There was a sort of irrational exuberance about real estate development in the ’80s. A lot of buildings were being built, a lot of things were being sold, a lot of buildings were being destroyed, and a whole lot of people were getting wealthy. This mall was a kind of ill-conceived idea that was sort of a “white elephant” and a major embarrassment in an otherwise vibrant Downtown Scottsdale.
The galleria didn’t have any anchors, and that’s part of the reason that it didn’t end up working. The developers thought that the mall might continue without any anchors, because it was only focused on luxury boutiques that were very high-end. the mall had a little food court, a few restaurants, and a Cineplex Odeon multiplex too. It was the only one ever in Phoenix. The developers also said that there would be improvements in the future, like an aquarium that was “walk-through”, but it didn’t ever end up delivering on them.
Magnin had thought about moving to the Galleria, but the Biltmore Fashion Park owners told it to stay and that they would build it a bigger store. Magnin was only a few years from closing anyway, so its presence might not have helped the galleria much.
There were still a couple malls less than half of a mile from the galleria. There was Scottsdale Fashion Square, and the soon-to-be-closed and ill-fated Camelview Plaza. Fashion Square was anchored by Robinson’s at the time, and a Dillard’s that was going through an expansion. Camelview Plaza was anchored by Bullock’s, and Neiman Marcus would soon open up in a space that used to be occupied by Sakowitz, and after that, Dillard’s.
The galleria just couldn’t stand up to the mega mall. Fashion Square did continue to expand, and it eventually bought Camelview Plaza and turned it into one of the biggest Dillard’s in the country. The current Dillard’s turned into a Sears, and then it turned into a Macy’s after that. There was another big expansion in 1998, and there was a bridge over Camelback Road that attached to Arizona’s initial Nordstrom’s. Fashion Square is currently the biggest mall in all of Arizona, and there are plans to continue to expand it by destroying the Robinson’s that was shuttered and constructing a new area that will have Barneys New York in it.
The design of the galleria had a lot of problems. The main component was a big atrium that was four stories, but it had an awkward, small wing that attached it to the multiplex through a bridge over the Civic Center. It was also hard to access that parking area. There was a ramp into the garage that directly impeded the flow of traffic. The mall was positioned in downtown Scottsdale, which is an area friendly to pedestrians, but most of the exterior was quite uninviting and bland.
Plus, the timing was bad for the galleria. There was a recession going on in 1990. There was less of a demand for luxury boutique products.