Fort Worth Town Center
Seminary South Shopping Center
On March 14, 1962, Fort Worth's first shopping mall was opened on the site of Katy Lake. The center was the first mall constructed by Homart Development Company, a subsidiary of Sears. The site is 68 acres. The design of the mall was Mid-Century Modern, and the center was open-air. The arrangement of the center was an "L" shape. All of the retail buildings were at least two stories, with the basement level constructed in the old lake bed. One building featured retail and office space within the basement along with a community meeting room. The basement at the eastern side of the mall opened onto the lower level of the parking lot, while the stores on the western end of the mall, potentially offered two levels of retail. Seminary South opened with two major anchors, one of which was a three story, 225,000 square foot Sears store. Sears sat on the southeast corner of the mall at the intersection of the two legs of the "L". A two story, 93,000 square foot Stripling's Department Store anchored the north end of the mall. G.C. Murphy Co. was a two story junior anchor, and it sat diagonally across from Sears, on the inside of the "L".
The mall featured many different types of trees, lush landscaping, and beautiful fountains. A fountain was located at each end of the mall and a grand fountain was located between Sears and Murphy's. A fountain that flowed between levels was located on the south side of Stripling's. A low, brick columned, and redwood decked canopy connected all of the buildings at the mall level and on the parking lot facades. Other stores that opened with the mall were Buddies Supermarket, Thom McAn Shoes, Finger Furniture, Wyatt's Cafeteria, El Chico Restaurant, and a bowling alley in the basement west of Murphy's. A seven story office building at the west end of the mall was completed shortly after the opening of the center. In 1964, J.C. Penney joined the mix by utilizing the existing buildings and constructing an addition on the west side of Stripling's. This store was also two levels and had a total of 120,000 square feet. A free-standing Penney's Auto Center was constructed at that time. The auto center was located along Bolt Street, toward the northwest corner of the site. In 1969, a two-screen theater building was constructed across the mall entrance drive at the actual northwest corner of the parking lot. Later, one of the theaters was split into two, bringing the total to three screens. Around 1977, the building housing El Chico and the bowling alley was demolished to construct a three-level, 120,000 square foot Dillard's Department Store. The basement walls of that building remained, with the ground and second floor footprints of the store being slightly larger. The bowling alley closed permanently, and El Chico moved into space between the office building and Buddies. Dillard's opened in 1978. At that time, the mall had grown to be a total of 915,000 square feet.
In 1983, the Fort Worth department store chains Stripling's and Cox's merged, and the name was changed to Stripling & Cox. The Stripling's store was rebranded, but that was short-lived. The store was closed in January of 1986 and shortly thereafter, a major remodeling of the mall was announced. In addition to losing Stripling & Cox, the stores were already starting to shut their doors in favor of the newer Hulen and Ridgmar Malls. The remodeling of the mall included enclosing the mall with vaulted and domed fabric roofs. The enclosure also narrowed the width of the mall; therefore, increasing the amount of lease space. Parts of the old G.C. Murphy store were demolished and the basement level of Murphy's was converted into a food court with the upper level of the mall opening into this area. Smaller shops then lined the perimeter. The portion of the building occupied by Finger Furniture was demolished on both levels and a new 8 screen movie theater was constructed at that location. The cinema in the outparcel then closed and was converted into a bingo hall and church. No new major anchors came in and the Stripling & Cox store was subdivided with the upper level becoming a night club. This major overhaul added about 100,000 square feet of space and brought the size of the mall up to 1,023,000 square feet. Even though the open-air mall was enclosed, the facades of the stores facing the parking lot were not altered. The mall was rebranded as Fort Worth Town Center.
Ever since the mall was constructed, the demographics of the area were changing. After the conversion into Fort Worth Town Center, all of the city's other malls expanded and The Parks at Arlington opened in 1988 with two later expansions. This led to the decline of the mall, and by 1993, the mall was in foreclosure. In 1997, J.C. Penney closed. Five years later, Sears and Dillard's pulled out. This left the mall without any anchors. In 2004, the mall was purchased by José de Jesús Legaspi with the intent of converting it into a Mexican, festival style marketplace. The name was changed to La Gran Plaza de Fort Worth. Cosmetic renovations were done on the interior first, and then came a major exterior renovation. The new look of the exterior resembles a Mexican Village. This work was completed in 2010. Fiesta Supermarket (former occupant of Buddies/Winn-Dixie space) built a new store on the western side of the center. Burlington Coat Factory took the lower level of Sears and expanded the store into the outdoor area formerly occupied by Sears Garden Center. Ross Dress For Less occupies the mall level of the former Sears store. The third floor now houses offices. The old Dillard's was converted into El Mercado, a marketplace for small vendors. The leaseable area is now up to 1,200,000 square feet, and the mall is nearly 100% occupied.
Mexican Festival Marketplace
George H. Dahl, Dallas
Loebl, Schlossman, & Bennett, Chicago
Copeland, Novak & Isreal, New York
Preston M. Geren Associates, Fort Worth