Wednesday, May 23, 2007

Forum 303

I've posted about the DeadMalls site before so this topic isn't exactly new territory here. I'd like to take a moment today to mourn the passing of Forum 303 Mall in Arlington, TX. It doesn't look like much on the outside and to be honest it had all the decorative sense of a Soviet Gulag on the inside but it was certainly more than the sum of its parts:

There was a 6 theater movie theater in the mall. That doesn't wound like much now but it was considered massive well into the 1980's. Just outside the theater in the mall there was a large wall that usually contained some sort of painted mural on it. It was a Star Wars mural for the longest time. The movie theater also hosted a Rocky Horror show for years.

There was a store called Collector's Corner where you could buy Dungeons and Dragons books back when most bookstores were too afraid to stock them. There were also tons of sci-fi collectibles to be found in the store. I still have a Mr. Spock action figure I bought there that was made for Star Trek III.

Then there was the Spencer's. Sure you can find a Spencer's in any mall today but the ones of old actually devoted a good chunk of their floor space to their strobe and black lights. And the most obscene item in the store was the "Welcome to our ool" signs. No novelty vibrating cucumbers to be found there.

There was also Century Bookstore, one of the first Chick-Fil-A's I have ever seen, a Toys by Roy (once a Dallas/Fort Worth institution as far as toys were concerned), a pizza place that had the first big screen TV I ever saw, a center court where there was always some sort of piano recital or karate demonstration going on Saturdays, and the Montgomery Ward/Dilliards/Service Merchandise (formerly Wilsons) anchors.

Last but not least, it had the best arcade in the Metroplex. I'm sure some arcades were bigger from a size standpoint but this one was still rather large (about 3 1/2 stores in size) and always had the best and rarest games. It was the only place I've ever seen a Discs of Tron or Fire Truck up close. It had about 20 of the 8' Skee Ball lanes. It felt more like a carnival than the dark cavern feeling arcades like Alladin's Castle and Gold Mine. It even had a Carousel inside the arcade towards the back. It's where we went as a family on many weekend nights.

So what happened? Well, if you see the list of what the mall had in it, you can see that it bet on almost every losing horse. Montgomery Ward is long gone. Arcades are a thing of the past. The bookstore wasn't bought out by Border's or Barnes & Noble so it didn't stand much of a chance. The mall had no food court and nowhere good to put one. Theaters in the mall are a dying breed. Dillards was the shining star of the mall but it was never renovated. Most of the floor was green shag carpet (red in the children's area). It was downgraded to an outlet center in the late 80's. Service Merchandise also went under. This Service Merchandise in particular never repainted the walls from their blue color back when they were a Wilsons.

It also didn't help that the area became hub of industry in the DFW area. Instead of the subdivsions and commercial centers that most malls are surrounded with, this one is surrounded by a GM plant, a small airport, and a bunch of industrial parks. It's main highway (360) was either being built or being renovated for most of the mall's life. Then again, that might have ultimately hurt them since 360 put Six Flags Mall about minutes away when it used to be a solid 15 minute drive.

Once the new Parks Mall (looks very similar to North Point in Alpharetta for those familiar) opened, Forum just couldn't survive as a standard mall. A group bought them and turned them into an indoor flea market called Festival Marketplace. This group obviously neglected to check out the area beforehand or they would've noticed one of the world's largest flea markets less than 10 minutes away. In fact, if you look at the directions for Trader's Village (the flea market in question) on their website, the star showing the location is big enough to cover where Forum 303 is. The flea market idea didn't go over too well but the mall hobbled along for more than a decade until the air conditioning went out. The cost to fix the very old AC unit was in the ballpark of $3 million. The mall shut down immediately and they forced out their tenants that weekend.

It's been sitting for 3 or 4 years empty. Now a developer is going to come in and demolish the mall. From what I hear, the demolition is already being prepared for. That's probably a good thing. I hate to see another old childhood stomping ground go away but really it's been gone as I knew it for 20 years. So long, Forum 303. You will be missed.

(Too bad I already used up my Ed Rooney quote in the Falwell post. This would've been a much better place for it.)


sophmom said...

I'm sorry, Dante. I work for what I call the KnockingShitDownCompany. We've done a couple of malls that I knew as a child. Heck, we did a whole neighborhood that included a house my Dad lived in when I was in college. It *is* sad but it's kind of exciting too.

Dante said...

Nothing to be sorry for. Knocking that stuff down is part of keeping our lives moving forward. I'd rather have the fond memories of Forum than have to look at the dirt mall it became every time I visit Dallas.

And to be clear, the Dallas/Ft Worth area was massively over-malled. There were going to be losers and you could see from miles away that Forum 303, Six Flags Mall, and Red Bird Mall were going to be those losers. I'm surprised they've lasted as long as they have. Six Flags and Red bird are actually still in use though Six Flags Mall only has one anchor left (the Dillard's Outlet that relocated shortly before Forum's final demise) and Red Bird (now called Southwest Center because the words "Red Bird" equate to "gang activity" in the Dallas area these days) even has most of its anchors for now. There's a new mall opening up in Cedar Hill that will probably be the final nail in Red Bird's coffin.

Skip! said...

thanks for the memories, Dante. I worked at the Forum in 80 and 81 in the haunted house around halloween

persianjade said...

Man I had so many great memories from that mall!!! remember the nice plants and wooden benches? I even remember when my dad would smoke while walking through the mall!! chess king,kinney shoes,spencers, and that great toystore id buy my transformers at!! service merchandise where id buy my m.a.s.k. and he-man toys!! Geez I remember that mall in it's prime and I miss it tremendously! I was even a security guard there for a long time years back! Forum will be missed and so will the old piano store on the corner! thank you for this!

Fregas said...

I'm sad they knocked it down. I wish I could have walked through it one more time four years ago before they killed it. I have a lot of fond memories of chick-filet, watching temple of doom with my father and brother, the arcade playing tron, asteroids and zaxxon, and of course collector's corner. I thought collectors corner had moved at some point like to waxahachie or cleburne, but I'm not sure. Great memories. There's a site out there that has pics of it before it was bulldozed.

zchuckz said...

wow..memories indeed. I worked at Straw hat pizza palace...managed kinney shoes and DJ'd at Dr. Jeckell and Mr. Hydes. All of us who worked at the mall were all close friends regardless of what store you worked was an ansome place to hang out as a teen and a great place to work at..n ot many people know that the original plans had a high rise hotel up the middle of the mall..they never had the money to finish it. good bye forum 303..thanks for the memories