A city known for its pioneering efforts in the arena of space travel, Huntsville, Alabama is the boomchild of the space race. With a popuation of just 16,000 residents in 1950, Huntsville had 72,000 people by 1960 and an impressive 140,000 by 1970. Today, Rocket City has 170,000 residents, with over 500,000 in the metropolitan area.
Huntsville’s retail scene consists of two super-regional enclosed malls, Parkway Place and Madison Square. Another, much smaller mall existed downtown until 2007, and another regional mall exists in Decatur, about 30 minutes away.
Madison Square Mall is not only the Huntsville region’s largest mall, but one of the largest malls in Alabama at over 900,000 square feet. The mall opened in 1984 anchored by JCPenney, Sears, Birmingham-based Parisian, Nashville-based Castner Knott, and Birmingham-based Pizitz. In the early days, Madison Square also had junior anchors Blach’s and Yielding.
Through the years, several anchor changes and a couple renovations have taken place at the two-level mall, leaving only Sears and JCPenney as original anchor stores open to this day. Blach’s closed in 1987 and was replaced by Limited and Victoria’s Secret. Pizitz was acquired by Jackson, MS-based McRae’s and operated under that banner until it was swallowed up by Belk in 2006. Castner Knott, a Mercantile store, got eaten by Dillard’s along with all the other Mercantile stores in 1998. Parisian was one of the last to change when the entire chain got converted to the Belk nameplate in 2007. As a result, the already-existing Belk moved to the larger former Parisian location, and the Belk which was McRae’s is currently vacant. Lastly, Yielding closed in 1993 and spent the next ten years as Castner Knott/Dillard’s Men’s store, and most recently is a Steve and Barry’s location.
Major mall renovations took place in 1994 and again in 2006. However, Madison Square Mall is considerably dated compared to its smaller across-town rival, Parkway Place, which was constructed in 2002 on the site of the former Parkway City Mall. Today, Madison Square is decidedly playing second fiddle to Parkway Place in terms of both store offerings and vacancy rates. Nonetheless, Madison Square holds its own and is still a very viable destination.
The pictures featured with this post were taken by me in March 2008. As usual, feel free to leave your comments, expriences, reactions, and statements.