Southcenter Mall in 1969, just one year after it opened. Photo pulled from Southcenter District 50th’s Facebook page.

Southcenter Mall in 1969, just one year after it opened. Photo pulled from Southcenter District 50th’s Facebook page.

Southcenter celebrating its 50th anniversary

The Southcenter Mall in Tukwila first opened in July of 1968 and has come along way since.

To celebrate the 50 year anniversary of Southcenter Mall, the city has been planning an assortment of events to capture all of the memories that have been created over the years.

According to Brandon Miles, economic development liaison for Tukwila, the city has teamed up with the Chamber of Commerce and Westfield to celebrate Southcenter’s anniversary, which first opened July 21, 1968.

“We’re working together, to really create and atmosphere to promote 50 years of Southcenter. The city an the chamber are really — and the mall — are really looking at not just celebrating the mall, but celebrating the entire district (District 50) and the history of the district because it’s got some great stories to tell,” Miles said.

Southcenter is now the largest mall in the Pacific Northwest, Miles said. At the time of it’s opening, it was the second largest mall in the Untied States, right behind a mall in Honolulu, Hawaii.

Miles said there is a lot of talk about how “retail is dying,” but disagrees. He said he thinks Southcenter continues to be one of the strongest shopping destinations in the Puget Sound.

To celebrate 50 years of success, there are three major events already planned and a more to come.

The first event coming up at the end of July is Touch-a-Truck, which is a free event that let kids explore fire trucks, tractors and other large city vehicles. It also offers safety and emergency preparedness lessons.

The following event is on July 31, the actual anniversary of the mall. It will be hosted outside of Macy’s in the mall. More details about this event will follow soon, according to Miles.

The next event is a Seattle Sounders 5K run that will be held on Sept. 15 at 9 a.m.

Another aspect worth celebrating according to Miles is that Macy’s, Nordstrom, Zales and JcPenny’s have been at the mall since the opening 50 years ago and have stayed in the same locations.

“We’re going to work with the chamber and the mall to honor them as well,” he said.

Miles said that since this next year is a 50-year milestone for other aspects of the mall, there will be events and celebrations throughout the year to celebrate. One that Miles is excited for is 50 years of taking pictures with Santa Claus.

On top of these events, Miles said the anniversary coincides with some big projects that have been in the process for some time now.

“The opening of our ped (pedestrian) bridge that’s linking the east and the west side of the rivers and the Southcenter area. Washington Place just opened so our first mixed-use building, 371 apartment buildings and an alliance, the new building that’s going right next to Washington Place is under construction right now. We’re finally starting to get the residential mix that we’ve been talking about,” he said.

By adding the bridge, it’s the first step to making Tukwila more walkable, which according to Andrea Reay, president and CEO of Seattle Southside Chamber of Commerce, this is a huge and transformative step for the city.

“It’s about adding that walkability to the city of Tukwila that is not just ‘I’m going to drive my car to this one destination and drive to my car to another destination,’ but that it’s really creating a walkable pedestrian friendly, city core,” Reay said.

With all the talk about Southcenter and everything around it, Miles said they don’t want this to be a one-way conversation. He said they want others to share their mall memories as well.

“My first sentence that I ever said was ‘Mommy, see the mall?’ I’ve lived here my whole life and the Southcenter mall has been an important part of my life as well as a lot of other people that have grown up here,” Reay said.

Miles said they are looking for people to share stories about their first date at the mall, their first job or anything that was important to them that took place at Southcenter

“We really want those photos and stuff of someone wearing an old McDonald’s uniform and working in the mall when they were 16 years old,” he said.

Miles and Reay said Southcenter is important to the city of Tukwila in more ways than just making memories. It also has accessibility and economic values as well.

Reay said people can buy anything and everything they would want or need within the Southcenter area.

“Whether that’s a washing machine or a specialty imported food item or a pair of jeans or a pair of shoes, get your haircut, I mean you name it you can get it here. I think it’s all within that close proximity where things like just being able to drive and then park and walk around fairly easily, you don’t see that a lot anymore,” she said.

Miles said that the area also gives families something to do for the day without breaking the bank.

“We have a lot — not just the mall, but the whole shopping district — there’s a lot of things that a family can do for a very reasonable price,” he said. “We’re very easy to get to and if you’re going to make a day out of it, you don’t have to spend $30 to park.”

Reay added that the Southcenter area has economic aspects as well and it offers a lot of jobs to anyone who lives in the area or right outside of Tukwila.

“We’re thrilled to celebrate you know not just about the longevity, but it’s about having the community thrived here. As we all know retail like all business is dynamic and ever changing. We’ve been fortunate that we’ve had leadership both at the city level, but then also within the business community as well,” Reay said. “Having those activities that you can do as a family where you unplug and you connect with each other, it’s so great to have a place where you can go and spend some time together as a family and just enjoy each other.”

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