Okay…hear me out. I am as big a fan of local as the next Huntsville-loving faithful, maybe bigger! To be honest though when I was noodling on what places in this city have been a part of my life for as long as I can remember, Parkway Place Mall (Parkway City for us older folks) had a starring role in so many significant life moments. Whether wedding veil shopping or even greater milestones such as securing my first 45 single of Purple Rain (that is a vinyl record for you young folks), Parkway Place was there. On a mission to re-frame exactly what “local” means I sat down with Molly Bell, General Manager, to do a little retail reconnaissance. Here is what she had to say on the matter:
As General Manager for CBL Properties, the spot we know as Parkway Place, what are 5 people, places or things you would say make the property more “local” than folks might think?
- It’s Huntsville History! Parkway Place Mall sits on a footprint that has a deep-rooted retail history serving our region for more than 60 years. This plot of land has been transformed four times since the original 1957 open air Parkway Shopping Center opened. In 1974, the center was struck by a tornado and rebuilt as the enclosed Parkway City Mall and expanded on through 1994. In 1998, the vision of today’s Parkway Place Mall began to develop and in October of 2002, the doors opened to the new gem on the Parkway! Just think of all the special purchases and memories made over the last six decades!
- We Are Local. Parkway Place is home to more than two dozen locally owned and operated businesses. Our Specialty Leasing department prides itself on working with locally established businesses and helping them scale their concept to the next level, or working with a small emerging entrepreneur. We guide them from what may seem like a far-fetched dream to “Now Open”!
- Richard Booker, he is our longest-term maintenance team member. We like to say the mall was built around him. To know Richard is to love him. He’s a seasoned hard worker that builds up the team members around him. The man knows every detail about the property, just like he knows detail about the people that frequent it! Say Hello and Roll Tide if you see Mr. Booker caring for our common area.
- Walk This WAY! You may think of the mall as a destination to shop with gates open and a bustling food court. Well, from 8:30-10:30am daily this mall is a beloved climate-controlled walking track for hundreds of community members. We often see familiar faces gather for a walk. You have couples, young mothers walking with their strollers, and long-time friend groups. On days North Alabama has extreme heat, cold or rainy weather our number of walkers easily double. The mall is a like a small friendly community, and the day starts at 8:30am with a line of walkers ready to kick off their day in style!
- Managers and Team Members Make the Magic Happen! Parkway Place not only serves the community, but it’s built by the community! More than 1,500 outstanding locals work at Parkway Place from our two anchor stores to the 80+ common area stores in between. To shop and support local doesn’t just mean shopping at a locally owned business. It also means to shop in your zip code and support local jobs while contributing to local sales tax that go back into our growing community.
Image Courtesy of Parkway Place Mall
Not everyone loves to shop. (Can you imagine?) What are 4 activities or entertainment options available to those guests when visiting Parkway Place?
- Play in Space! Let’s face it, not everybody can happily shop ‘til they drop. Especially kiddos! That’s why we have an epic space themed play area on the upper level near Dillard’s. You can climb Mars, stand on the Moon, man the Space Station, or ride the Saturn IV. Tens of thousands of families stop at the play area a year with an average playtime of 45 minutes. Fun fact, the surface of the play area is treated with a tough anti-microbial coating to assist in keeping the area germ free.
- Strike a Pose! We have an impressive 10x15ft mural on the lower level in center court by local artist, Sonya Clemons. Pride of the Parkway was commissioned in 2020, the work features our regions historic landmarks and creates a timeline that features historic moments about the property and our region!
- The Sky is the Limit! Ask any kid if they want to Mall Jump and the answer is just about always, YES! Whoever decided it was a great idea to put a massive 26ft high bungee jump in the middle of a shopping destination was a genius. The experience is often a big treat for the kids, or adults, using it!
- Seasonal Traditions. We’re home to those classic Easter Bunny and Santa sets. Once November hits, the Santa Set is put into place and families flock to let their kiddos share their secret wish list with St. Nick. Visiting Santa on Christmas Eve is a tradition that families love in our area.
As General Manager, this is like asking a parent to pick a favorite child… but sometimes, purchasing can make one a little peckish. What are 3 delicious pit stops, sweet treat must-haves or “I’ll start my diet tomorrow” options available at Parkway Place?
In no particular order.
- Yolo Rollo for freshly made “stir-fried” ice cream. It’s an experience to order and watch it be craftly made in front of you. Pick your cream base, an add-in or two, and watch as they work the liquid mixture over an ice pan to create rolled ice cream. Pick your toppings and ENJOY!
- Great American Cookie is a must-visit while shopping the mall. Fresh baked goodness with so many options! Just think of all the epic celebrations throughout your life that you enjoyed with a personalized Great American Cookie Cake.
- Chick-Fil-A milkshakes are another crowd pleaser. It’s the perfect treat to make any day just a bit more sweet!
Parkway Place has had a presence in Huntsville for a long, long time! We all love a little historical factoid or some piece of super-secret inside information. What are 2 things even a longtime local probably doesn’t know about Parkway Place?
- We’re built like a southern home. Take a look closer look at the details of Parkway Place the next time you drive by or visit. The exterior fits in with the surrounding community with a classic red brick exterior capped with timeless cornice and topped with a statement copper dome. Once inside you feel cozy with warm lighting, beautiful crown molding, classic marble, tall columns and our atrium. The property mimics historic homes and building in the region.
- Parkway Place helped build Huntsville High School.The City of Huntsville used tax increment financing, TIF, to contribute $10 million toward building a new Huntsville High School opening in 2004. The TIF also contributed $5.5 million to build our parking garage.
Photo Courtesy of Parkway Place Mall
What is the 1 thing Huntsville residents and visitors alike can do to support Parkway Place now and for years to come?
- Shop, Smile and Support! The more you enjoy shopping with local and national businesses that have invested in our area, the more other desirable retailers will be attracted to come into our booming market. From our maintenance and security team to the hundreds of managers we have on site, we love this community and we thank you for every visit! #WearParkway
Didn’t I tell you?! Contrary to what that man I bought the veil for would tell you, I don’t always have to be right but, it’s a lot of fun when I am. Thank you for learning more along with me! I hope you will make time someday soon to eat, play, explore, experience and, oh yeah, shop at Parkway Place.
Sixth-generation native Huntsvillian and lover of all things Rocket City, living in constant fear of personal geekery deficits and overall lack of geographical nerd-appropriateness, but valiantly fighting to stay abreast of the latest and perceived coolest assets in North Alabama in order to be allowed to stay at the smart people party. I sometimes travel to cool places, see fancy things and write words about them at Tour Dates Travel.