After nearly five decades, Sharpstown is going away. Not the mall, just the name.
The owner of Sharpstown Center, one of Houston’s oldest regional shopping malls, is renaming the property PlazAmericas as part of a $10 million rebranding and revitalization project.
“The new name reflects a new beginning for a property that has a great future ahead of it and a storied past behind it,” said Justin Segal of Boxer Property Management Corp.
A subsidiary of Houston-based Boxer Property, Grupo Zocalo, manages the mall for the owner, an affiliate of RAIT Financial Trust of Philadelphia.
The renovations will include new signs, a children’s play area and an 83,000-square-foot mercado — or market — housing stores and small businesses.
Chris Chumley, the mall’s senior manager, said the market is expected to bring more than 500 new jobs to the area and include more than 200 minority- and women-owned businesses. It also will have multiple stages for live entertainment, a large family lounge and play features including a vintage Volkswagen Bug and a full-size firetruck.
Mariachi bands, R&B acts, and other Latin performers will play live music on weekends.
The changes and new name are being done to better serve the community surrounding the mall, which is more than 52 percent Hispanic, Boxer said.
“In the Hispanic culture, a plaza is a gathering place, usually in the center of town, where people gather for entertainment, shopping and community activity. The word Americas acknowledges the multicultural population in the area,” the company said in a news release.
‘Cater to everybody’
Angela Natt, owner of hair salon Iron Masters, agrees that the mall needs a new image but is concerned some customers will feel alienated by the changes.
“You have to cater to everybody, especially at a location like that,” she said.
Local retail developer Ed Wulfe said the property is ready for a rebirth.
“There’s a new burst of energy that comes with a new name,” Wulfe said. “It replaces any stigma if there was one, and we all know there is one.”
The mall, at Bellaire Boulevard and U.S. 59 and built in 1961, has been through a challenging period including ownership changes and bankruptcy.
Occupancy has fallen over the years as newer shopping centers opened and Sharpstown-area residents and mall customers moved farther west. Sharpstown has lost all but one of its major anchors.
Plans for market
The empty J.C. Penney space, however, was recently acquired by investor Matthew Nguyen who, separately, plans to open a market and laundromat in the space early next year. He’ll also carve out smaller areas for tenants that want to lease between 800 and 1,500 square feet.
Segal said the renovations and rebranding will begin soon.
Hoped for more
While the mall operators are enthusiastic about their new plan, it is less than what they originally hoped to accomplish.
Earlier this year, Boxer Property and RAIT asked the board of the Southwest Houston Tax Increment Reinvestment Zone for $20 million to reposition the property. The TIRZ, which controls public funds to improve the area, denied the request and a subsequent proposal from the owner.
‘Time will tell’
Bill Calderon, executive director of the Southwest Houston Redevelopment Authority, which administers the TIRZ, said the new strategy may work at Sharpstown like it did with a similar mall redevelopment that Boxer Property undertook in Fort Worth.
“While there may be some draw that RAIT and Boxer might be able to achieve with marketing toward the Hispanic community, I don’t know if it’ll work or not,” he said.
“I guess time will tell.”