Life in Paradise: The Boulevard Mall

A Las Vegas Fixture for Over 40 Years
Photo by Steve Fey

‘Vegas” can get to be a bit much if you live here. It’s fun, and we love it, but sometimes even someone from Las Vegas likes to feel, well, normal. In 1968 a big chunk of normal was put down that still serves as a great getaway from all the over-the-top hype that is “Vegas. That was the year that developer Irv Molasky took on a project to build an enclosed shopping mall, the valley’s first, on the corner of Desert Inn Road and Maryland Parkway. Out of the howling desert on the eastern fringe of Las Vegas, Molasky built the Boulevard Mall, the oldest continuously operating enclosed mall in the valley, and until 2003, the largest mall in the valley as well. At the same time Molasky also was developing Paradise Palms, partially to generate foot traffic for his new mall. Eastern Avenue truly was, in those days, the Eastern edge of town.

The Boulevard Mall is large even by today’s standards, although you’d no longer call it “huge.” At over 1.3 million square feet it can cause anyone walking through to get a bit confused. I have read commentary to the effect that the mall, in an unusual “double dog bone” shape, was built in two phases, but the history of the mall suggests otherwise, since it opened with the same square footage that it currently boasts.

Is This Two Malls Glued Together?
Courtesy of The Boulevard Mall

The Boulevard Mall looks like it’s doing okay. There are tenants occupying most of the retail spaces, and there is usually a crowd inside. I can’t say for certain, but I believe that Molasky’s desire to bring in foot traffic from the neighborhood is being realized every day, as many people can be seen crossing Maryland Parkway in front of the mall. Whether any foot traffic comes from Paradise Palms is more difficult to say. I can only report that, so far, I have always driven myself over when I’ve gone. There is one prominent empty building, however. Dillard’s closed its Boulevard Mall location a few years ago, and as is frequently the case, no new major tenant has yet moved in. I hope one does, because I like the Boulevard Mall.

What I like most about this mall is that it is not on the Strip. I love the strip, I truly do, but for me the various hassles involved in visiting most Strip locations outweigh most of the advantages of shopping there. The Fashion Show Mall is an exception to that rule as it has several convenient entrances that are not on Las Vegas Boulevard. But the Fashion Show Mall is also upscale in reputation and frequently in prices as well. The Boulevard Mall, while large, is simply a mall. It has a food court near Sears where the usual mall food court vendors hold sway. Near the front door is the Orange Julius that you always know you’re going to find at a mall. The prices in the stores reflect this “ordinary shopping mall” sensibility also, so a trip to the Boulevard not only involves less inconvenience than most of the malls on the Strip, but it costs less as well.

At the Boulevard you can shop at Sears, Penny’s or Macy’s, stroll a variety of corridors, have lunch at the food court (or in one of the sit-down establishments on the premises,) watch high school students strut about, and also pick up a whole lot of things you want and need at prices that won’t make you feel funny when you pay them. I do a lot of projects around my home, for example, many of them electrical, so I drop by Radio Shack every so often to pick up some necessary tool or component. There are kiosks selling wireless service, perfumes, jewelry and other items, specialty stores selling candles, and pretty much everything you’d expect from a mall in a “normal” town. One thing that isn’t available in the Boulevard Mall is gambling, which is one more way the mall feels “normal” rather than like “Vegas.”

A Tribute to a Different Time
A Tribute to Another Time
Photo by Steve Fey

The Boulevard Mall was remodeled in the 1990s, so mostly it no longer shows its “mid-century modern” roots. The benches, for instance, are painted iron, and the pillars have been covered with decorative skims (at least I think that’s what you’d call them.) The remodel did miss a few things, however. Here, next to Penny’s, on the back side of the mall, is a resting spot that still displays all that mid-century charm.

Last December we got our dogs’ picture taken with Santa. Photos with the Bunny (the Easter Bunny that is) will be happening later this month. There really isn’t anything in the Boulevard Mall that makes it uniquely Las Vegas, and therein lies its charm. While you’re in there, you could be almost anywhere, and every so often, that’s just what this Las Vegas resident really needs.

The Boulevard Mall is located at 3528 South Maryland Parkway in Las Vegas.