High­land Park Shop­ping Cen­ter: A look back af­ter 50 years

Siloam Springs Herald Leader - - PROUD MILESTONES - By Hunter McFer­rin Staff Writer ■ hm­c­fer­rin@nwadg.com

S ome peo­ple might re­mem­ber back when they were my age and even older than me, that the shop­ping cen­ter park­ing lot used to be the hang­out for kids, I mean kids from Fayet­teville, Ben­tonville, Spring­dale, they would all come to Siloam Springs. Mark Alexander High­land Park owner/man­ager

At one point in time, the in­ter­sec­tion of South Mount Olive Street and U.S. High­way 412 was com­prised mostly of open fields and large parcels of bar­ren land. Ac­ces­si­bil­ity to the area was also more lim­ited than that of to­day, as U.S. High­way 412, which was U.S. High­way 68 at the time, was a two-lane road. The only signs of modern so­ci­ety as many know it to­day were a bank, a cou­ple of small gas sta­tions, a large two-story home where the po­lice sta­tion is now lo­cated, and some small houses lo­cated where Times Square Shop­ping Cen­ter cur­rently sits.

All of this be­gan to change in 1968 when a man named Vir­gil Alexander had the vi­sion to con­struct High­land Park Shop­ping Cen­ter, which will be cel­e­brat­ing its 50th anniversary this De­cem­ber. To cel­e­brate, an event was held on June 16 to com­mem­o­rate the anniversary. Free hot dogs were given out, kids were able to play on bouncy houses and Dis­ney tele­vi­sion ac­tress Mi­randa May vis­ited the com­plex to par­tic­i­pate in a meet-and-greet with her fans.

The 80,000-square-foot multi-suite com­plex was the first shop­ping cen­ter of its kind in Siloam Springs, said Mark Alexander, son of Vir­gil Alexander and owner/ man­ager of High­land Park Shop­ping Cen­ter. It has housed a va­ri­ety of dif­fer­ent businesses through­out the years, rang­ing from a pet groom­ing store to an ar­cade.

The first busi­ness to open in the com­plex was a Sears Cat­a­log Store and it was also where Wal­mart store #4 opened af­ter it out­grew its orig­i­nal space, which was near what is now Bell’s Of­fice Sup­ply. Oth­ers in past years have in­cluded a Mont­gomery Ward Cat­a­log Store, Coast to Coast Hard­ware and Safe­way, Alexander said. There was also a pe­riod of time in which the com­plex and its sur­round­ing prop­erty be­came a so­cial des­ti­na­tion for many.

“Some peo­ple might re­mem­ber back when they were my age and even older than me, that the shop­ping cen­ter park­ing lot used to be the hang­out for kids, I mean kids from Fayet­teville, Ben­tonville, Spring­dale, they would all come to Siloam Springs,” Alexander said. “They would cruise the park­ing lot, they would get up on the high­way, go to Sonic, then they would come back up here and park and meet up with friends, hang out and just do it all over again.

“That went on for years and years and even­tu­ally we had to shut it down, but it was a big deal. I do not know why; maybe it was the ar­cade be­cause peo­ple did not have video games at home dur­ing those days. But maybe it was be­cause back, then no one had cell phones, so you had to leave your house and go find the friends you wanted to hang out with.”

To­day, it is home to 21 businesses, in­clud­ing Good­will, Aaron’s, Game Ex­change, Sub­way, Any­time Fitness, Ra­dio Shack and the

Herald-Leader. One busi­ness that is rel­a­tively new to the com­plex is Shoe Sen­sa­tion, which opened its store in April 2017.

“It has been a pos­i­tive ex­pe­ri­ence and I feel we have de­vel­oped a re­la­tion­ship with some mem­bers of the com­mu­nity,” said Stephanie Rutherford, as­sis­tant man­ager of Shoe Sen­sa­tion. “The 50th anniversary celebration the other day brought peo­ple in that still did not even know that we were here. We have also started get­ting a lot of pos­i­tive feed­back, with peo­ple say­ing that we needed an­other shoe store and that they en­joy the brands that we have.”

Among those who have been around the long­est in­clude Up­stage, Any­time Fitness and Sub­way. An­other that makes this list is Day­light Donuts, whose owner is Linda Waeltz. Waeltz has been work­ing at the donut and cof­fee shop for 14 years and has had own­er­ship of it for the last four years. Dur­ing her time here, Waeltz said that the amount of re­cur­ring cus­tomers she has each day is what makes her ex­pe­ri­ence here worth­while.

“I have en­joyed be­ing in this area, I have cof­fee drinkers that have come in here since day one and still come in to­day,” Waeltz said. “I ac­tu­ally have a group of cof­fee drinkers that come in ev­ery day at four o’clock, an­other one at five o’clock and an­other one that comes in at seven o’clock. There are def­i­nitely peo­ple around here that kind of make this place a part of their daily rou­tine; it is great.”

Photo sub­mit­ted

A ren­der­ing of High­land Park de­picts what the shop­ping cen­ter might have looked like be­fore it was built in 1968.

Gra­ham Thomas/Herald-Leader

High­land Park owner Mark Alexander, left, and Siloam Springs Cham­ber of Com­merce CEO Wayne Mays, right, visit with Dis­ney Chan­nel ac­tress Mi­randa May dur­ing a mee­tand-greet held June 16 as part of High­land Park’s 50th anniversary celebration.

Hunter McFer­rin/Herald-Leader

Cur­rently, 21 businesses re­side at High­land Park.

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