G.J. Williams's Commentary

Posted January 21, 2008 (user submitted)

I don't know much about this former mall except for what I've observed. I first moved to Monroe in 1997 when attending college at the University of Louisiana-Monroe, and by that time this mall had already been dead, except for the Montgomery Ward which was still open, and a Stein Mart. Here is what I have learned so far about this mall:

The former Twin City Mall is located in an area known as Mid-City Monroe, on Oliver Road just north of its intersection with Louisville Avenue. I'm not sure when exactly it opened, but my guess is sometime during the 1960's or early 70's. It was the first enclosed regional mall in the Monroe-West Monroe area, and its original anchors were Montgomery Ward and a local department store called Selber Brothers. There was also a movie cinema in the mall. One end of the mall opened up to a courtyard which is connected to a strip mall center located on Louisville Avenue called Twin City Shopping Center -- this strip mall (which currently includes a Piccadilly Cafeteria, Radio Shack, Goodwill Store, AT& T, and a few other locally owned shops) is still operating today, although I'm not sure if it was opened at the same time as the mall itself. The aforementioned courtyard is tucked away in the corner of the strip mall, and includes a barber shop, a shoe repair shop, and a clothing alterations shop, all of which are still open today. I discovered this entrance to the mall a couple of years ago when my wife was getting some clothes altered at the alterations shop. The doors to the mall were obviously locked, but you could still see inside all the closed storefronts and even a mall directory on the wall.

As for when and why exactly this mall died I am not entirely sure, but my guess is that it happened shortly after the opening of the Pecanland Mall in 1985. Pecanland, a major five-anchor enclosed shopping mall located off Interstate 20 at Garrett Road on the eastern edge of Monroe, is the largest shopping center in northeast Louisiana, and is still thriving to this day. My guess is that Twin City Mall was just too small and antiquated to compete with Pecanland. The Selber Brothers chain shut down sometime in the early '80s; a Stein Mart was opened in its place in 1995. Montgomery Ward hung on until late 2000/early 2001 when that chain closed all its stores.

While Twin City Mall may not have survived, in recent years it has seen new life as the surrounding area has experienced a rebirth of sorts. The mall property was bought by Strauss Properties in 1992 with the hopes of redeveloping the mall as a mixed-use property including a combination of retail and office space. Their first major accomplishment was landing Stein Mart, which remains open to this day. In 1999, BankOne (now Chase) leased the rear portion of the mall as a facility to store its records. That same year, offices on the inside of the mall were converted into a 43,000-square-foot call center for Intermedia Communications. CenturyTel started operating the call center in 2002, which now employs over 300. In 2005, the former cinema space was converted into offices for the engineering firm Hatch Mott McDonald. But perhaps the most significant change has been to the former Montgomery Ward building, which in 2005 was divided up and developed as a strip retail center now known as Twin City Plaza. Today this strip mall is booming, with three restaurants and several small shops and business operating.

The resurgence of the Twin City Mall/Plaza is part of a bigger boom in development in the surrounding area. The extension of nearby North 18th Street to I-20 and the building of the Tower Street extension, which intersects Oliver Road just north of the Plaza and connects the area to US Highway 165, have feuled economic growth to Mid-City Monroe. A new branch of Iberia Bank recently opened at the intersection of Oliver and Tower, and a new upscale strip center called The Shoppes On Tower is currently under development on Tower Drive. New office buildings are popping up all along the Tower Drive extension, and a new residential subdivision is currently under construction nearby on Oliver Road. Within the next 5 to 10 years this area will be completely developed, which should help the Twin City Plaza continue to prosper.

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