SCOTTSDALE GALLERIA : SCOTTSDALE, AZ
Mitch Glaser's Commentary
Posted April 24, 2007 (user submitted)
Scottsdale Galleria represents the "irrational exuberance" of Phoenix
real estate development in the 1980's. It was an ill-concieved
project that ended up being a major embarassment and a "white
elephant" in an otherwise healthy Downtown Scottsdale.
The Galleria had no anchors, and that is the main reason it failed.
The developers believed that the mall could thrive without anchors, as
it was focused on high-end luxury boutiques. The mall did have a food
court, some restaurants, and a Cineplex Odeon multiplex (the first,
and last, in Phoenix). The developers also promised future
improvements such as a "walk-through" aquarium but never delievered on
I. Magnin had considered moving to the Galleria, but the owners of
Biltmore Fashion Park convinced it to stay by building it a larger
store. As we know, I. Magnin was only a couple of years from folding
anyway, so its presence may not have helped the Galleria.
There were already two malls about a half-mile from the Galleria:
Scottsdale Fashion Square and Camelview Plaza. At the time, Fashion
Square was anchored by Robinson's (converted from Goldwaters in 1989)
and an expanded Dillard's and was undergoing a major expansion that
would connect it to Camelview Plaza through a bridge over Goldwater
Boulevard. Camelview Plaza was anchored by Bullock's, with Neiman
Marcus soon to open in a space occupied by Sakowitz, then Dillard's.
The Galleria couldn't compete with this mega-mall. Fashion Square
continued to expand, eventually buying Camelview Plaza and converting
it into the biggest Dillard's in the country (Bullock's had left
Phoenix). The existing Dillard's became Sears, then Macy's. A second
major expansion was completed in 1998, with a bridge over Camelback
Road that connected to Arizona's first Nordstrom. Fashion Square is
now the largest mall in Arizona, with plans to further expand by
demolishing the shuttered Robinsons-May and building a new wing that
will include Barneys New York.
The Galleria's design presented problems. Its main component was a
large four-story atrium, but it also had a small, awkward wing that
connected to the multiplex through a bridge over Civic Center (now
Drinkwater) Boulevard. It was also difficult to access parking; a
ramp into the garage directly from Scottsdale Road impeded traffic
flow. Although the mall was located in Downtown Scottsdale, a
pedestrian-friendly area, most of its exterior was bland and
Timing couldn't have been worse for the Galleria. In 1990, a
recession had already taken hold, and there was less demand for high-
end luxury boutiques, even in ritzy Scottsdale. I believe the mall
may have had occupany in the 60% range upon opening, but it quickly
fell and new tenants just weren't interested. I'm not sure when the
mall closed for good, but I think it was within 2 years (the multiplex
stayed open). This story is somewhat similar to the Forest Fair story
I visited the Galleria several times and remember it being quite nice,
as posh as one would expect an ultra-upscale mall to be. But I also
remember the lack of stores (and customers).
A few years later, a developer proposed converting the Galleria
into "Scottsdale Sportsplex," a themed mall totally dedicated to
athletic goods. AMC Theatres, which had taken over the multiplex from
Cineplex Odeon, was to build a 20+ screen "megaplex" on the top
level. This plan fizzled, and AMC shut down its location.
Eventually, the Galleria became an office center. However, it
continues to stand out in Downtown Scottsdale and remind folks of the
awesome failure of this mall.