|This article needs additional citations for verification. (January 2010)|
View along Bellaire Boulevard
Houston, Texas, USA
|Owner||Boxer Property Management|
|No. of anchor tenants||2|
|No. of floors||2|
PlazAmericas, formerly known as Sharpstown Mall and earlier Sharpstown Center, is a shopping mall located in the Sharpstown development in Greater Sharpstown, Houston, Texas. The mall is located on the northwest corner of U.S. Route 59 and Bellaire Boulevard. This is the third mall to be built in Houston after Gulfgate Mall opened in 1956 and Meyerland Plaza in 1957. The area includes the Jewelry Exchange Center, a ten story building. After the mall was renamed PlazAmericas, it took a Latin American theme and catered to Hispanic and Latino Americans.
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Beginnings and prime years (1961–1990s)
Transportation was a major problem because it took Houstonians time to get to the mall. Frank Sharp decided to donate a 300 ft (91 m) wide strip of land to build the Southwest Freeway (U.S. Route 59) through his development. Developer Frank Sharp placed a time capsule in the cornerstone of the mall.
The mall opened on September 14, 1961, days after Hurricane Carla hit Houston. A 1970 Houston Chronicle article stated that Frank Sharp decided not to delay the opening; therefore the morale of Houstonians would be increased. Ted Kennedy appeared during the first day ceremony, and served as the main speaker. The store opened with 43 stores. The first day brought only 8,000 shoppers (a number that was affected by the hurricane) present. The enclosed mall was considered unique for the area, and a luxury given Houston's historically unpredictable weather.The mall contained the Clock of Texas diorama, an animated look at the history of Texas through the centuries. When Sharpstown Mall opened, it was located on the edge of Houston's suburbs. Sharpstown Mall was the first enclosed shopping Center in Houston, and the first one with air conditioning. Sharpstown Center had the first Foley's in the Houston suburbs, the first suburban Houston Trunk Factory store, the first shopping center Battelstein's, and the first suburban Florsheim store.
Sharpstown Center consisted of many stores, including anchors Montgomery Ward, Battelstein's and the first Foley's store outside of downtown Houston, along with the Sharpstown State Bank—which closed after the Sharpstown scandal; now the Jewelry Exchange Center. Because it was Houston's first air conditioned mall, many Houston residents residing in the central part of the city wanted to experience the "mall of the future." The remains of the former bank are three drive-throughs in the middle of the front parking lot that are still standing to this day.
The mall fought off competition from The Galleria and Westwood Mall, which both opened in the 1970s. In 1970 Sharpstown Mall had 57 stores and was fully leased. A bank, a dog groomer, and a post office were located at the mall. In the early 1980s, a second floor was added and the mall was extensively renovated from its original 1950s appearance. A food court was added in the former Battelstein's department store.
In February 1989 Sharpstown Mall was 97% occupied, making it the mall with the highest percentage of occupied space in the Houston area.
In 1993, the mall was branded as the "Sharpstown Center" and underwent a minor facelift that included a new ten-screen movie theater. The branding would revert to the original name in early 2008.
In the early 1990s the mall got a $50 million renovation.
Ralph Bivins and Greg Hassell of the Houston Chronicle said that the mall's decline began in the late 1980s. In 1990 the Y'alls Texas store in the mall closed. The president of the chain, Sam Wisialowski, said that sales were declining by about 25-30% per year.
First Colony Mall in suburb of Sugar Land opened, resulting in the loss of many of Sharpstown Mall's national retailers and customers. Tom Estus, a shopping center broker of the Shelby/Estus Realty Group, said "It's a classic case of being passed up by newer, better malls. First Colony clipped it the hardest. The other places were more exciting to shop in. They were new. They were easier to get in and get out of."
Oshman's Sporting Goods closed its store in 1997. In 1998, J.C. Penney closed the Sharpstown location and expected that the remodeled Meyerland Plaza location would pick up business from the area. Many businesses and customers moved to Fort Bend County. In addition, big box stores like Best Buy and Wal-Mart and discounter stores have taken customers who used to frequent shopping malls. Ed Wulfe, a shopping center developer of Wulfe & Co., said that the loss of the major tenants negatively affected Sharpstown Mall.
Another factor to the decline of Sharpstown was that the crime rate in the area surrounding the mall increased in the late 1990s and early 2000s due to white flight and urban decay, this consequently deterred customers, and even major retailers from opening a store; as they wanted primarily a low crime, middle class, and wealthy area for profitable support.
Prior to the foreclosure, Sharpstown Center Associates, a New York investment group, owned the mall. By 2001, the mall was seized in a foreclosure. As a result, Travelers Insurance took ownership of the mall. During that year the J.C. Penney's space remained vacant. In the spring of 2001 Montgomery Ward's Sharpstown store, as with all of its other stores, closed since the company was going out of business.
To attract customers, the mall billed itself as "Houston's Premiere Urban Mall" on its website to compete against the nearby Galleria. The mall's proximity to the city center and frontage on a major freeway was planned to revitalize the mall and the surrounding development in the fashion of Memorial City Mall and its surrounding area. As of May 2007, the mall was nearly 75% occupied, but mostly in local tenants.
On October 20, 2007, local hip hop radio station KPTY, owned by Univision, opened a broadcast studio called Studio 104.9. Located not too far from the Univision building in Uptown, KPTY broadcast from Sharpstown on a regular basis.
On December 28, 2007, Macy's announced that it will close its location in Sharpstown, which was formerly the first chain Foley's store, that opened in 1961, the same time the mall opened its doors. The liquidation sale ended March 15, 2008, and employees were moved to other Macy's stores.
Renaming to PlazAmericas (2010–present)
In 2009 Boxer Property Management Corp., the manager of the interior core of the mall announced that the property, now owned by RAIT Financial Trust in Philadelphia would be renamed "PlazAmericas." Chris Chumley, a spokesperson for PlazAmericas, said "Anybody who knows the back story to the mall knows that it's been distressed for a number of years." The 10 million dollar renovation of PlazAmericas will alter the mall to make it more appealing and relevant to the community; 52% of the area population within a three mile (5 km) radius of PlazAmericas is Hispanic. Chumley said "The mall has not been traditionally used by the population, the hispanic population that's within a close proximity to it." When the renovations are finished, PlazAmericas will have 350 stores, twice the amount that it had as of January 2010. In addition the property will include a children's play area, and a 83,000 square feet (7,700 m2) "mercado" (marketplace). The marketplace will have many smaller businesses, a large family lounge, live entertainment stages, and a play area. Kevin Quinn of KTRK-TV said that the redevelopment into PlazAmericas is expected to create 500 jobs.
Signs indicating the renaming appeared by January 29, 2010.
Current Status of Anchor Sites
- Burlington Coat Factory (181,477 square feet, opened in former Montgomery Ward 2002) 
- "Clarewood Mercado" (177,229 square feet, first opened as JCPenney in 1981. Closed 1998, and reopened in 2010 as a marketplace, with shops, grocery store, laudromat)
- Vacant (360,846 square feet, opened as Foley's in 1961, became Macy's 2006, closed March 15, 2008) 
- Sarnoff, Nancy. "BRIGHT SPOT IN SHARPSTOWN." Houston Chronicle. June 26, 2009. Retrieved on July 6, 2009.
- Trevino, Ron. "Mall Makeovers: Struggling malls revamping to boost business." KHOU-TV. March 13, 2010. Retrieved on March 14, 2010.
- Slotboom, Oscar F. "Erik" (2003). Houston Freeways. Oscar F. Slotboom. ISBN 0-9741605-3-9. Also available in full online: Houston Freeways.
- Hegstrom, Edward. "Area's diversity represented". Houston Chronicle. Section A, Page 22, 3 STAR Edition. December 22, 2003. Retrieved July 24, 2011.
- Gonzales, J.R. "Sharpstown Shopping Center: 50 years later." Houston Chronicle. September 14, 2011. Retrieved on September 14, 2011.
- Bivins, Ralph. "The fall of a mall / Sharpstown Center seized in foreclosure." Houston Chronicle. Thursday February 8, 2001. Retrieved on September 14, 2011.
- Bivins, Ralph. "Sales at Houston malls rise/Local retailers cite improving economy, shuttle flights." Houston Chronicle. Friday February 17, 1989. Business 1. Retrieved on August 3, 1989.
- Hassel, Greg. "J.C. Penney to shutter SW store / Site at Sharpstown 1 of 75 to be closed." Houston Chronicle. Saturday February 21, 1998. Business 1. Retrieved on September 14, 2011.
- "Sharpstown Mall." Houston Chronicle. Tuesday November 18, 2005. Retrieved on September 14, 2011.
- "Best Hip-hop Mall: Sharpstown Mall." Houston Press. Retrieved on December 8, 2008.
- Kaplan, David. REINVENTING SHARPSTOWN / HIP-HOP STYLES BRING MALL BACK IN FASHION / Sharpstown Center has lost major tenants over the years, but it’s hoping specialty stores and a lot of bling outshine what it calls an unfair reputation as a dangerous place to shop." Houston Chronicle. Sunday May 20, 2007. A1. Retrieved on December 23, 2009.
- Radio Station KPTY Party 104.9 FM "Houston's Hip-Hop Station" Grand Opening, HipHop News, October 19, 2007.
- Kaplan, David and Bill Hensel Jr. "Houston losing part of its retail history." Houston Chronicle. Saturday December 29, 2007. A1. Retrieved on December 23, 2009.
- Rivas, Elissa. "Macy's to close its doors at Sharpstown Mall." KTRK-TV. Saturday March 15, 2008. Retrieved on December 23, 2009.
- Wollam, Allison. "Finger Furniture follows Macy's in exiting Sharpstown Mall." Houston Business Journal. Wednesday January 9, 2008. Retrieved on December 23, 2009.
- Kaplan, David and Purva Patel. "Sharpstown Center, in Chapter 11, for sale / `Major players' are said to be interested." Houston Chronicle. Friday January 11, 2008. Business 1. Retrieved on December 23, 2009.
- Sarnoff, Nancy. "Sharpstown mall is getting a new name." (alternate) Houston Chronicle. December 18, 2009. Retrieved on December 23, 2009.
- Quinn, Kevin. "Changes underway for once-popular local mall." KTRK-TV. Tuesday January 12, 2010. Retrieved on January 23, 2010.
- "Sharpstown Center to be PlazAmericas." Houston Business Journal. Monday December 21, 2009. Retrieved on January 10, 2010.
- Sarnoff, Nancy. "Sharpstown: The makeover begins UPDATED." Houston Chronicle. January 29, 2010. Retrieved on February 23, 2010.
- Sharpstown Mall sells to investment group, Houston Business Journal, November 5, 2002
- "Macy's, Inc. to Close Nine Stores," Yahoo!
- "Mall to lose Finger store," Houston Chronicle, January 9, 2008
|Wikimedia Commons has media related to PlazAmericas.|
- Sharpstown Mall official website (Archive)
- Trevino, Ron. "Mall Makeovers: Struggling malls revamping to boost business." KHOU-TV. Saturday March 13, 2010.
- "Sharpstown Center to be PlazAmericas." Houston Business Journal. Monday December 21, 2009.
- "PlazAmericas (project page) The Gelaspi Company. (Archive)