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What's the matter with NW Fort Worth?


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#1 johnfwd

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Posted 21 December 2021 - 09:10 AM

Yesterday afternoon I did some last-minute Christmas shopping at Walmart in the Westworth Village.  The store was packed, and traffic along Westworth Boulevard was brisk, as usual.  That whole Westworth commercial area is busy and still growing. 

 

Then I drove back down Green Oaks Road and sadly gazed on the right at the mostly empty Ridgmar Mall area.  I know we've discussed at length the dying malls phenomenon, in another thread.  But this time of year, I was struck by the stark contrast between the Westworth and Ridgmar areas, which are only about a quarter mile apart.  I'm sure one of you retail marketing experts can explain this, but I sure can't.

 

 



#2 Nitixope

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Posted 21 December 2021 - 09:56 AM

johnfwd, plain and simple, shopping is not fun anymore and the romanticized view of the 1980's holiday shopping mall experience departed me a long long time ago.  I also see it as a supply and demand issue mixed with an impractical and increasingly undesirable format for shopping.  Impractical for the consumer and the retailer.  And then sprinkle in the pandemic with lots of people packed in one space indoors, and the increasing departure of decency and lack of mutual respect can make shopping anywhere a dreadful task.  The Walmart's of the world have become this sort a necessary evil where you 'run the gauntlet,' get in, get what you need as fast as possible and try to get out without any incident.  

 

I will mention that before the holiday shopping season started, I had a pleasant first visit (ever) to Hulen Mall.  I think all-in we spent around $30 on some dollar store type trinkets and Chinese Food but it was a quaint Friday evening and there were a handful of shoppers present but not too busy or fussy to enjoy oneself but certainly not dead like Ridgmar.  I hate to see these places disappear but its sort of delaying the inevitable in most cases.

 

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#3 Nitixope

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Posted 21 December 2021 - 01:09 PM

I will mention that before the holiday shopping season started, I had a pleasant first visit (ever) to Hulen Mall.  I think all-in we spent around $30 on some dollar store type trinkets and Chinese Food but it was a quaint Friday evening and there were a handful of shoppers present but not too busy or fussy to enjoy oneself but certainly not dead like Ridgmar.  I hate to see these places disappear but its sort of delaying the inevitable in most cases.

 

 

I spoke too soon:

Large Police Presence At Fort Worth’s Hulen Mall

https://dfw.cbslocal...ate-hulen-mall/



#4 johnfwd

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Posted 22 December 2021 - 06:59 AM

Hulen Mall is a busy shopping venue, which suggests the "dying malls" theory is over-generalized.  {I hope the crazy lady with the shopping cart doesn't run over anybody!}

 

The point I was trying to make is that two sections of Northwest Fort Worth, which are not far apart in distance, are so disparate in extent of their consumer traffic.  The Westworth Village area has a lot of consumer traffic; the Ridgmar Mall area has comparatively little.

 

I wonder what would happen if that vast expanse of mall area were sold, buildings demolished, and the site re-graded for new commercial development?  Is it the problem with having a mall there, or is this just a bad location for commerce? Would the new shops be sparsely attended by consumers?



#5 txbornviking

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Posted 22 December 2021 - 09:45 AM

It's not in anyones plans, but I for one would like to see the area bordered by I-30, Green Oaks, and 183 basically all redeveloped closer to the Clearfork model. 

 

basically a gridded, mixed-used, geared towards walkable phased redevelopment. I think there are ways to improve what Clearfork is doing, but think the overall form, grid, and mix should be replicated



#6 JBB

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Posted 22 December 2021 - 10:34 AM

The point I was trying to make is that two sections of Northwest Fort Worth, which are not far apart in distance, are so disparate in extent of their consumer traffic.  The Westworth Village area has a lot of consumer traffic; the Ridgmar Mall area has comparatively little.

 

 

You've sort of answered your own question and it demonstrates the very nature of sprawl.  Older retail was replaced by newer retail, much of which is on land that became readily available due to the scale down of the base, without any plan to redevelop the older retail.

 

I'm not sure I completely buy into the idea of dying malls either.  Ridgmar is an enigma and I believe it has just been plagued by bad ownership that lack the vision to keep up with the times. I've lost count of how many times it's been written off as dead over the years.  It feels like Northeast Mall is headed down a similar path: a high end anchor replaced with a surplus products warehouse, another anchor spot vacant, 3 of the 4 remaining anchors have had huge slides in quality and inventory.  My wife has done all of her shopping this year in the Stonebriar area and feels it is light years ahead of any major retail hub in Tarrant County.  



#7 Doohickie

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Posted 22 December 2021 - 12:28 PM

 

I will mention that before the holiday shopping season started, I had a pleasant first visit (ever) to Hulen Mall.  I think all-in we spent around $30 on some dollar store type trinkets and Chinese Food but it was a quaint Friday evening and there were a handful of shoppers present but not too busy or fussy to enjoy oneself but certainly not dead like Ridgmar.  I hate to see these places disappear but its sort of delaying the inevitable in most cases.

 

 

I spoke too soon:

Large Police Presence At Fort Worth’s Hulen Mall

https://dfw.cbslocal...ate-hulen-mall/

Apparently there was a high speed chance from east Ft Worth and they drove into the mall (literally.... they crashed into the entrance) and tried to hide in the mall.  I'm not sure there's any issue with the mall per se; it was just a location of opportunity to try to escape into a crowd.


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#8 Nitixope

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Posted 22 December 2021 - 01:29 PM

 

 

I will mention that before the holiday shopping season started, I had a pleasant first visit (ever) to Hulen Mall.  I think all-in we spent around $30 on some dollar store type trinkets and Chinese Food but it was a quaint Friday evening and there were a handful of shoppers present but not too busy or fussy to enjoy oneself but certainly not dead like Ridgmar.  I hate to see these places disappear but its sort of delaying the inevitable in most cases.

 

 

I spoke too soon:

Large Police Presence At Fort Worth’s Hulen Mall

https://dfw.cbslocal...ate-hulen-mall/

Apparently there was a high speed chance from east Ft Worth and they drove into the mall (literally.... they crashed into the entrance) and tried to hide in the mall.  I'm not sure there's any issue with the mall per se; it was just a location of opportunity to try to escape into a crowd.

 

 

https://www.nbcdfw.c...person/2843598/



#9 steave

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Posted 22 December 2021 - 06:14 PM

I think in most cities, if there are two large malls nearby one will eventually cannibalize the other. Hulen isn't really that far from Ridgemar, when you consider they probably expect shoppers to come from a large area.

 

Plus, when those malls were built I don't think there were as many big box stores like Kohls and Belk and Target that compete with traditional department store anchors. Or there weren't Academy and Dick's and Best Buy and Barnes and Noble to crush the various sporting goods and book store and video game store things I remember malls had back in the day. And there weren't places like Clearfork and University Park Village to pull away the $$$ places. It's not just the internet.



#10 gdvanc

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Posted 22 December 2021 - 11:09 PM

I ran across this statistic:

 

 

 

Between 1956 and 2005, about 1,500 malls were built in the US. Of the 1,300 shopping malls still operating in the US, 310 are at high risk of losing an anchor tenant. A mall’s viability is closely related to its quality. Currently, there are 334 malls rated C+, C, C-, or D, and they are at high risk of closing. Credit Suisse forecasts that 20-25% of malls will close in the next 5 years. That leaves about 1,000 malls which are relatively secure, clearly not all malls are dying.   [Source: Are Shopping Malls Dying?-  The American Consumer Institute]

 

So, while a large percentage of malls are definitely in trouble, not all are. Why is Ridgmar faring so poorly compared to Hulen? I'll echo JBB's comment about ownership. It just never seems to have the level of investment and they haven't been able to maintain quality anchors. To me it has seemed run-down for a long, long time now.

 

But maybe ownership is challenged by the realities of their location. Looking at census tract data at Policy Maps, it looks like there are more households near Hulen than Ridgmar, and more affluent ones as well. Steave is right that they are close enough that they share a market, but for those people for whom either mall is approximately the same in terms of convenience, I think Hulen will win more often that not; it seems more updated, has better anchors and retail mix not only in the mall but also around the mall.

 

There were several years where sweet wife and I drove to Ridgmar from south Arlington because it was so dead. It was a lot easier to get in and out of for quick last-chance Christmas shopping. And that's not a good thing for a mall.

 

I found a couple cool tools while thinking about things that might impact these shopping centers:

  • PolicyMap: Generate maps based on census data - sometimes down to the census tract.
  • TravelTime: Specify a location, a travel time and mode of transport and it will draw a map.

I love maps. I hope I remember these next time I need something like that.



#11 johnfwd

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Posted 23 December 2021 - 08:28 AM

These are all great points about the malls.  But I hadn't intended to steer the discussion in that direction, since we already have a thread on dying malls elsewhere.

 

JBB, I think you hit upon the answer, now that I think about it.  What the Westworth Village area is, in the vernacular, "strip zoning development."  I think that's the same as urban sprawl.  Commercial projects on both sides of Westworth Boulevard.  And, yes, this contrasts with the (perhaps) outmoded shopping mall model.  In this case, Ridgmar Mall is a victim of that.  But the strip development model (or urban sprawl model, if you will) was what the shopping mall model was supposed to replace beginning in the 1950s.  Please, someone with an urban studies major correct me if I'm in error.



#12 Doohickie

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Posted 23 December 2021 - 11:43 AM

But maybe ownership is challenged by the realities of their location.

 

I seem to remember that Ridgmar was, at one time, considered to be a "regional mall" while Hulen was more of a "local mall." 

 

Hulen Mall original comprised of a single concourse that ran parallel to Hulen Street with an anchor at each end.  In 1994 a new wing opened that included the westernmost anchor and the current food court.  Leasable square footage increased from 580,000 to 916,700 square feet.

 

Meanwhile Ridgmar has a whopping 1,274,470 square feet of retail space.  Their Wiki claims it is "the main shopping destination in Fort Worth, also serving other rural areas within proximity to Fort Worth."  The first part of that claim is clearly outdated at this point, the second, though, supports my assertion that the mall was targeted to be a "regional mall."

 

I think Ridgmar is oversized for what it is.  It's not a regional mall (despite their aspirations); Hulen Mall's 1994 expansion closed to the door on that.  The expansion of Hulen, by the way, came with a major update. 

 

Ridgmar Mall is so massive that updates never seemed to be completed; by the time they got to the end they were updating to a later style and the other end of the mall was already out of date.  Since they started their remodel from the original 1970s decor (which was nice be clearly out of style), it's always been kind of a hodge-podge of styles and seems.... sloppy.

 

I suppose a good chunk of that is on the ownership over the years.


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#13 JBB

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Posted 23 December 2021 - 12:01 PM

When I was growing up in the 80s, Hulen was the practical mall that we went to because it was closer to the house.  Ridgmar was the fun mall with B-52s taking off across the street, a big toy store, El Fenix, and those cool spiral ramps in the center.  Are the ramps still there?



#14 txbornviking

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Posted 23 December 2021 - 12:46 PM

When I was growing up in the 80s, Hulen was the practical mall that we went to because it was closer to the house.  Ridgmar was the fun mall with B-52s taking off across the street, a big toy store, El Fenix, and those cool spiral ramps in the center.  Are the ramps still there?

 

growing up I used to think that El Fenix location was "the coolest" thing possible, ha



#15 JBB

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Posted 23 December 2021 - 12:57 PM

That was the only time we ever went to El Fenix and the mints they sold at the register were the best part of the trip.

#16 roverone

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Posted 23 December 2021 - 01:05 PM

I agree about that El Fenix in the mall was cool -- it seems that I was mostly of pre-margarita age at the time I was there the most -- missed out.  But there was a Chelsea Street Pub there that it seems like we used to visit back when the drinking age was 18.
 
Toy store and ramp were cool too.
 
I'm sure of all places it is buried somewhere here on this forum, but weren't there some extremely ambitious remodel plans before the actual remodel that they did?  I seem to remember seeing drawings with the theater somehow up over that center ramp.  Never happened of course.
 
It is important to remember that the downslide was not only the mall, it was also the things in the strip centers around the edges, the Pacific Stereo or whatever it was, the TGI Fridays, etc.  There was a Heathkit store also, but that is a different story.  I don't know the direction of cause <-> effect, but the it was not only the mall that declined.
 
The timing of this doesn't exactly line up to the mall rise and fall, but remember there was a point in time when The Plant had like 32,000 workers, many of whom were driving by each weekday.
 
I think many things contributed to the decline of that mall.  It might have been possible with heavy investment it could have remained relevant, but I'm not certain.  Losing Neiman Marcus was the last nail I think, even though the reality is that for a long time people who visited that store did not visit the mall.


#17 gdvanc

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Posted 23 December 2021 - 02:28 PM

Y'all are bringing back a lot of pleasant memories. Mom used to take me to Ridgmar when I was young and it was always a treat to catch take-offs and landings from Carswell. We often ate at the El Fenix. And I remember those mints and the little packs of gum. I'm having a little Proustian moment with the thought of those.

 

 

One thing I missed when talking about ownership is the difference in the size of the owners. Ridgmar is owned by GK Real Estate. This seems like a fairly small shop. From their web site, it looks like they own all of 13 properties, and only 6 of those are malls. Ridgmar would seem to be by far the largest; I didn't see any that looked to be half the size. The others are in Peru, IL; Great Falls, MT; Lufkin, TX; Battle Creek, MI; and Grand Forks, ND.

 

Hulen, on the other hand, is owned by Brookfield Properties, which is the real estate arm of Brookfield Asset Management (NYSE:BAM, $94B Mkt Cap, $63B Rev). Brookfield has over 800 properties, including over 200 retail properties in 9 countries. Locally, apart from Hulen Mall, they also own the Parks Mall in Arlington, Stonebriar Center in Frisco and Town East Mall in Mesquite. They own an interesting variety of retail and mixed-use properties such as the Grand Canal Shoppes in Vegas, One Union Square and Pier 70 in San Fran and Water Tower Place in Chicago. They own 7 retail properties in NYC alone.

 

I think a challenge for Ridgmar is that the current owner doesn't have the financial resources or breadth of experience to do much more than they are. This has to exacerbate the issues Doohickie mentioned about the challenges of updating such a large space.



#18 steave

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Posted 23 December 2021 - 07:03 PM

I haven't lived in Fort Worth long enough and am not old enough to remember that era, but I like to think I have a good sense of what time period places were built based on cues like building styles, etc.

 

West Fort Worth must have been a nascent middle class area in the 1960s through the 1980s, back when the middle class was strong. But then it looks like it must have taken a fall because Las Vegas Trail is kind of sketchy and there's an absence of newer, nicer development from later decades. Did the decline of Carswell and General Dynamics/Lockheed play a role in that? There's a ton of new subdivisions being built outside loop 820 but that looks like it literally just got going in the past few years. Maybe Ridgemar just was a failed bet on the assumption that west  would be a favored growth direction for Fort Worth?

 

In contrast, the area around Hulen Mall and Overton Plaza seems to have become the anchor of a more high dollar sector of Southwest Fort Worth that seems to being as an extension of neighborhoods around TCU. I guess that's kind of like how in Dallas the headwaters of bougie North Dallas start around SMU and HP/UP and then flow down the tollway to become Plano, Frisco, Prosper, etc. Then also there's continuous sprawl down to Burleson for whatever reason. Maybe the freeways/tollway aided in that. So that mall must have a much larger customer base if I had to guess???



#19 John T Roberts

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Posted 23 December 2021 - 09:48 PM

Steave, I could probably help you out with the neighborhoods and construction of projects.  I'm a Fort Worth native and I am 64 years old.  My age actually allows me to tell you, and the forum, about how Downtown was very active (but on the decline), its total decline and rebirth, the opening of Seminary South, Ridgmar, and Hulen Malls, and how Carswell and General Dynamics used to be the catalyst for West Side.  You may have seen this in my earlier posts, but I grew up and still live on the South Side of the city.  I went to George C. Clarke Elementary, Rosemont Middle School, and R.L. Paschal High School.

 

Ridgmar Mall was the first enclosed mall constructed in the city.  It opened in the Fall of 1976.  You are correct in your assumption about the West Side from the 1960s through the 1980s.  Carswell and General Dynamics were the big employers on the West Side, and I think Ridgmar Mall was built on the impression that Carswell would be an active Air Force Base and that GD would always have many employees.  I remember that after Carswell was converted to the NAS/JRB, Ridgmar Mall started to decline.  Hulen Mall opened in the Summer of 1977.

 

As for the Hulen and Overton areas of town, all of my life that area has been an enclave of high dollar homes and developments.  It has only expanded over the years.  This is probably due to the Edwards family, who owned the large ranch starting at the edge of TCU.  They developed almost all of this land in Southwest Fort Worth.  Most of S. Hulen Street was once located within their ranch land.  The portion south of Granbury Road in Wedgwood was not.

 

Feel free to ask me questions here on the forum.  I'm planning on staying in town over the holidays.



#20 Nitixope

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Posted 23 December 2021 - 11:12 PM

To echo Doohickies comment about Ridgmar being a regional mall, I have a few family friends that came to town with the military and eventually started a career at Lockheed settling northwest of Fort Worth out near Azle and Weatherford. Ridgmar and the surrounding retail were the center of shopping and entertainment for those families but visited only as an occasional trip into town. Azle offered only a few grocery stores and Lake Worth also had a few restaurants and stores back then but nothing like you see today. To find a hotel, I believe the Days Inn and La Quinta on Las Vegas Trail were some of the closest chain hotels not taking into account a few places inside the loop on Jacksboro Highway. Now, I wouldnt dream of putting someone up for a night at Relax Inn or whatever they call it. But Ridgmar area had the early Sams Club location facing I-30, Target south of I-30, Best, Toys R Us, Service Merchandise, the movies by the mall, the mall itself as a hangout. I also recall a lot of the military housing was torn down where the new Sams Club and Walmart now sit. The K-mart in Azle as well as the one inside the loop by Roberts Cut-off were some of the only other places to shop back then. The Tandy Center and Sundance Square were also place to go for entertainment for those families living NW of town and not uncommon to drive 45 minutes or more into town to take in a movie or some shopping.

#21 John T Roberts

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Posted 24 December 2021 - 08:31 AM

I do remember Ridgmar being billed as a "regional" mall, and Hulen as more of a "local" mall.

 

I still like my idea of Brookfield (part owner of JCPenney) to do a property swap for the Ridgmar store and Hulen Mall.  Of course, that might be putting a Band-Aid on a knife wound, but that would allow Hulen to be filled up again, and Ridgmar to be redeveloped.  There would still have to be some property purchase for this to happen.  Brookfield does not own the old Sears building at Hulen Mall.  Maybe this is why my "idea" has not happened.  Brookfield may not want to purchase the old Sears building, leaving it up to the owners to lease it.






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