Christown Spectrum Mall
|This article needs additional citations for verification. (December 2011)|
|Management||Vestar Development Co.|
|No. of stores and services||50+|
|No. of anchor tenants||7|
|No. of floors||1 + mezzanine|
Chris-Town Mall is the oldest operating mall and was the third shopping mall built in Phoenix, Arizona, located on Bethany Home Road and 19th Avenue. Today it still exists as an enclosed shopping mall, although the enclosed portion of the mall was greatly reduced when redevelopment changed the configuration closer to a power centre. The property currently is known as Christown Spectrum Mall, derived from Chris-Town Mall & Phoenix Spectrum Mall, names previously used in the past.
Chris-Town Mall was originally named after the farmer, Chris Harri, who sold a large portion of his farm land to the mall's developer in the late 1950s. The mall's north-central location, about 7 miles directly north of the state Capitol, eventually became a well-known landmark. The surrounding neighborhoods are now commonly referred to by locals as the Chris-Town area of Phoenix.
Construction was completed in mid-1961. It is said that the construction didn't go as well as planned; the town would later find out why. Chris-Town Mall opened with much fanfare on August 24, advertised as the first indoor mall in Arizona. Another first for an Arizona mall was the air-conditioned interior, which may have led to competing Maryvale Mall converting to an indoor mall to stay competitive. The mall's original anchors included Montgomery Ward, JCPenney, and local department store, Korrick's. Other major tenants included S. S. Kresge, & Woolworth. Themed Courtyards served as focal points in front of each of the three major department stores. The main courtyard at the center entrance that buffered J.C. Penney was named the Court of Fountains; another named the Court of Flowers ended the east wing near Korrick's, and the Montgomery Wards opened to the final one, named the Court of Birds, in the west wing.
By 1966 the mall already had begun the first of many significant changes due to the buyout of Korrick's whose conversion saw the loss of one of the three original anchors to The Broadway. Also that year the mall's first of two movie theatres broke ground on the southwest side of the main parking lot. And a new subterranean tavern, called The Janitor's closet, opened near The Broadway end of the mall. The second significant change began in 1974 in reaction to Metro Center, the new mega mall that opened just a few miles away. Woolworth's was demolished to make way for the new southwestern wing anchored by a Bullock's department store. While a second new wing on the southwestern side of the mall opened to a United Artists Cinemas 6 on the upper level making it Chris-Town's second movie theatre. Changes already were underway again by the mid-1980s when Diamond's, which quickly became Dillard's, moved into the southwestern anchor spot vacated by Bullock's short stay at the mall. At this point the mall still remained strong, but it would not be for long.
The next decade would not be kind to Chris-Town Mall following the rapid closure of many anchor stores beginning with The Broadway in 1994; JCPenney closed in 1997, the bankruptcy of Wards in 2001, and the closing of the final anchor, Dillard's, in 2004. The closures of the major department stores also brought about the permanent closure of the life sized sand sculptures exhibit that adorned the mall for many years.
A New Spectrum
Beginning the new millennium the mall underwent a rebirth with a new name, Phoenix Spectrum Mall, and a Grossman Company Properties financed redevelopment was underway. The new spectrum of discount stores, replacing the old upscale ones, started with the demolition of The Broadway and replacement by Walmart. The $10 million renovation project also included the addition of the first Costco to be located in an enclosed mall, followed by the division of the Wards department store into a Petsmart and Ross Dress for Less. Walgreens, a longtime resident relocated outside the mall to the northwest corner of the parking lot, with Big 5 Sporting Goods replacing that location in the mall.
A Familiar Name
Following the sale of the mall to Developers Diversified Realty in 2006, Phoenix Spectrum Mall took on a hybrid of its previous names to become known as Christown Spectrum Mall. The developers understood many residents still preferred to call the mall by the original name and thus knew the value of the name Christown. At this same time the southwestern wing that was added in 1974 was demolished and replaced by Target, as well as creating space for smaller specialty shops that would no longer be directly connected to the mall. The former United Artists Cinemas & food court were demolished and replaced by a Harkins theatre with stadium seating which resulted in the Chris-Town Cinemas located in the parking lot to also be demolished. Most of the enclosed section between the old Court of Fountains and the new PetSmart and Costco was demolished for the return of a previous anchor, JCPenney which relocated from their recently closed location at nearby Metrocenter. This demolition cut off mall access to the Petsmart & Ross, thus leaving only the center & eastern side as traditional enclosed mall.
Today the only remaining original structures are the center entrance, east wing and the Montgomery Wards building although the second floor remains non-leasable space. The rest of the buildings that housed the original anchors have been razed, along with the movie theatre and the entire western wing. Although the mall's central complex remains, the fountains were removed shortly after new flooring was added.
- Hazel, Debra (July 2003). "Shopping Centers Today: Cover Story: Costco taking anchor spots". ICSC.org. Retrieved 2007-12-02.
- Steinberg, Grayson (2007-06-25). "New name for mall has familiar ring: Chris-Town". The Arizona Republic.