If it wasn’t for a pesky fingernail infection, I may have never stepped foot inside the curious world of San Miguel de Allende’s partially abandoned mall, Plaza Real del Conde. After going there for a doctor’s appointment last week, I walked out of the office and around the mall in a daze. Where was I? In a mall or a ranch in the Mexican countryside? And why weren’t more shoppers and tenants flocking to such a picturesque place?
The plaza, which I believe translates into The Royal Count’s Square, opened as a premier shopping destination 15 or so years ago. With an abundance of architectural details — boveda ceilings, colorful tile, carved wooden beams, metal lanterns as far as the eye can see! — Plaza Real del Conde is not your average mall. It’s difficult to see such a lovely place in disrepair, as many of the businesses and services left or moved to the dull U.S.-style mall across the street, Plaza La Luciérnaga. (GNC? Yawn.) It’s a story we’re all familiar with: a big box store (supermarket Gigante) was once a boon to Real del Conde, serving as the complex’s anchor tenant, but since it moved out years ago and no tenant moved into the empty space, things went downhill quickly. Local and state government services took over some of the empty spaces and an odd assortment of shops, restaurants, and services filled a few more empty spaces, but the complex is so large that many winding corridors remain eerily devoid of life (in one spot, I asked a couple to walk in front of the camera to make the photo more interesting, I just didn’t have the time to wait for someone to walk down the empty hall).
There’s been occasional talk about what to do with the space (a hotel, maybe?), although grand visions seem to disappear overnight. Who knows what’s in store — as the saying goes — for the mall, but a shooting death last month doesn’t bode well for the already struggling plaza.
Plaza Real del Conde, a curious place indeed.