|Pizitz at Five Points West:
Birmingham's original "dead mall" (updated 04/22/2008)
In its 1970s heyday ... Five Points West Mall, Pizitz, Earthtones and you!
In 1968, Farm Bureau opened an indoor "mini-mall" behind the south strip at Five Points West. This was in reaction to Eastwood Mall's enormous popularity, although I'm sure the construction of Western Hills Mall, located just down Bessemer Super Highway, must've played some role. Western Hills would open in 1969.
The apartments visible in the 1965 pictures on the Five Points West page were leveled to make room for this extension (they too were owned by Farm Bureau) ... and in its place a Pizitz department store was constructed as the anchor of the new mall portion of Five Points West. Both it and the mall were elevated, with an enclosed parking lot on the ground floor.
Access to the indoor portion was gained through a stairwell in Pizitz and toward the west end of the mall, an escalator from the street level, and through the original strip around where the Woolworth is in the '65 photo. Visitor Glenn Cox clarified this, saying, "Actually, the entrance to the mall part was to the right of W.T. Grant as you faced the store from the street (Woolworth's was to the left of Grants). When they put the mall entrance in, they cut a door from Grant's into the mall to make a second entrance." Cox, who worked at the Grant's store in the late '60s, added, "The store manager used to get me to park the popcorn cart right at that door so we could lure in the mall shoppers."
Later a parking garage was added across 47th Street-Ensley, and an overhead crosswalk was added connecting it to the Pizitz.
Among the tenants in this portion was a radio station. Black-formatted WBUL-AM 1220 ("The Bull") broadcast from this location during much of the 1970s.
At some point in the early '80s, the Pizitz store was vacated ... and soon the mall portion was closed down.
For more than 20 years the property sat in a rotting state, and in 2008 the area was (finally) demolished. Only the old parking deck remains.
The old property as it looked until recently made for one project of urban exploration. While I was in Birmingham for a long weekend early in 2005, I took some pictures of what existed on that site.
BETTER DUCK DOWN THE ALLEYWAY...
You're looking at the alley behind the strip -- visible in the distance is the overhead corridor connecting the strip to the mall portion.
This alley originally served as an driveway and parking lot for the apartment complex that was cleared to make way for this mall.
'W' STOOD FOR "WHAT AN EYESORE!"
The view of the old Pizitz one had along Avenue W south of Bessemer Road.
This is where a PIZITZ logo appeared. I suspect it was a backlit design giving a halo effect around black letters at night.
Turning off of Avenue W onto 47th Street Ensley, a rusting sign pointed to the deck (visible here). White handpainted letters on a dark green background -- the style of signage found in Birmingham city parks during the late '60s and through the '70s.
THE SHOPPERS RUSH TO THEIR CARS WITH THEIR (POLYESTER DOUBLE-KNIT) TREASURES
The overhead walkway spanning 47th Street-Ens, connecting the parking deck to the Pizitz. I'm sure this was quite a novelty back in the day.
DARE YOU TO ENTER
Another Birmingham Parks-esque sign marks the entrance to the closed parking deck from 47th Ensley.
A closer shot of the crossover, from the other side. Note all the glass panes missing.
OF CONVENIENT PARKING ... JUST WATCH FOR FALLING CEILING TILES!
Street-level enclosed parking beneath the Pizitz. An elevator can be seen toward the left center.
I took these two pictures from the street -- and was holding my nose; the mold smell damn near blew me over!
WIDE ENOUGH TO ACCOMMODATE A '75 PLYMOUTH VOLARE OR, BETTER YET, AN AMC
More parking. More mold. More mildew. And a functioning mercury-vapor light toward the middle. Even the homeless need light.
THE HANDRAIL, AND TIE THOSE SHOELACES!
Escalators provided access upstairs to both the mall and Pizitz. One was visible from 47th Ensley.
SWEATERS, LEISURE SUITS, AND BELL BOTTOMS: SECOND FLOOR!
A closer look at this spoooooky escalator!
JUMP; IT'S NOT WORTH IT!
This once had a big picture window offering a nice view of the parking deck across the street! Brian Collins offered some insight: If memory serves this was an empty alcove. Even as a kid it seemed like a weird waste of space. They put Santa in there and it was a huge bottleneck. His chair was there to the left where the blue paneling is on the wall. You would enter in and curve back to the larger section of the room and circle back to see the jolly elf. Somewhere I've got pictures of me and my brother in big coats and hats sitting with Santa in that very spot. I just remember heat poring in from the large picture window and my mom making me keep the hat and coat on so we would look more "Christmasy." Santa looked pi**ed to be there. Obviously he felt the same as I about being in heavy clothing while a picture window turned the entire space into an easy-bake oven.
O' MY PIZITZ
This is getting nice and creepy, isn't it? Inside you can see missing ceiling tiles, and dangling light fixtures. Vestiges of pegboard are visible in this room.
IS FOR "VULTURE FOOD"
A wide shot of how the building looked as seen from the next street over, Avenue V. There seemed to be a missing panel on this side ...
That open portion appears
to have been a massive glass wall at one time. It allows a look into
a portion of this mall .... and a very eerie sight, at that. Even
an old lighted "EXIT" sign hangs from the ceiling.
The railing seen just inside surrounded a staircase to the parking deck below. An entryway at ground level is boarded up.
|Have anything to contribute? Historical information
... Pictures of the mall when it was open ... Info on the mall tenants
... Or any from INSIDE this spooky thing ... Anything!! Please
e-mail and let me know!
RETURN TO BIRMINGHAM REWOUND: FIVE POINTS WEST
RETURN TO BIRMINGHAM REWOUND: PIZITZ
UPDATED 04/22/2008 -- 845 PM EDT