THE MALL AT 163RD ST: NORTH MIAMI BEACH, FL
Rick de la Cuesta's Commentary:
Posted December 2, 2006 (user submitted)
I was a service technician for a major telecommunications provider in North Miami Beach Fl. during the 70's, 80's, and 90's. I worked at the 163 st shopping center during the transformation into a mall.
While pulling telephone wire underneath the foundation we found hundreds of
Walgreen and Woolworth envelopes containing developed but never claimed pictures.
These pictures went back to the time when those stores had first opened. We
found pictures of families in big 50's era Buicks and 4th of July
celebrations at near by Hallover Beach.
During the day I installed telephone connections, and at night attempted to
track down the folks whose names appeared on the envelopes. At first I
notified the store managers who simply took the envelopes and threw
them out. I made it my mission to return these memories.
Unfortunately this was not as easy as I first thought (pre-internet), as
many families had moved away and others just did not care to be reminded
and I soon stopped trying.
It had been a great shopping center and it was transformed into a modern
mall with a canvas room drawn between the stores on huge metal beams. The
neighborhood has changed and the place will never be the same.
Randall Von Bloomberg's Commentary:
Posted March 15, 2005 (user submitted August 14, 2004)
The freestanding restaurant behind the shopping center and near the movie theatre/strip mall was called JJ's. It was originally a car wash and in the late 70's was converted to this fast food style restaurant. It was directly across the street from North Miami Beach Senior High School, so it drew quite a crowd, but also a lot of rif raff. After about a year it closed. I think it eventually burned down.
One important detail the author left out, which is essential to the original shopping center design, is the amusement park. Replete with an assortment of kiddie rides, a helicopter ferris wheel, little floating boats that went around in a circle, a choo choo train that circumvented the park and a pin ball area, many a birthday parties were celebrated in the colorfully painted shacks that divided the amusement park from the central mall.
It is important to remember the shopping center was a beautiful example of streamline 1950's design, with narrow flat-slab concrete canopies that shaded sparkle infused walkways, and tan brick planters with orange blooming ixora and solitaire palms.
Woolworth and Walgreens both had full service fountain bars and restaurants.
In the arcade was a snack bar called Orange Julius serving up hot dogs and a frothy Tang-inspired orange and dairy shake. There was also a store called the Treasure Chest which sold incense, black light posters, rabbit pelts and imports from asia (all things hippy.) In the late 70's it went out of business and became a Taco Viva.
The "improvements" made in the 1980's that turned the mall into a "miracle" were ambitious and amazing, but like so many of the houses that were built in the surrounding area, the 1950's design aesthetic of airy and horizontal modernity was so greatly compromised (as carports and porches were enclosed) . Though these changes were functional, and did breathe-in some new air-conditioned life, in the end the shopping center was still doomed for the wrecker's ball.
It is a shame that our culture doesn't appreciate history much. Had North Miami Beach any sense of city planning and historic preservation they may have recognized the value of the 163rd Street Shopping Center as an architectural time piece. It definitely was the "Main Street" of NMB. If left undisturbed through the boom of the 1980's, it could very have been restored and reinvented as a hip cafe/boutique retail and cultural art center for the new millenium. Oh well...make room for Super Walmart.
Woohoo for progress.
Nona Copeland's Commentary:
Posted March 20, 2004 (user submitted)
The Mall at 163rd Street was originally built as an open-air shopping center with a small, enclosed portion called the Arcade in 1956. It is comprised of 1 million square feet, and was the first regional shopping center in South Florida. The anchors in the 70’s were Burdines, Jordan Marsh, JC Penney, and Richards. I believe these were all original anchors. There was also a Walgreens, Pantry Pride Supermarket, and a Woolworth with a full service restaurant. The area behind the shopping center was also well populated. There was a small strip mall that consisted of a Wometco’s twin movie theatre, a Rhodes furniture store, a tire store, and a few other small stores. There was also a stand alone restaurant (I can’t remember the name), and a self-service post office. There was a bank in the front lot of the shopping center.
Many changes took place in the early 1980’s. The entire Richards department store chain went bankrupt and closed around 1980. Approximately two years later, in October 1982, the shopping center was enclosed and renamed the Mall at 163rd Street. The former Richards store was turned into additional mall space. This area was the only section of the mall to have three floors. The rest of the mall was a single floor, not including the department stores, which were all multi-leveled. The third floor became a food court, and an Aladdin’s Castle video arcade occupied a far corner. The second floor was never very full. There was a smattering of stores, a Lens Crafters, and a dental office. The first floor, and the rest of the mall thrived. The 156 stores in the mall also included The Limited, Express, County Seat, B Dalton, Walden Books, The Gap, Kay Bee Toy and Hobby, Coda, J. Riggins (these were both men’s clothing stores), a cigar and pipe shop, Victoria’s Secret, Dale Alan (a men’s clothing store that closed in the mid-80’s), Renegade (this was an 80’s clothing store, it went out of business around ’90 or ’91), Baskin Robbins, JoAnn Fabrics, Accessory Lady, Jarrods (this was an upscale women’s clothing store, my mom practically lived there), The Door Store, Lansons, Chess King, Merry Go Round (all 3 three of these store chains went bankrupt and closed down), Contempo Casuals, Enchanted Gardens (this was a florist shop), Giggles (a classic 80’s store, it had games, T-shirts, candy, pranks, etc.), Mayor’s Jewelers, Jean Nicole, Ritz Camera, Florsheim Shoes, Ormonds, Buster Brown, Prints Plus, Bin and Barrel (a GREAT candy store), Oak Tree, Kinney Shoes, Fayva, The Bootery (a shoe store), A Children’s Place, Specs Records and Tapes, 5-7-9, Parklane Hosiery, Foot Locker, a pet shop (this was later shut down after reports of animal cruelty surfaced on the news), two card shops, Champs, and Radio Shack. In addition to the food court, there was an Orange Bowl (they had the best fries), Taco Viva (later became Miami Subs), and Cozzolis Pizza.
In 1983 or ’84, JC Penney moved to the brand new Aventura Mall which was located about 15 minutes away. Oshmans Sporting Goods took over most of the space and the rest became mall office space. Pantry Pride also closed in ’83 and later reopened as Service Merchandise. The only other full service restaurant on the mall besides the one in Woolworth’s was Raffles. However, Burdines and Jordan Marsh both had restaurants until about ’87 or ’88, which is about the same time Raffles closed. Another restaurant took its place, but it wasn’t there long enough for me to remember the name.
There were also changes to the businesses behind the mall. The restaurant was torn down in about ’80 or ’81, and the movie theatre was expanded to three screens. As a side note, The Best Little Whorehouse in Texas had one of its premieres at this theatre in 1981. Burt Reynolds and Dolly Parton both made appearances. I remember waiting in the car with my parents and brother and sister just to get a glimpse of them. The post office was removed sometime during the mid-80’s.
The Mall at 163rd Street was my favorite mall for years and I have many fond memories of going there as a child with my mom, brother and sister just about every weekend. When I entered high school, I was there everyday for lunch because my school was directly across the street. Alas, the mall began to decline in the early 90’s when Aventura Mall started to become more popular. The two malls coexisted peacefully for several years, but a shift in the demographic drew more people to Aventura. The first sign was when the food court closed in 1990 to make room for Marshalls. There were still other places to eat, but it just wasn’t the same. In 1991, Jordan Marsh went out of business due to the huge Federated/Allied/Campeau Bankruptcy. Jordan Marsh was replaced with Mervyns, a discount department store based in California. The store only lasted at the mall for about 2 years. The chain left Florida completely in about ’95 or ’96 because it wasn’t as successful as it had hoped to be. As the 90’s wore on, the clientele changed considerably and a lot of the first tier stores closed. They were replaced with secondary stores, and a lot of athletic stores. It should also be noted that many of the first-tier stores were also at Aventura, so everyone just flocked there to shop. The movie theatre was considered obsolete when compared to the newer theatres like Marina 8 (later renamed Fashion Island 16), and Intracoastal Mall’s theatre, neither of which were very far away, so it finally threw in the towel in about ’94. The theatres and now vacant strip mall were all torn down to make room for Home Depot, which opened in about ’96. Burdines finally moved to the newly expanded Aventura in ‘99, and became its sixth anchor, joining Macys, Lord and Taylor, JCPenney, Sears, and Bloomingdales. Woolworth closed when the chain folded. Walgreens moved to a freestanding store a few blocks up the street in about ’93 or ’94 (another Walgreens was built across the street from the mall a few years later). Finally, Service Merchandise closed when that chain went bankrupt in 2001. Currently, the only “anchor” left is Marshalls, which isn’t really an anchor because it’s a small store compared to the anchors that were there. When I visited the mall in ’99 or 2000, I was quite saddened because nearly all of the stores I remember from the glory days were gone. From the outside it’s just a big hulking shell. When the mall was first enclosed in 1982, it was called the Miracle at 163rd Street. It was unique because it had a bubble type fiberglass roof. Now it just looks dark, dated, and depressing. Now that plans to turn the former Jordan Marsh space into a Wal-Mart Supercenter were approved in July, maybe someone will turn this mall into a miracle again.