Dallas Truly is the “Shopping Center”

Posted by    |    August 9th, 2010 at 11:33 am

If you were ever in doubt that the city of Dallas gave birth to retail in the United States, doubt no more!  Did you know that Dallas is the home of the very first planned shopping center in the country?  Moving on from the concentration of retail department stores located in downtown buildings, area developers were coming up with new ways to bring retail to the masses.

Highland Park Village (HPV), which received its designation as a National Historic Landmark in 2008, was conceived by Edgar Flippen and Hugh Prather in 1928 and opened in 1931.  According to the designation record:

“…Highland Park Shopping Village represents a pivotal point in the evolution of the shopping center as a distinctive building type in 20th century American architecture.”

We say that HPV was the first “planned” shopping center because, according to the center’s web site, it was designed with a unified architectural style – stores facing toward an interior parking area – and managed under a single ownership.  Other retail areas in Dallas and across the country were developed along streets and in consolidated areas, but none were actually developed and built in a cohesive style and ownership.

The developers actually researched other retail areas of the country before building HPV:  Country Club Plaza in Kansas City, MO; and the French Market and Spanish Market in San Antonio (although neither of these markets made it past the planning stage).

In the nomination form to become a National Historic Landmark, we find statements about the center’s significance as a historic place and its role in modern retail real estate:

“This unusual combination located in a high income community made the center an important proving ground for many of the first suburban department and chain stores in Dallas including Hunt Grocery Company (1931), Skillern & Sons drug store (1932), Volk Brothers (1935), and Sanger Brothers (1950). Thus, the complex provides an excellent representation of the role of the shopping center in facilitating the decentralization of the downtown commercial core of cities across the United States. In this particular case, the Highland Park Shopping Village contributed to the decentralization of downtown Dallas and the northern expansion of commercial and residential development that continued into the late twentieth century in Dallas.”

 The shopping center was born, the heavens opened up, and women everywhere rejoiced!

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