PHOENIX — Park Central Shopping City is a paradox. While it marked a major milestone in the Valley's growth, it was also the gravestone of shopping in downtown Phoenix.
City historian Steve Schumacher joined us to share how one mall reshaped a city.
The mall opened in 1957 at the corner of Central Avenue and Osborn Road. Like most of what stands in the Valley today, it was built over what used to be farmland: Central Avenue Dairy, to be precise. When Park Central opened, it hosted a then-staggering 31 different stores. As many locals can personally tell you, it was a game changer.
Up until that point, most shopping was done in downtown Phoenix, Schumacher explained. Go downtown, find parking, brave the Arizona heat as you wander from store to store -- at Park Central Shopping City it was all in one place... With free parking to boot!
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The mall hosted local storefronts like Goldwater's, Diamond's, and a J.J. Newberry five and dime store. Eventually these companies would close their downtown locations, shifting more fully into Park Central's area.
As the Valley grew and became more reliant on cars, Park Central's location pulled commerce towards midtown and uptown Phoenix. Park Central's ease of access meant that residents could spread further outwards into the suburbs around the city. But times were changing.
Park Central couldn't keep up with more modern enclosed shopping malls. By the late 80s and early 90s, retailers were pulling out of Park Central, and the mall was emptied.
Today, the location is a mixed-use development center, housing Creighton University Health Sciences and several other businesses, but many residents still fondly look back on Park Central's glory days.
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