Checking Out the Emerging 'Hispanic Mall' Concept: Fort Worth's 'La Gran Plaza'Staff Writer
The Latino Post
As the political pendulum goes, so goes business as well. Today, the Republican and Democratic Parties are each "reaching out" to Hispanics (while their opponents are "pandering"). But politics isn't the only part of the American landscape that has recognized the growing power of Latinos.
Businesses as well are clamoring to become more "Latino-friendly." One of the newest phenomenon emerging are "Hispanic Malls."
Most recently,"Plaza Mayor at the Crossroads" in Oklahoma City received a Hispanic facelit to revitalize a former mall that had fallen into economic hard times. It is one of eight properties the developer, The Legaspi Company, has developed into a "Hispanic Mall."
An earlier effort can be found in Fort Worth, Texas. It is called "La Gran Plaza," and it is operated by Grupo Zocalo. The Fort Worth property, like the one in Oklahoma, had become known as a "dead mall."
According to a press clipping from Forbes on the Legaspi Web site, the mall was purchased in 2005, by 2008 it was at 90 percent capacity and once again contributing to Fort Worth's business scene.
The first thing that identifies La Gran Plaza as a "Hispanic Mall" is the entertainment offered on its grounds. Unlike many "standard" shopping centers located nearby, La Gran Plaza is also a weekly entertainment stage. With at least two (and possibly a third) stage available for performances, this shopping center offers weekly choices in Latino music and entertainment.
Of course, it also dictates the prevailing flavors available in the mall's "food court." While there is a Chinese restaurant ("El Chino" the Spanish description), there is a definite leaning toward flavors derived from south of the border.
On the main floors of the shopping center, stores more or less resemble the standard mall fare (in fact, name brand retailers are actually found in the mix). There is a movie theater that does offer some movies in subtitled form, and some are offered in two languages or in English, though last Saturday the offerings were standard Hollywood titles. But there is a feature that most likely legitimizes this center as "Hispanic" (let's face it, anyone can book a Mariachi band or sell Mexican food). This is "the Mercado."
Tucked away on one side of the center is a sprawling three-story conglomeration of very small shops that does resemble the type of shopping that is more familiar to those who have visited Mexico. Most "stalls" measure only a dozen or so feet in any direction, and there are lots of them. Within the maze of small business operators there are also legal services, computer repair and income tax help. There is an entire wing of hair care salons. Latino entrepreneurs have long been able to set up small shops in "hole in the wall" locations. Many success stories have depended on this, and the Mercado at La Gran Plaza does have that feel. But this is not a hole in any wall. This place is big ... very big.
Underlying what seems like a small business haven is a very active and well-financed corporation. This is actually their second go-around with the Hispanic Mall concept. "The company's second project, La Gran Plaza de Fort Worth, is the epitome of Grupo Zocalo's philosophy," reads the company Web site. "Formerly known as Seminary South and Fort Worth Town Center, this million square foot mall provides a mixture of retail, office, and community centers for the neighborhoods and surrounding areas of North Texas." Grupo Zocalo is a subsidiary of Boxer Property, a real estate company based out of Houston, Texas.