Coastal Bend History


A new way to shop in Corpus Christi

Parkdale Plaza 1961
Posted at 5:29 PM, Jun 13, 2024

To this day, many people blame the decline and death of downtown Corpus Christi as the city’s primary retail shopping area on the coming of the suburban malls in the 1960s and 70s. There is no doubt that the opening of Cullen Mall, Padre-Staples Mall, and Sunrise Mall lured long-time downtown businesses to the suburbs, but they were actually just the last nails in the coffin. The decline of downtown Corpus Christi began long before the malls opened. On April 6, 1957, the first regional, suburban shopping center in South Texas would open on a 32-acre site at South Staples and Gollihar. The brainchild of Corpus Christi businessmen Ben Marks, Abe Katz, and Harry Weisman, the new center would be called “Parkdale Plaza”. The men had taken note of the city’s explosive population growth toward the south in the 1940s and 50s and realized that putting the stores where the people were made sense.

April 1958.png

Planning for Parkdale began in February 1955 with the hiring of Irving R. Klein Associates of Houston to design the shopping center. In February of 1956, a contract was awarded to A.E. Hinman Construction to build it. The Grand Opening of Parkdale Plaza in April 1957 was attended by hundreds of political and business leaders and thousands of local residents. Twenty-six stores were ready on opening day. They included some of downtown’s most popular stores that had decided to make the move to Parkdale….Penny’s, Richardson’s, TSO, Lester’s Jewelers, Mangel’s, and Margolis Shoes. Lichtenstein’s, Corpus Christi’s oldest retail firm, opened a new store in Parkdale while retaining its downtown location. And, HEB Grocery would open the largest store in its chain of 69 stores at Parkdale. The 220,000 square foot center would eventually house 50 businesses, with free parking available for 2,500 cars. Parkdale was meant to be a one stop shopping center for everything that a family would need, all without the stress of downtown traffic and its limited parking.

April 1958-7.png

For the next 15 years, Parkdale Plaza would dominate retail shopping in Corpus Christi. To attract customers to the center, there was always something special going on at Parkdale. There were hula hoop contests, fashion shows, the circus, choir and band concerts, celebrities on hand to sign autographs, art shows, carnivals, car shows, and demonstrations of every kind. In October 1960, a mountain of “manufactured snow” was dumped in the Parkdale parking lot for a snowman building contest. The contest, however, turned into the city’s biggest snowball fight as 4,000 teenagers began throwing the balls of ice at one another! One year, thousands came to see Elvis Presley’s famous Gold Cadillac which was on display. And Christmas was always special at Parkdale, especially when Santa would arrive the day after Thanksgiving by helicopter.


Parkdale Plaza would grow even larger as new businesses arrived. A Putt-Putt Golf Course was added in 1959, and Woolco would build a $1.2 million store, its first Texas, at Parkdale Plaza in 1963. The city would also locate its first branch library at Parkdale in 1962. Parkdale Plaza would remain the city’s most popular shopping destination through the 1960’s. But change was on the horizon. Padre-Staples Mall would open in 1970 and would have an immediate impact on Parkdale Plaza. Original tenants like J.C. Penny’s would leave Parkdale to re-locate at the new Mall. Parkdale State Bank would leave and construct its own building several blocks away. HEB would do the same. By the year 2000, virtually all of the original tenants were gone and many storefronts were boarded up.


In 2007, the property was sold and in 2009 the entire shopping center was demolished to make way for a new Super Walmart. A small strip center, simply called “Parkdale”, was built at the far east end of the original Parkdale Plaza property, a reminder of the revolutionary shopping center that had once dominated the retail market in Corpus Christi.

Robert Parks is a special contributor to KRIS 6 News. Parks was a history teacher at Carroll High School for 19 years and is now retired. His knowledge of Corpus Christi history makes him a unique expert in the subject.