The hidden history behind North Texas' landmark buildings

Shells of Our City: Six Flags Mall

Vacant storefronts line the hallways of Six Flags Mall

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    NEWSLETTERS

    TK
    Theresa Wilcox, NBCDFW.com
    Outside one of the unlocked entrances to the mall.

    Six Flags Mall is ghost town.

    Located just a few miles from large attractions Six Flags Over Texas, Rangers Ballpark and Cowboys Stadium, the mall has suffered through the loss of tenants, management issues and failed attempts at the auction block. Forced to compete with bigger and newer shopping centers in other developed areas of town, the once thriving mall is all but empty.

    When we visited the mall, we found multiple entrances still unlocked, allowing potential shoppers inside. We walked past the still open Cinemark -- which is a stand-alone tenant at the edge of the mall -- and through the almost empty food court, toward rows of vacant former stores. The lack of people and business creates a strange stillness, although music echoes in the empty hallways.

    One wing was blocked off by signs and gates, keeping visitors from visiting the unoccupied mall. We passed one of two people who still work for the mall and asked why the area is restricted. They replied, “There’s nothing down there."

    When Six Flags Mall opened in Arlington in 1970, it was the first covered mall in Tarrant County. Up the road from Six Flags Over Texas and the millions of potential customers who visited the amusement park each year, the mall seemed to be positioned for success.

    Despite competition from the opening of the Parks mall in 1988, Six Flags Mall continued to do well until the late 1990s.

    Starting 1997, though, the anchor stores pulled out. First to leave was JC Penney’s in 1997, followed by Dillard’s and Sears in 2002. Foley’s remained the mall’s final anchor until that closed in January 2005. However, Dillard’s returned with a clearance store in March 2005.

    But, by then, the reputation of the mall was declining. There were multiple crimes, including the fatal shooting of shoplifting suspect who claimed to be armed. Car break-ins and other incidents in the area were also reported.

    The management of the mall also declined.

    In 2008, the electricity went out in the middle of the shopping day. Patrons and tenants had to be escorted out by the fire department. Because fire safety equipment- fire alarms, flashing lights and monitoring systems- need electricity to work the fire department deemed it a safety issue and shut down the mall until power was restored. It was later revealed the mall’s $349,226 electric bill had not been paid.

    The mall fell into bankruptcy and fell into foreclosure six times in 2008. Since then, the International Bank of Commerce in Corpus Christi has owned the mall, attempting to put it up for auction as late as December of 2011. However, after a company that had been in talks to purchase the mall decided against the sale, the mall was pulled out of the auction.

    In March of 2012 Arlington City Manager Trey Yelverton told the Star Telegram that the city would like to attract manufacturing or warehouse to the Six Flags Mall site, squashing some of the hope for redevelopment of the mall’s current structure.

    Now, Italia Express, a fast-food Italian spot in the food court is the only tenant in the mall. The Dillard’s Clearance outlet and the Cinemark theater that both operate are stand-alone sites owned by other companies. The rest of mall has been empty since 2011.

    For now, the future of Six Flags Mall remains in the hands of creditors ready to auction off the 42-year-old ghost town.