Park Central Mall
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|Management||Park Central Management|
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Today it exists as a mixed-use, business park primarily occupied by regional administrative offices for non-profit hospital operator Dignity Health (formerly known as Catholic Healthcare West), and regional offices for UnitedHealth Group. The property currently is known simply as Park Central.
Park Central Shopping City, as it originally was known, was first envisioned by Ralph Burgbacher and his older brother, A.J. Burgbacher. The two men purchased the 46-acre (190,000 m2) Central Avenue Dairy in the 1950s. At the time Phoenix was a much smaller city, and the mall's location, 2 miles (3.2 km) north of the state capitol was an early edge city, which in time came to be known as "Uptown" Phoenix. Other developers criticized the brothers, believing a development out in the "dairy farm" area was futile, but development proceeded and the open-air mall was completed in 1957. When the mall opened, the primary anchors were a twin-level Goldwater's, twin-level Diamond's, and a J.J. Newberry five and dime store. Goldwater's and Diamond's soon closed their older, downtown stores favoring their new midtown location in the mall. When J.C. Penney closed its downtown location in the mid-1960s, the downtown area never would regain its status as the retail draw it once was. The original Phoenix-based Playboy club was across Central Ave. to the East; it closed in the mid-1980s.
As Phoenix quickly grew, the area around Park Central Mall saw an increasing number of mid-rise and high-rise office buildings built along Central Avenue, and eventually became known as the central business district. Part of this mid-1960s transition included the new addition of a twin level J.C. Penney store at the mall, and a covered parking deck on the northeast end of the property, to help combat the hot summertime temperatures.
Unable to compete with newer enclosed shopping malls, Park Central, still an open-air facility, had lost most of its major retailers by the very late 1980s. The first major anchor to leave was Robinson's, which had purchased and converted the Goldwater's store years earlier, closing the location down just before the end of the decade. The second major anchor to leave was J.C. Penney, closing just at the start of the 1990s. Finally the last anchor, Dillard's, which had purchased and converted Diamond's a few years prior, became a discount Dillard's Clearance Center and remained open in that format until the mid-1990s.
Conversion of the property began shortly after the last anchor closed and most vacant retail space was converted to leaseable office space. The Diamond's space at the west / back end of the old mall became the Arizona regional offices for Catholic Healthcare West (later known as Dignity Health after it became independent of the Catholic Church), parent company of St. Joseph's Hospital located on an adjacent property. Banner Health Systems soon moved some administrative functions into what was Goldwater's, and finally the old J.C. Penney space became offices for UnitedHealth Group. The remaining smaller retail spaces began to fill with nearly a dozen small restaurants mostly located at the east/front end of the old mall (including Starbucks Coffee, Jamba Juice and Qdoba Mexican Grill). Other smaller businesses, such as a flower shop, a shoe repair shop, a vitamin/health supplements store, computer training company Training a la Carte, the primary customer care call center for cable service provider Cable One and a branch location of Wells Fargo Financial, occupy the remaining storefronts. A Hampton Inn hotel location sits on the southwest corner of the property adjacent to the Dignity Health offices.
Nearly all the mall's original buildings still stand, and most have only cosmetic changes.
- Banner Health Systems - Occupying the original Goldwater's
- Dignity Health - Occupying the original Diamond's
- UnitedHealth Group - Occupying the original J.C. Penny's