscale, before Padre Staples remodeled. Padre-Staples had Beall’s, Woolworth’s, Dillard’s and Penney’s (not JCPenney, back then!) in a straight shot (I can see one end from the other) design. I remember thinking when Sunrise opened that Sunrise might put P-S out of business. P-S was an old 1960′s design: one level, straight as an arrow, with little going on inside (a larger version of Town & Country). Sunrise was multi-level, had more upscale shops, and a more interesting interior. How ironic that P-S (now with the more upscale sounding Palmera name) survived.

    Sunrise was the victim of unfortunate timing, as the oil bust was coming (or had already arrived) when it opened. Frost Bros. (San Antonio’s answer to Dallas’ Neiman Marcus), Joske’s, Sakowitz (Houston’s answer to Dallas’ Neiman Marcus) were all here. I thought Foley’s (now macy’s) had a store here also before Padre-Staples was enlarged. At any rate, Joske’s sold out, Sakowitz and Frost folded completely, and this mall was DOA. Even if the anchors had survived, I’m not sure CC’s demographics could support all of that retail.

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    Jonah Norason (Pseudo3D) Reply:

    @Larry, I know Foley’s wasn’t there (Foley’s had very distinctive designs and the Foley’s of PSM is 1980s…I’d know if Foley’s was at Sunrise). Let’s see…Mervyn’s looks like it was a later addition, Joske’s was closed since Dillard’s was at Sunrise (they kept Dillard’s). It looks like Sakowitz WAS briefly there in the late 1980s due to a merger with Frost Bros. (http://www.highbeam.com/doc/1G1-6928442.html)

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  24. I live in Corpus Christi, and I remember when Sunrise Mall was THE mall to be at. Citizens would refer to it as the “new mall” and Padre Staples at the “old mall”. If you were a teenager in the 80′s during the Breakfast Club era, Sunrise Mall was the place to be seen. It was big, bright, beautiful and bountiful. What killed it besides Frost Bros. and Joske’s leaving was the addition of the discount theater. That brought in a different clientele. Soon gangbangers were roaming the mall and that drove the shoppers away. Just the other day, a man was shot and killed in front of Burlington’s. All involved were gang members.

    Now, La Palmera, which used to be Padre Staples, is getting a much needed renovation. What I liked about this mall is that it always stayed classy. The management did well. I cannot say the same for Sunrise… The renovations of La Palmera should be complete in Spring 2010.

    Yeah Sunrise Mall had a great run, and to me, it’s the epitome of an 80′s mall. When you walk in, you can just feel it. In my mind and in my eyes, you can almost feel the essence of big-haired teenagers running around with the tunes of Journey and The Go Go’s trapped in their heads while wearing LA Gear tennis shoes. Just go and take a look and you’ll see what I mean.

    Sunrise Mall is like a washed-up, once popular kid, trying to hold onto the glory days which have sadly passed on.

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  25. I manage one of the anchor stores of this mall and while it is sad what has become of this mall it has a chance at survival. The mall is under new management Lee is no longer there. The mall is yet recieving another blow since Stein Mart is soon to leave. They are moving to the old Linen’s and More across the highway in the Moore Plaza Shopping Center. It is hard to manage the mall when the mall does not own the anchor stores. For example if the mall owned the old Mrevyn’s store which is sitting empty they could aggressivley try to fill that location. Instead the Meryn’s Corporation still owns it and is asking WAY WAY WAY too much money for it. When you have empty achors it is hard to attract decent little shops to open between the anchors who depend heavily on foot traffic for their business.

    If the IBC which owns the mall could work out a deal to buy the empty anchor stores from their current owners they would be in position to offer a “sweetheart deal” to a Neimann Marcus type company or Pottery Barn (something upscale Corpus does not have) to attract them to open a store in the mall. Once you get some good anchors foot traffic increases and then in turn the small shops in the mall and food court begin to open again. Move the dollar movies elsewhere because of the rift raft it brings in and tear down the parking garage in the front of mall since it pretty much eliminates even being able to see the mall from the highway. This mall is absolutely beautiful inside with sky lights, fountains, and landscaping. Was it a mistake to build this mall right next to another mall? yes, this was undoubtablly the decision of arrogant/ overconfidant mall developer who thought he would have a bigger newer mall and crush the Padre Staples mall at the time. It is possible for both malls to exist succuessfully they just neeed different tenants.

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  26. HELLO I REM THIS MALL BACK WHEN I WAS VERY YOUNG I REM LOTS OF OLD STORES IN THERE. I EVEN REMEBER A WHATA BURGER IN THERE TO EAT…LOL

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  27. WOULD SOMEONE PLEASE TELL ME THAT I KNOW I WASNT DREAMING THAT THERE WAS REALLY A WHATA BURGER IN IN DA MALL IN THE BOTTOM..

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  28. Yes! There was a Whataburger in the lower level, I believe where Mastercuts is. There was also a corndog 7 that made the best lemonade and funnel cakes. I have been trying to find a complete list of past and present tenants of this mall but have been unsuccessful, I’m really interested in learning about the past retail history of this mall.

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  29. Padre Staples has been changed to La Palmera and it is a BEAUTIFUL mall.

    A final nail in the coffin of Sunrise Mall :( No Burkes in there, No Anna’s Ice Cream, No Wendy’s, Rock and Roll Plus is closing, Rich’s has left, Steinmart is out of there..

    Upside: Neon mini golf!

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  30. I lived at this mall in 1983. On a lark decided to look it up and here I am. I was actually at the mall when they filmed scenes for Legend of Billy Jean, which was super annoying because I was buying a jambox from one of the stores they were shooting in and I had to wait between takes.

    Down by the waterfalls in the center of the mall, by the escalators, the movie folks were giving haircuts for extras that wanted to be in the movie. They were kinda a modified mullet as I recall, spiked on top. Red Baron pizza was actually doing a promo at that fountain around ’82 where you ‘fished’ for tokens in it and grand prize was a ride in a bi plane, and this kid in front of me won it. Jerk.

    I used to hang out all day at radioshack on the TRS80s, or go to Aladdins Castle and play video games. Indeed, Sunrise was the ‘new’ mall and Padre the ‘old’.

    I worked at that Sears in high school, and HEB never opened to the mall that I knew of. Really until padre staples re modeled everybody thought it was a cinch they’d go out of business.

    The dollar movie theater was first run when it opened then went dollar pretty dang quick as I recall. It did bring a ton of kids and cheapskates over there, and I could see how they’d chase out real shoppers.

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  31. If anyone’s curious, I have a few more recent pics (summer a couple of years back): http://www.flickr.com/photos/amandagillispie/sets/72157625924709870/

    The Wendy’s was gone, as was the GNC, the escalators were blocked off from anyone walking on them, the fountains were drained, but the arcade was still rolling along, we noticed that the glow-golf place had some nice business while we grabbed an Orange Creation in the awesomely “unique” food court, and I picked up 2 pairs of shoes for something like $14.

    My boyfriend is a native of Corpus, and he remembers the mall in its heyday, but it just kind of made me sad and nostalgic that such a great relic was going to waste

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