Century Center Mall
The Criterion Theater and Baum Building were architectural jewels in Oklahoma City by anyone’s standards — landmarks that were razed in the heyday of Urban Renewal.
In their place stands Century Center Plaza, a mostly empty one-time attempt at a downtown shopping center that isn’t highly rated by any local architect.
Thirty years ago, a shopping mall was considered the Holy Grail for downtown development. The 89,000-square-foot Century Center Plaza, built along with the Sheraton Hotel in 1977 at Broadway and Sheridan, was the only one to be built.
A much bigger mall, an envisioned 600,000-square-foot Galleria, was talked about for years and was to be built a block west of the Century Center. Four square blocks of old retail properties — including the John A. Brown’s flagship department store — were bulldozed to make way for what civic leaders pledged would be a shinning new monument to downtown shopping of the future.
That vision never came true, though the Galleria name remains attached to the massive parking lot built in its place. Is the Century Center Plaza a hint at what might have happened if the Galleria had become a reality?
Walk into the plaza today, and you will likely be alone. Even during its oil boom heyday, the place never quite had an identity. At one time, it was home to a fitness center, several restaurants, florist, eyeglass store and even an FAO Schwarz toy store.