Kirk's Commentary:

Posted March 21, 2005 (user submitted March 17, 2005)

I moved to Houston, TX in the summer of 2003. I was looking for a mall called Memorial City (a thriving mall) and accidently came across Town and Country Mall (T&C). Actually I came across a upscale strip mall by the same name (T&C Village, I think) then saw a Dillards and drove to it to find out it was actually a three level enclosed mall.

In addition to Dillards, there was a Neiman Marcus, Structure (express for men), a couple fast food outlets, and several boutique stores selling art, crafts, and the like. At that time I bet only 20%-25% of the mall was occupied; however, two of the four anchors were there. That was 2003.

T&C is located around beltway 8 and I-10 on the west side of Houston. I believe the mall opened in the early to mid 80s...1982? It had a Neiman Marcus, Dillards, Saks Fifth Avenue, and JCPenny. The mall thrived for a while, but not long. It was built as an upscale center, but faced obsticles along the way.

The Memorial City mall (MEM) was an older mall that was only about a couple miles on I-10 towards downtown. MEM had a lot better location--very visable from the very busy I-10. T&C was easily overlooked--not visable from I-10 and barely visable from BW-8. You almost have to be looking for it to find it. Then later, in the late 80s or early 90s (?) the interchange of I-10 and BW-8 was built up and practically over the place. The new interchange totally bypassed the mall.

From what I know the mall struggled (losing JCPenny, Saks, and about 75% of its stores) until I discovered it. Around late 2003 or early 2004 Dillards left T&C and moved to MEM. MEM went through a MAJOR upgrade around 2002(?) to the present (still adding!). MEM now has Dillards, Foley's, Mervyn's, Sears, Target, and Lord & Taylor (soon to close) and is among the largest and best malls in Houston.

Then around the same time as losing Dillards, the T&C mall was sold. The mall was leveled in late 2004. The only thing left of T&C is the stand alone Neiman Marcus store and two or three parking garages. The plan was to convert it into offices, retail, and entertainment...but this may be in jeopardy. I haven't heard anything about the developement of the T&C site lately.

What has to be a major setback is the news in March 2005 that Neiman Marcus will close...this leaves T&C with no tenants. I am wondering if NM will eventually relocate to MEM as well; in the soon to be closed Lord & Taylor building. NM even had signs inside the store that it will remain open and that the lease was long term; however, the signs were not true...NM will be gone by fall 2005 and the T&C saga will be officially put to rest.

Kyle Stanley's Commentary:

Posted March 21, 2005 (user submitted November 25, 2004)

The period was the 1980s. At this time, the area around Houston, Texas was flourishing beyond belief with the oil boom. Whereas the country was dealing with high gas prices at this time, inflation estimates put 1981 as the most expensive year for gasoline in US history, Houston benefitted from it. With a strong oil presence in Texas, economies within the Lone Star State as well as those in Louisiana benefitted. The mall craze had virtually swept Houston off its feet in the 1970s and 80s. Around this period, a number of malls popped up in Houston, including Willowbrook Mall to the northwest, Baybrook Mall near NASA's Johnson Space Center, and even the chemical-dependent economy of Baytown benefitted, with San Jacinto Mall opening in the eastern blue-collar suburbs reaping the rewards of black gold.

In 1983, Town & Country Mall opened on Interstate 10 and Beltway 8 in Houston. Located next to the Town & Country Village shopping center, the mall debuted with anchor tenants Joske's, JC Penney, Marshall Field's, and Neiman Marcus, which were retail tenants that were common in new construction circles at the time. Within a 5-10 minute drive were Memorial City Mall, whose only top-of-the-line tenants were Foley's and Lord & Taylor in addition to Sears and Montgomery Ward, and then West Oaks Mall, which opened on Texas Highway 6 in 1984 with Foley's, Lord & Taylor, Mervyn's, and Saks Fifth Avenue as anchor tenants. In fact, at one time, Lord & Taylor had FOUR houston stores: at West Oaks, Memorial City, Greenspoint (on the north side of Houston), and of course, the Galleria in the Post Oak area.

Then all good things suddenly came to a screeching end. The oil industry started to go south and Houston's banks began to collapse into turmoil, as those few that survived merged with out-of-state banks. Lord & Taylor would close all but its Galleria store, leaving the Memorial City and Greenspoint stores to Mervyn's and the West Oaks store to JC Penney.

But still, Town & Country was not saved from the wreckage of a once-rich Houston economy. Around the time the mall opened, construction began on Beltway 8 to create what would become the Sam Houston Tollway. The mall began to suffer from not only a lack of accessibility resulting from the construction of the tollway, but the mall began to slowly decline. Many options were considered, but never came to fruition. Many office buildings surrounding the mall as well as a Sheraton suite hotel that later became a Radisson also caused visibility problems for drivers on Interstate 10 as well as what was now the Sam Houston Tollway.

The mall's anchors also began to suddenly change, as the San Antonio-based Joske's chain became Dillard's, absorbed in the same acquisition that also resulted in the closing of its unprofitable store at Northline Mall, once a dying mall north of Loop 610 on I-45 near downtown Houston, that is now rejuvenated courtesy of NBA legend Magic Johnson's theatre chain, which opened in 1999 where Joske's used to be. Also, in 1996, Marshall Field's pulled out of Texas and Saks Fifth Avenue stepped in to replace the Chicago-based chain.

Then Memorial City began to come back to life.

In the 1990s, General Growth sold the mall. At one point, the mall would have been sold to Taubman Centers, which at first was a catalyst to destroying Town & Country. Around the late 1990s, Taubman announced plans to expand Memorial City, which it owned at the time, with a two-story Foley's, and new stores for Lord & Taylor and Nordstrom, the latter of which would make Memorial City their first Houston store. But the expansion would also take Neiman Marcus away from Town & Country. Luckily, Town & Country escaped harm as Memorial City changed hands with General Growth picking up the tab.

Still, Town & Country would be adversely affected. While Foley's and Lord & Taylor held on to their mall expansion tickets at Memorial City, General Growth also recruited Dillard's, which moved from Town & Country to what would become a rejuvenated Memorial City, complete with a hand-made carousel and palm tree landscaping to boot. Around the same time, Saks closed its Town & Country store, leaving only its Galleria store that was also inherited from Marshall Field's. JCPenney would then eventually close its doors at the almost-empty three-story mall. Finally, right next door to Town & Country, the nearby Town & Country Village began to sprout back to life, with upscale tenants, including a Barnes and Noble, T.G.I. Friday's, and several others going to the renovated shopping center, now considered prime real estate.

With all said and done, Town & Country could no longer compete in an area that even saw a shift in demographics as explained by schools within the district serving Town & Country's surrounding neighborhoods. The Spring Branch I.S.D. once had six high schools, but was now reduced to four after two closed, the result of younger, more affluent families moving to western suburbs such as Katy and Sugar Land. In fact, they even built their own malls, with Katy Mills opening in Katy and First Colony Mall over in Sugar Land in the 1990s.

Nothing could help Town & Country, not even a plan to turn the mall into a prominent exhibition center. On June 1, 2004, the handwriting was on the wall as Town & Country threw in the towel. Midway Cos. would purchase the mall and gave its tenants only one to two months to leave with the exception of Neiman Marcus, considered a prime anchor to its redevelopment plan. As soon as the other tenants left, Midway Cos. began to demolish what was left of a mall that suddenly began to plunge into oblivion no matter what was done to fix it. The mall will be redeveloped into a mixed-use development that will include office, retail and residential space.

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Photos of Demolition courtesy of Richard

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Redevelopment: Midway Companies site showing redevelopment project details

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