Saturday, January 12, 2008

Sharpstown Mall In Trouble

When I read this article I was both a little saddened and not really surprised at all. Sharpstown is a historic part of town. My grandfather was an executive out there in the 1960s up through the 1980s. When Frank Sharp developed the area in the 1950s, it became a ritzy part of town. My grandmother and mother used to tell of how they would shop Sharpstown Mall back in those days and feel safe. In the parking lot of the mall sits an abandoned garage. This used to be the Montgomery Ward auto repair garage. My grandfather's company had many of its vehicles serviced there. Across the street south of the mall sit the Conquistador apartments. These were built in 1964 and were originally high class apartments. Many businessmen and professionals used to live there. In fact, today when you walk in the lobby, many of the original aspects still shine like new (well except for the original elevator). In the back of the front lobby sits an old bar that leads onto a patio. This looks like a setting for a 1960s Dean Martin movie. It truly is like walking back in time. Just across the street to the west of the mall is Demeris BBQ. Since 1967, it has served an excellent BBQ plate. In fact, one of the guys standing behind the counter (I can't remember his name) has been there from the beginning. My grandparents ate many a meals there. From dining there often myself when I worked down there, I noticed most of the customers were older people. I imagine they used to live (or still do) and/or work down there and are not going to break a tradition.
Starting with the scandal, that area declined over the years. Many apartments were built that became run down. During the 1990s, stories of the southwest cholos gang hit the papers like today's MS-13 gang. Now, Sharpstown has almost become synonymous with crime. Just behind the mall on the north side lie many run down apartment complexes. On Marinette lie the Royal Oaks. Before that it was named the Natchez House. It was a New Orleans theme (ironically it took in a lot of Katrina evacuees which caused a lot of problems for them). In 2001, two Houston Police Officers were shot, one of them fatally. The management back then had allowed many criminals (some just released from prison) to stay there. After the murders, the complex changed names and management. The new management did do a lot of cleaning. Then came the Katrina evacuees. Across the street are another complex. A lot of gang bangers and criminals lived there. One woman was evicted after threatening to shoot up another apartment over drugs and food stamps. The woman simply used a fake name and reapplied with the new management and was leased a new apartment. Then on, she carried on a feud with another woman that resulted in beatings, a shooting, and an attempted rundown with a vehicle. She was eventually arrested. In yet another complex, lived many prostitutes were squatting illegally. They were plying their trade, and even robbing people. Also behind the mall was a cantina. This place allowed anyone inside, no ID required. Cocaine and marijuana were sold on the grounds probably with the owner's help. Hundreds of people were arrested by police coming out of this place driving drunk and under the influence of cocaine for years. Only just recently has the cantina closed.
Today Sharpstown bills itself as "Houston's premier urban mall." This hasn't done anything to make the mall prosper. In fact, ask the people who live in that neighborhood. One woman told me only "thugs" shop there. Now, that's not entirely true. However, the tattoo-on-neck, grill-in-mouth look is not exactly one that inspires high opinions. Oh well, as I said. I was both a little saddened for the historic significance. However not surprised from what I've seen going on out there.


Shelby said...

I remember back in the 90's there was this commercial for Sharpstown Mall in which a cartoon gopher dressed as a security guard spoke of the mall's "new and improved" security. I wish I could find it on You Tube. What a joke! That mall is scarier than Gunspoint Mall.

Lee Ann said...

I seem to remember it flooding in that area of town whenever it rained.
It was interesting to hear about it.
Have a great week!
Lee Ann