Eastwood Mall demolition slated

Posted to June 3, 2006
From staff reports

Demolition of Eastwood Mall, the state's first indoor, air-conditioned mall, is set for this month to make way for a Wal-Mart Supercenter.

We'd like to hear about your memories of Eastwood Mall and the role it played in your life.

Send your thoughts to [email protected]. Your memories may be included in a future story on the impact of Eastwood on Birmingham.

Parisian closes after 35 years

Sunday, January 23, 2005
News staff writer

Frenetic'80s music set the pace for bargain-hunting shoppers at the Eastwood Mall Parisian on Friday, a day before the store shut its doors for good.

"This was where you came for everything. This was my staple store for years and years and years," said Mountain Brook resident Suzanne Dickinson as she picked through racks of $2.99 children's clothes.

The store, which opened in the mall in 1969, was one of two Parisians in Birmingham marked for closure last year by Saks Inc. Parisian in Western Hills Mall will close on March 15.

Executives with Birmingham-based Saks have said shutting the two stores reflects the company's strategy of focusing its resources on its most productive stores. After the closings, Saks will operate four Parisian stores in the Birmingham area.

Both Western Hills and Eastwood have struggled to hold onto tenants as communities such as Inverness and Trussville attracted young affluent families - and the stores that serve them - away from the inner city. Last year Saks confirmed plans for a prototype Parisian in a new retail development in Trussville. Construction of the store is set to begin this spring.

Even Dickinson said she now shops at Parisian stores in the Summit or in Brookwood Village.

"But there was just something about this store. I knew where everything was. (The clothing) wasn't so career oriented. This store was more of a family store," she said.

The store on Friday bore little resemblance to the Parisian her children shopped in as they grew up. The 130,000-square foot store's inventory had been reduced to a few picked-over racks of clothing, tables stacked with boxes of shoes and near-empty jewelry displays on the ground floor, all on sale for at least 50 percent off regular prices. The escalator to the second floor was closed.

The store was one of only a handful of businesses still operating in one of the South's oldest mall, which closed its interior to shoppers last year. Eastwood opened in 1960.

In December Wal-Mart Stores Inc. signed a letter of intent with mall owners to purchase the 50-acre site for a new Supercenter and possibly a Sam's Club.

CB Richard Ellis, which leases and manages Eastwood for New York investment firm Lehman Brothers, has been working with remaining tenants for the past month to settle leases, said vice president Jim Goold. All tenant issues must be resolved by the end of the month so Wal-Mart can begin its due diligence, he said. Wal-Mart has eight months to back out of the deal.

Dickinson said she hopes the Wal-Mart deal goes through.

"I just don't want to see it become a blight," she said.

But Huffman resident Sandra Nall, who said she had shopped at the Eastwood Parisian since it opened, said a new Wal-Mart won't be enough to convince her to shop in the Eastwood retail district, which in recent years also has lost a Rich's-Macy's, Toys `R' Us and several restaurants.

"There's nothing here that will draw me here," she said.

E-mail: [email protected]

Exclusive Photos:

Posted August 2, 2004 (taken by Brian Florence Monday June 28, 2004)

Click here for exclusive photos taken by Brian in Birmingham, Alabama.

Maury Levine's Commentary:

Posted March 20, 2004 (user submitted)

I would like to offer some additional information to your website about Birmingham’s Eastwood Mall. I was born in 1969, and visited Eastwood since I was a toddler. Later, my father’s office was in the mall. He was there from about 1980-2000, which saw the mall thrive, decline, undergo a renovation, thrive more, and decline into it’s current state. I worked summers and weekends with him from 1980 until 1992 and saw a lot of Eastwood history, and had two internships in the mall office in the late 90s.

Memories And Old Stores

As a child, my mom and dad (and granny, when she was in town) would take me out to Eastwood. Mom and dad had been customers well before I was born. Being little made the mall seem all the more HUGE! My favorite spot was the game room, Kiddieland. They had skee-ball, pinball, video games, small rides, and a snack bar. In retrospect, thas place was like Chuck E Cheese, but without the show! Eastwood also housed some of Birmingham’s best retail names. It’s largest anchor was Pizitz. Pizitz was one of the truly elegant, old school department stores. It had clothing for men, women, and children, toys, furniture, house wears, and a bakery. Pizitz was also unique for the mall because it had two floors (more about sections of the mall with upper levels later.) Pizitz eventually moved across the street to Century Plaza and was replaced by Service Merchandise. Near Pizitz was Blach’s, which sold upscale clothing for men and women. It was best known for it’s expensive suits, and had a somberly uppercrust smell as you entered. (The old Blach’s location is now Books A Million.) Across from Blach’s was Aland’s which carried ladies clothing, and was known for it’s Juniors department where you could get all the latest fashions. (After Aland’s closed, that space would become Parnell’s furniture, which has since closed.) Terry Town was a popular stop for children’s clothing. It was next to Jones-Lawless, which was a men’s store. At the east end of the mall near the theatre, you could shop for furniture at Jefferson Home Furniture and home electronics at Standard Distributors. Standard Distributors closed and local favorite Yeildings took it’s location. Yeildings was another popular women’s store. Parisian was also there. You could trace the evolution of that store by how many times it expanded in the mall. In it’s original form, it was a women’s-only store located next to Blach’s. It later expanded to the space next door to carry men’s clothing. It later expanded across the hall from the men’s department into the old JC Penny (which moved across the street to competing Century Plaza). There, it started it’s children’s and home stores. With the renovation in 1990, it moved all areas into it’s current 2 level home.

For eating, many chose Pioneer Cafeteria, also near the movie theatre. Sometimes the line would stretch out into the mall itself. Across from Pioneer was Baskin-Robbins ice cream, which drew quite a crowd in the summertime. My favorite was Mr. Gatti’s pizza. It was a pizza buffet that had a large screen TV in the dining room. Newberry’s also had a snack bar, where you could smell and hear the greasy sandwiches cooking all day. At the west end near Pizitz/Service Merchandise was Sumo Japanese restaurant. I only went inside once, running an errand during an internship. To me, it was a dark and mysterious place. I now wish that I’d eaten there!

There were some truly unique stores and kiosks through the years. In the front corner of Newberry’s was an organ and piano center. You could take your lessons right in the mall. Oddly, there was also some type of organ teacher that gave lessons in a glass kiosk right near Newberry’s. In the back of Newberry’s was a pet store. Down a hallway across from Newberry’s and next to Eckerd Drugs, was a painter. His specialty was black and white pictures, mostly of children and families. Another childhood favorite was Oz Records. I know Oz was a chain, but it was one of the most unique stores I had ever seen. It pre-dated “entertainment retail” like The Disney Store and Build A Bear workshop by at least 10 years. Oz, of course, was patterned after The Wizard of Oz movie. In the record part of this large store you had lifesize mannequins of the characters, background paintings of Kansas and Oz, an actual yellow brick road, and “flying” monkeys that would deliver records from a clerk at the back of the store to a clerk at the front of the store. (The monkeys ran on a pulley system across the ceiling.)

Two-Level Areas Of Eastwood

Today, you can clearly see the 2 level Parisian which opened in 1990. There were other areas of the mall that have upper levels. These areas can be spotted from the parking lot. Many of those areas have been vacant long before the mall’s current decline. The old Service Merchandise/Pizitz building has a second floor. The upper floor hasn’t been used by the public since Pizitz closed. I’m not sure if Service Merchandise used that space for storage or not, but it was always strange to think of those large escalators hidden and the upper floor blocked from view. Moving counter-clockwise from there, you’ll next see the old Parnell’s/Aland’s building. Their upper area was very tiny- your head almost touched the ceiling. Upstairs was the Aland’s management offices and the alterations areas. About 2 doors down is the entrance to the old Mr. Gatti’s. Mr. Gatti’s upper floor housed a large room for banquets and parties. Next, between the old Mr. Gatti’s and the current food court entrance, you see the old Dental Care office. This space was at one time JC Penny and Parisian children’s area. This area was used for stock and storage. This upper portion has been gutted. Next, above the current Party City and extending over the old Pioneer cafeteria, you’ll see windows for what was once office space. Rust Engineering once had about two hundred workers there. Next, you’ll see the façade for the old Eastwood Theatre. The only upper areas of it were, of course, the projection rooms. The old Newberry’s (where Parisian currently is) had some upper office and storage space also. Above the current Books A Million is the area that housed the mall office, a meeting room (where many heated mall merchants meetings took place) and more office space for lease. Oz also housed an arcade, air-brush shop, and snack bar.

The Fall Of Eastwood

The events that brought Eastwood to it’s current state are still debated today. It makes since to look at Eastwood and shopping in the Birmingham area through the years. Eastwood opened in 1960. Brookwood Village opened in 1975 located between Mtn. Brook and Homewood and just below Vestavia Hills- 3 upscale suburbs. In 1976, Century Plaza opened directly across the street from Eastwood. JC Penny left Eastwood immediately, but Parisian took it’s former space. Pizitz eventually moved to Century Plaza also, but Service Merchandise took it’s location. It seemed as if Eastwood had weathered that storm.

In 1983 developer Jim Wilson and Associates announced plans for a multi-use project in Hoover (another upscale Birmingham suburb.) It would house a 200-store enclosed mall, an upscale hotel, office space, and outparcel space. It was to be called Riverchase Galleria and was set to open in 1986. As the Galleria was rising out of a hilltop in Hoover, Jim Wilson was negotiating to bring a Macy’s there. Stories in retail circles had Macy’s coming to new markets and wanting to open 2 locations. In order to lure Macy’s, Jim Wilson wanted to be able to offer both the Galleria and another location. In the mid-80’s Jim Wilson purchased Eastwood Mall from it’s longtime owner, Farm Bureau Insurance. (Another interesting note: in order for Jim Wilson to purchase Eastwood, he also had to buy another Farm Bureau Property, Five Points West Shopping Center on the western side of Birmingham.) Macy’s committed to the Galleria and hopes were high for Eastwood’s future. The sale of Eastwood to Jim Wilson had been rumored for months. As soon as the purchase was announced, more rumors about Eastwood’s future started. Rumors had Macy’s coming, Rich’s leaving Century Plaza for Eastwood, and even ultra-upscale Nordstrom coming.

In February of 1986 Riverchase Galleria opened to much fanfare. It’s anchors were Rich’s, Parisian, JC Penny, and Pizitz, which later became McRae’s. (Macy’s joined the lineup in 1987.) It brought stores new to the city and state, and permanently changed the shopping patterns in Birmingham. Brookwood had a cosmetic interior make-over in the late 80s. After several false starts, Jim Wilson began renovating Eastwood in the late 80s. In order to do so, many leases were not renewed, and many longtime stores left. The entire middle of the mall was gutted to make way for the food court and new Parisian. Across the street Century Plaza began it’s own mostly cosmetic renovation. In 1990 Century Plaza and Eastwood Mall were both reopened with their new looks. The crowds were seemingly back at Eastwood. The food court had Chick-Fil-A and Sbarro among others, and new stores such as Express, Kirkland’s, Petite Sophisticate, and Victoria’s Secret. The mall looked good, but occupancy even then had to be generously estimated at around 70%.

Riverchase Galleria was expanded in 1996 to add Sears and more stores. In 1997 The Summit opened in the southern part of Birmingham on busy Highway 280. The Summit was a lifestyle open-air center that brought another round of new upscale stores to the city and state. (Since it’s opening, The Summit has been expanded 3 times and a fourth expansion will begin in the spring). In 1998 Riverchase Galleria was remodeled. In the early 2000s there was much retail growth in Trussville, a suburb east of Eastwood. While no enclosed malls opened, a couple of large strip centers brought Target, Home Depot, Books A Million, Wal-Mart, Marshalls, TJ Maxx, and other retailers to that growing eastern area. In 2001 Brookwood Village reopened, dramatically changing it’s look and adding a “street level” of shops with outside entrances.

Here’s where facts blur into opinions. It’s a fact that from Galleria’s opening in 1986 until Brookwood’s reopening in 2001 that much new or remodeled retail space came on line. This new development came to Eastwood’s east and south, whereas Eastwood used to pull shoppers from those areas. Macy’s and other anchors never came to Eastwood. Some opinions were that Jim Wilson could not or did not try to draw new stores to Eastwood. Some said that he was intentionally running Eastwood into the ground for tax purposes. (Eastwood technically was it’s own incorporated company.) Economic analysts cited the “changing demographics” surrounding Eastwood. I haven’t completely bought that theory. I think the demographics are basically the same- the competition has become more fierce. Jim Wilson sold Eastwood to Insignia in the early 2000s. It is now owned by Lehman Brothers. There have been some proposals to revive the property. A deal with Bass Pro Shops never materialized. Ironically and sadly, in January of 2004 Rich’s announced that it was closing it’s Century Plaza store. Published reports as recently as February of 2004 have Eastwood’s owners and the city of Birmingham still negotiating with Wal-Mart to bring both a Wal-Mart Supercenter and Sam’s Club to the site. If that were to happen, the mall would be torn down. I have mixed feelings about that. The area needs some new retailers, but tearing down the South’s oldest mall would signal the end of an era. Long live Eastwood.

Neal Hyde's Commentary:

Posted March 20, 2004 (user submitted)

I'm not totally sure of all the details, but Eastwood Mall fits here SO well. When my Mom was growing up, they used to take the bus downtown to do all thier shopping. Stores like Pizitz & Lovemans. And then, Eastwood sprung up. It was the first mall in the area (ANYWHERE near Birmingham). So, all the business went down there. Not sure how many years later, but Century Plaza, less than a mile away sprung up. With these two malls, all the shopping downtown dried up. Lovemans and all those other awesome bid department stores were left empty.

Eastwood has been thru two, I think, facelifts. The latest one is VERY early 90s looking. I recall when it was re-opened this last time. I sang for the one of the grand opening weekends if I am not mistaken. Lots of white and light blues. I think it had neon. Glass ceiling atriam food court, at the end was a big "TV WALL" (10s of large tvs used to make one big picture). The food court was the center (with two or three actual restaurants to the side) and from the food court was the left and right wing of the mall. And yes, we had an orange julious. Which became an arcade. It was a cool mall for a little while. It had a Parisians (still there), Books-A-Million (still there) & a Service Merchandise as anchor stores. However, nothing really cool was there, not in my opinion (not since they closed "The Smurf Store" in the 80s, before this face lift that is).

Fast fwd to recent years. Eastwood mall became attracted lots of walkers. You know, they range in age of 50-99. They come in wearing sweatbands, earphones, and those windbreaker matching top & bottom sets. You see lots of perms on the women. Now, thats about all there is. Last year, my dad's fiance worked for Eastwood, and in her office was a map of the mall. With the name of the store penciled into the space. MOST of them said vacant. I was in this mall a month or two ago. And what a sad case did I see.

There is not ONE single food stall in the food court (even mainstay Chik-Fil-et finally pulled out). The two restaurants off of the food court (ruby tuesday and already closed l&n seafood) were empty. The former arcade (that was an orange julious) had the gates down and varous "fixtures" were locked inside. And there wasn't even a table or chair in the food court to be found, they were all off in storage somewhere.

So, if you go off into the "wings" of the mall. Parisian (I think is the store) is still there. Books-A-Million is still there, however u can only enter from the outside B-A-M entrance, as the interior one's gate is down. Parnell's furniture (having one of thier goin out of biz sales or something, but they ALWAYS do this, have for years) is there, with both outside and interior mall entrances available. Party City, but only from the outside. Chic Wigs has a sign saying they are open weekdays from like, noon-five or by appt and that they are moving to a shopping strip. And Hallmark (who had thier gate down) appears to still be open, but only limited hours and I saw "fixture for sale" signs on glass cases. These are the only stores I recal seeing open. I think even "The Dollar Store" was gone.

I had heard talk of this mall becoming an outlet mall, which I think might be the best solution (well, the best solution that wouldn't involve millions in development dollars). The Eastwood area has gone downhill. Our Toys R Us just closed last year (1st in the state I think, and i was at the opening of that and met He-Man). Retaurants are closing in this part of town. Century Plaza, which is still there, is becoming known as "Last Century Plaza" or "Century Ghetto Mall". There really aren't (m)any cool or intresting stores there. Lots of "random" stores that I'm not even sure if they are chains.

Most of the shopping here is at the Galleria in Riverchase (about 10-20min outside Birmingham, depending where you come from) which is still doing well as far as i can tell. Its had more grandure days, but its still living and breathing and not on breath support or anything. The cool place is THE SUMMIT. An outdoor mall with a Savannah Ga feel. Or maybe a lil New Orleans feel to its architecture. Saks is there, as well as many other upscale stores and restaurants. It definetly attracts high taste and large wallets. And Brookwood Mall (which was 2nd to Eastwood) has been thru MANY facelifts. However, this most recent one, i believe done by those who developed The Summit) I think just might stick. They spent millions, the interior mall is still there, but TOTALLY redesigned. It used to be a two story mall. But from what I can tell, its now just the 2nd floor. With a few stores in the middle of the 1st floor ... and a lot of exterior stores and then a "fake road" (which I think u can drive on) and stores across "the street".. all in the same "Neighborhood".

Birmingham is definetly prefering this outdoor, open feel. Interior Complexes are suffocating us and themselves it seems.



Posted March 28, 2009.

This is the video as posted from the original YouTube account we can no longer access. It is here so you can read the old comments.


Eastwood Mall
7700 Crestwood Blvd.
Birmingham, AL
(205) 591-8063

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