Madison Square Mall and the Making of MidCity District in Huntsville, AL

The Grand Opening of Madison Square Mall

Ah, the ’80s—a time of neon colors, big hair, and the grand opening of Madison Square Mall. On August 1, 1984, the mall opened its doors with a bang. Anchor stores like JCPenney, Pizitz, Parisian, Castner Knott, and Sears were the talk of the town. Even Miss America 1984 contestant Suzette Charles graced the opening ceremonies.

The mall was a hit from day one. Families flocked to the new shopping haven, kids marveled at the arcade games, and teens found their new hangout spot. The mall was more than a shopping center; it was a social hub.

But it wasn’t all about shopping. The mall also hosted events, fashion shows, and even concerts. Imagine walking through the mall and stumbling upon a live performance! It was a place where the community indeed came together.

Madison Square Mall in 2017

The mall was so popular that it became a benchmark for other malls. It set the standard high with its mix of retail, dining, and entertainment options. If you were a retailer in Huntsville, Madison Square Mall was the place to be.

So, what made this mall so special? Well, it was a blend of factors—the right stores, the right location, and the right vibe. It epitomized the ’80s culture, and people couldn’t get enough of it.

But as they say, all good things must come to an end. And so began the next phase of Madison Square Mall’s life.

The Madison Square Mall Complex

Madison Square Mall was more than a collection of stores. It was a complex with a Holiday Inn hotel, a Steak ‘n Shake restaurant, and even a TouchStar Cinemas movie theater. At one point, it also had Lone Star Steakhouse & Saloon and Romano’s Macaroni Grill.

The complex aimed to be a one-stop destination for all things fun and functional. Need to catch a movie? Head to TouchStar Cinemas. Craving a milkshake? Steak ‘n Shake has got you covered.

The idea was to create a space where people could spend an entire day without boredom. And for a while, it worked. The complex was a hit, especially during weekends and holidays. It was the place to be for families looking for things to do in Huntsville, Alabama.

The Evolution of Madison Square Mall Over the Years

Time waits for no one, and Madison Square Mall was no exception. The mall saw its first major change when Pizitz was acquired by McRae’s in 1988. Then, Castner Knott got a makeover when it was acquired by Dillard’s in 1998.

The mall itself underwent renovations, too. In 1994, it got a facelift, and again in 2006. Each renovation aimed to keep the mall current and appealing to shoppers. New stores came in, and some old ones left, but the mall continued to be a central part of Huntsville’s social fabric.

However, the mall couldn’t escape the changes in the retail landscape. Foot traffic at the mall declined, and crime increased in the late 2000s. It was a sign of the times, and the mall had to adapt or risk becoming obsolete.

Despite the challenges, the mall tried to reinvent itself. It brought in new types of stores, experimented with events, and even tried integrating technology. But the magic was fading, and it was becoming clear that the mall’s glory days were behind it.

The mall was still a go-to place for many, but it was losing its luster. It was no longer the bustling hub it once was, and the writing was on the wall. The mall was in for some big changes, and they were just around the corner.

The Decline and Closure of Madison Square Mall

The decline of Madison Square Mall was gradual but noticeable. In 2012, a riot broke out over Nike Air Jordan shoes. Then, in 2014-2015, a few robberies took place, including armed. These incidents were a blow to the mall’s reputation.

The mall tried to bounce back by increasing security and hosting community events. But the damage was done. People started to view the mall as a less safe place to visit, and this perception affected business.

In 2015, Madison Square Mall was sold to The Grove Huntsville LLC, which planned to redevelop the property. However, struggles with the city of Huntsville and property owners Sears, JCPenney, and TouchStar Cinemas caused delays in the redevelopment process.

In 2016, stores began to close one by one. Anchor stores like Sears and JCPenney announced shut their doors, leaving empty spaces that were hard to fill. The mall was becoming a ghost town.

The Final Days and Liquidation of Madison Square Mall

The final days of Madison Square Mall were bittersweet. Liquidation sales started in the summer of 2016 until January 2017. Everything was up for grabs, from store fixtures to unsold merchandise.

Shoppers came to say their goodbyes and grab some last-minute deals. It was a sad time but also a time for reflection. The mall had been a part of Huntsville’s landscape for over three decades, and its closure marked the end of an era.

But it wasn’t all doom and gloom. The liquidation sales allowed people to take home a piece of the mall’s history.

Madison Square Mall Huntsville
Madison Square Mall” by ShanMcG213 is licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0

Many took advantage of the liquidation sales to take home a piece of history. These items became cherished mementos, whether store signs, furniture, or trinkets.

The mall’s closure was a significant event for the community. People came to take one last walk through the mall, reliving memories and saying their goodbyes. It was an emotional time but also a time for new beginnings.

The last day was particularly poignant. As the doors closed for the final time on January 29, 2017, it was clear that an era had ended. As the adage suggests, the end of one opportunity often heralds the beginning of another. And that brings us to the next chapter in the story of this iconic Huntsville location.

The Transformation into MidCity District: A New Era for Huntsville, AL

MidCity District is not just another retail development; it’s a vision for the future of Huntsville, Alabama. Located at the intersection of University Drive (US 72) and Research Park Boulevard (SR-255), this mixed-use development is placed on the land that once housed Madison Square Mall.

Aiming to rank among the top 12 most significant commercial real estate endeavors in the country, MidCity District is creating a buzz. With an expected completion date in 2032, MidCity District is already shaping Huntsville’s landscape in a big way.

The district is strategically located, serving as a gateway to Redstone Arsenal and Cummings Research Park. With over 80,000 government and contract employees in the vicinity, MidCity is at the heart of Huntsville’s high-tech employment center.

The first phase of MidCity District kicked off with the opening of Topgolf and a preview center called The Camp at MidCity. But that was just the beginning.

Over the years, the district has welcomed various businesses and entertainment venues. High Point Climbing and Fitness, Dave & Buster’s, and REI Co-Op are just a few names that have set up shop here.

But MidCity District is not just about shopping and entertainment. It’s a place where you can live, work, and play. In March 2021, the district broke ground on its first multi-family project, Metronome Apartments. And let’s not forget the Hotel Indigo, slated to feature 120 rooms and opened in mid-2021.

Foodies, you’re in for a treat! MidCity District is home to Kung Fu Tea, a bubble tea shop, and Kamado Ramen, an upscale traditional Ramen restaurant. For those who like to get creative, Color Me Mine offers an interactive art experience where you can decorate your ceramics.

Art and culture are also a big part of the MidCity District. Various murals adorn the district, including a mural in dedication to the late Little Richard and another called “Unity is Love” by Ase Sela. The Orion Amphitheater, which held its grand opening in May 2022, adds a musical touch to the district.

So, what’s next for MidCity District? The district is still growing, with plans for more retail space, high-tech office space, and residential units. The private investment in MidCity is expected to exceed $1 billion over the next five years. With such diverse offerings and more to come, MidCity District is truly a game-changer for Huntsville, Alabama.

Conclusion

So there you have it—Madison Square Mall’s rise, fall, and rebirth. This piece of Huntsville real estate has seen everything from its grand opening in 1984 to its transformation into the MidCity District. It’s been a shopping haven, a social hub, and now, it’s a mixed-use district with a bright future.

Seeing how one location can undergo many changes and remain vital to the community is fascinating. Madison Square Mall may be a thing of the past, but its spirit lives on in the MidCity District.

Whether you’re a long-time Huntsville resident or new to the area, MidCity District offers something for everyone. So the next time you’re looking for things to do in Huntsville, Alabama, why not check out what MidCity offers? You might find your new favorite spot.

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Comments: 4
  1. Avatar of Ross Parker
    Ross Parker

    The oldest shopping mall left in Huntsville wasn’t Madison Square Mall. At the time of its opening in 1984 there were four malls in Huntsville that were 10 to 30 years older. The oldest shopping mall in Huntsville that was left at the time of Madison square Mall’s closing is the Huntsville Hospital Medical Mall. This Mall opened in 1963 as Dunnavant’s Mall. The mall had a sole anchor store which the shopping mall was named after along with 12 other interior retail spaces (18 after the renovations done in the early 70s). Dunnavant’s department store closed in the 80s and the mall along with it. Huntsville Hospital then bought Dunnavant’s Mall, turned it into the Med Mall. Because of this, it is the only remaining mall of the original four Huntsville shopping malls left.

    Reply
    1. Avatar of Spencer Walsh
      Spencer Walsh (author)

      Thank you for sharing such an informative and well-researched account of Huntsville’s shopping mall history. Your knowledge of this subject is truly commendable.

      Reply
  2. Avatar of Marie Smith
    Marie Smith

    I very much miss Madison Square Mall – it had decent places to shop for what you needed – JC Penneys – Sears – Dillards and all other retail stores – the location now is useless for the average person to shop at – it was not the lack of interest in these stores – it was the people who turned the area into a crime and unsafe place to shop – would very much rather have the stores in the old mall than anything that is located in the area now – wish we could bring the old mall back !!!!!!!!

    Reply
    1. Avatar of Spencer Walsh
      Spencer Walsh (author)

      Safety is a big concern, and, unfortunately, it led to the mall’s decline. However, there’s always room for redevelopment and community initiatives to turn things around.

      Reply
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