A place where people will come not only to shop,
but for the experience of just seeing it.
Plans for one of the largest retail projects of its kind — dubbed “a city within a city” — took shape in a basement downtown during the early 1960s. Developer Raymond Nasher envisioned, “a place where people will come not only to shop, but for the experience of just seeing it,” quotes a Dallas Morning News story from November 1962.
NorthPark Center opened 50 years ago this month encompassing 94 acres at Northwest Highway and Central Expressway, the largest climate-controlled suburban shopping center in the world. But it has never been just a mall. The clean modern architecture, fashion focus, inviting landscape and art installations have made it a community gathering space.
Originally designed in a L shape, the center underwent a massive 1.2 million-square-foot expansion in 2006 that incorporated CenterPark, turning the building into an O shape with green space at its core. NorthPark celebrates its birthday with special events Aug. 22.
Here we take a moment to reminisce about the early days of our neighborhood shopping destination.
Anyone who shopped NorthPark from about 1965-76 crossed paths with teenage girls, dressed in uniforms and aprons and carrying colorful bunches of balloons to sell to children. The after-school job became an iconic feature of the mall.
Dallas-based Titche-Goettinger was one of the first department stores to take shape inside NorthPark. It occupied 238,000 square feet on three levels, making it the largest suburban department store ever constructed in Dallas at that time, according to an August 1965 Dallas Morning News article. Joske’s bought out Titche-Goettinger, then Dillard’s Corp. later purchased Joske’s in 1986. The fountain adorning the level one entrance has remained, playing host to the annual “Around the Fountain” fashion show, a tradition that still lasts today.
This was also the fountain in which Farrah Fawcett famously stripped and bathed for the 2000 Robert Altman rom-com, “Dr. T and the Women,” about a wealthy Dallas gynecologist and the high-society ladies he idolizes.
Neiman Marcus is the only original tenant left at NorthPark today, along with the Danish open sandwich bar, “The Little Mermaid,” tucked away inside the department store and now known as The Mermaid Bar. Neiman Marcus opened in July 1965 at double the size of its Preston Center branch, which was “vacated because of the mushrooming of the North Dallas population,” a Dallas Morning News article reported.
Raymond Nasher began installing artwork at NorthPark in the 1970s. The only original piece that still adorns the mall’s exterior today is Beverly Pepper’s steel sculpture “Dallas Land Canal,” installed in 1971 at the east entrance. Jonathan Borofsky’s “Five Hammering Men” arrived in 1982 in SouthCourt between Neiman Marcus and Dillard’s.