Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Highland Village: Jackson, MS

Among Jackson's malls, one in particular stands out as particularly unique and that is Highland Village.  Built in 1975 as an open-air two-level mall, the center tends to get somewhat overlooked because it is not a traditional mall with the usual 3-4 regional or national chains.  Nevertheless, this boutique mall does well in one of the most upscale portions of the city.  Located at I-55 and E Northside Dr, the center has high visibility and remains popular.  The center is not entirely retail, however.  Its offerings are actually a mix of office and retail with the upper level almost entirely made up of offices.

Highland Village in all contains 48 stores located on the lower level of the center.  The stores are a mix of local boutiques, but it has a couple national chain stores (Talbots and SAS Shoes), and its major anchor is a small very high-end department store, Maison Weiss, which has a second location in downtown Oxford, MS.  Maison Weiss exists to provide a very upscale shopping experience in a market under-served by upscale stores carrying designers typically only found in stores like Nordstrom.

The first photo is one of the two center court areas of the mall.  The second photo shows a covered area looking from the upper level next to the covered court.  The mall is open-air, but it features a mix of open and covered areas providing places to run from the frequent downpours, but still have an outdoor feel. Of course, with the humidity in Mississippi, I'm not sure than outdoor feel is exactly a wise business plan.

This is obviously not a true mall considering that escalators are not present anywhere in the mall.  This is also evident as to why only offices are upstairs.  While it is possible retail was on both levels, the design suggests it was always offices on the upper level.  Even if the retail part doesn't do well, you can always get a root canal here.

This is something that it's hard not to like, though.  Shady canopies with nice flowers and trees.  I'd be all for taking the roof off of malls if they looked like this and were pedestrian only with cozy spots like this.

One of at least three stunning fountains in the mall.  I have more pictures of this to follow.

Part of the same court with the fountain above.

The children are bound to love all these levels to run up and down and look off.  The child in me loved it, too.  The child in me no longer runs and screams and pisses off their parents, though, when they explore the place.

Many elements of this place still give its age: especially the wooden shingled mansard, heavy use of brick and flat roof.  It's okay with me.  It beats pink stucco.

The mall itself is stunning featuring so many elements lost in modern malls.  The mall features many trees and planters, several fountains, sculptures, a terraced layout and different styles of overhead walkways and staircases providing access to the upper level.  The center court of the mall is covered as well to provide a place of protection from the frequent Mississippi downpours.  The design is also distinctive featuring a 70's interpretation of traditional architectural designs.  The urban courtyard effect of the mall is also fits well with the classic look of a Mississippi Delta town.

Here is the covered court area of the mall.  It is so vibrant and lush and inviting, and would be great fun to relax in during a thunderstorm as long as that didn't involve large hail and a tornado.

Now THIS is a fountain.  These are the kinds of fountains that malls used to always have.  Terraced with waterfalls and deep blue pools.  Now malls act like a small cast iron old timey fountain is some sort of a replacement for something like this.  Sorry, they suck.

Another view of the court and fountain.  Also note the plants.  Yes that means you Simon, CBL and Hull Storey Gibson.  This place looks much more inviting and richer with greenery that isn't grown in a giant movable pot.  

Take only pictures here, leave only critical remarks at other malls.

I can imagine having an office here would be nice.  Unfortunately, I'm not to the level to have any office yet.

View of steps and interesting ceiling treatment on the upper level.

Looking west towards I-55.  The green and white canopies look like giant caterpillars trying to devour the place.

Along the west side of the mall, you find this cute although far less impressive fountain.  Oh well, it's better than just concrete.  The vines are a nice touch, too.

The only unfortunate aspect of the center is that it has little room to expand being landlocked on all sides.  The result is that Highland Village will always be a small boutique mall and never able to morph into a major shopping mall without tearing down tracts of houses in nearby subdivisions.   Fortunately, this means little risk that the mall will lose its quaint charm.  That charm was enough to draw Whole Foods, which broke ground on November 8, 2012.  This is a major event since this will be the first Whole Foods in Mississippi when it opens later this year.

A couple views back on the north court area.  You can make out some nice places for a lunch, the fountain and a big blue caterpillar that is crawling down the stairs.

The north court fountain is simply stunning.

Now I see what the blue caterpillar is after.

For this to be called "center court", it must be halfway between the two courts I mentioned.

"Promenade" is actually Maison Weiss department store, and it is situated on the north side of the mall.  The large open area is the outdoor north court and the diamond-shaped area is the covered south court.

Maison Weiss department store with shopping center sign.  The sign is a delightful 70's throwback.

Here is a better view of the entrance to Maison Weiss department store.  It does not open to the rest of the mall.

Centers like this later morphed into the modern lifestyle center.  The open-air mall design is very rarely used these days without being set up like an urban downtown with streets, though exceptions exist in places like Richmond, VA (Short Pump Town Center) and Madison, AL (Bridge Street Town Center).  Open-air malls were the original malls in the 50's, but most failed or were enclosed due to the popularity of enclosed malls in the 70's, 80's and 90's.  Some were built in the 70's, and like Highland Village were largely boutique malls that typically did not catch on such as Merchant's Walk in Cobb County, GA.  Since then, their popularity has come around as enclosed malls have faded in popularity and became too expensive to operate while lifestyle centers and upscale strip centers have come to dominate.  This is why it is very unusual to see a surviving 70's open-air boutique mall like this one.  It is a center that survived the fads and has come full circle to remain pretty much the same as it always was.


  1. Actually, there are a fair number of open air shopping centers from the 50s or later that have survived into the present. Ansley Mall in Atlanta is a good example. They tend to be community centers and sometimes, they've been converted into big box centers or have a big restaurant component. there are even a few big ones like Old Orchard and Oakbrook which are among the most successful malls in the Chicago area despite never having been enclosed. I suspect that it's the success of shopping centers like these and their adaptability that helped inspire the "lifestyle center". An open air design is much easier to modify and less costly to maintain than a big mall, and much easier to redevelop if it goes bust.

  2. Bal Harbour Shops is an open-air mall and Santa Monica Place in California is also. They're both extremely beautiful and upscale.

  3. Highland Village dates back to the 60's. The original was the 'north' end..a A&P, Morgan and Lindsey, a Rexal drug store and maybe OldeTyme. Then the center multi-level courtyard section came in the late 70's (with Shoney's and TGI Fridays) the 80's brought the south expansion (upscale resturant (Char now)...now they are building a WholeFoods in the east parking lot.

    1. Do you remember the name of the upscale restaurant where Char is?

  4. Actually Shoneys was a stand-alone restaurant on the west side at first, then was included when the original Highland Village was expanded in the early 70s. The closed courtyard addition was added in the late 70s, pushing parking to the top of a small plateau on the south side and direct access to the second floor. Most of the second floor in the original section is office space, but a number of retail shops are on the second floor of the courtyard addition,

  5. I only live about an hour away in Louisiana and Ive never seen this place till now. It looks AWESOME and I have to go there. I always assumed Highland Village was some brand new Power or Lifestyle Center that I had no interest in. The best part is that they didn't try to renovate it and ruin the look of it.

  6. There are doors in the very back of the Weiss store that do connect to an enclosed hallway, or atleast they used to but are now painted over. I took some pictures of the mall like hallway but don’t know if I can attach them to a comment