Tuesday , September 26 2023

Moreno Valley Mall to get major renovation

Add Moreno Valley to the list of cities that are trying to revive a once-thriving regional shopping mall.

The city council this month approved a major overhaul of the Moreno Valley Mall, giving a thumbs up to a plan the planning commission unveiled in January that will make multiple additions and revisions to the 87-acre property.

That plan calls for the construction of four apartment buildings at the mall, which opened in 1992 on the former site of the Riverside International Speedway, according to a staff report.

Two hotels that will operate in one building will also be constructed, along with an office building. Also, the former Sears building at 22550 Town Circle will be converted into a retail facility that will house multiple tenants.

With its 4-0 vote on May 16 – Councilman Ed Delgado was absent – the council agreed to build more than 1,600 residential units, 60,000 square feet of office space, and 270 hotel rooms to the mall property.

Anchor tenants Macy’s, JCPenney and Harkins Theaters Moreno Valley-16 will remain at the mall, which is just south of the 60 Freeway at the southwest corner of Centerpoint Drive and Towne Circle.

The cost of the redevelopment project is yet to be determined. However, barring any major changes, the upgrades to Moreno Valley Mall are expected to be completed by late 2026, according to the report.

“It’s important to revive Moreno Valley Mall, and not just for the local economy,” Mayor Ulises Cabrera said. “Moreno Valley Mall is the gateway to our city. We need to make it a community hub, with retail and restaurants.”

Moreno Valley residents want to be able to shop and visit a restaurant in their home city, and not have to drive to Los Angeles or San Diego to do those things, Cabrera said.

“It will have a major financial impact, not just for our area but the entire region.”

Moreno Valley Mall performed well during its first years in business and for some time thereafter, but it has struggled during the last 10 years, said Councilwoman Elena Baca Santa-Cruz, a Moreno Valley native.

“What’s happened to a lot of mall properties,” said Baca Santa-Cruz, a Moreno Valley native who recalls attending the mall’s opening ceremony. “I think that’s because consumer shopping patterns have changed so much. People don’t window shop anymore and then go into the store and buy something. They shop online.”

The decline in shoppers that has happened at Moreno Valley Mall during the past decade, especially during the pandemic, has happened to malls throughout the United States.

In the 1980s, well before the internet, there were an estimated 2,500 regional shopping malls in the United States. By the fourth quarter of last year, that number had shrunk to about 700, according to Insider, a business news website.

In 10 years, assuming online shopping continues to grow, that number could be down to 150, the publication reported.

Unlike Carousel Mall in San Bernardino, which will be leveled and replaced with a mixed-use project, Moreno Valley Mall will remain intact, said Mark Levine, managing director of Nelson Worldwide, an architecture and interior design firm that is a consultant on the project.

“We aren’t proposing any significant demolition to the mall itself,” Levine told the council during its May 16 meeting. “Malls aren’t built anymore, they’re redeveloped, and we will improve the value of the mall with our redevelopment.”

The project, which will take about one year to complete, will create 1,600 jobs and generate about $7.4 million a year in tax revenue annually, according to Levine.

In the meantime, Los Angeles-based IGP Business Group, the property’s owner, will look to sign its first tenant.

“No one is interested yet,” said Mark Ilbak, the company’s chief executive officer, who addressed the council with Levine. “There are ‘big-box’ retail buildings there that have been empty for 15 years. “If this [redevelopment] doesn’t happen, I don’t think anyone will show any interest. That won’t happen until construction starts.”

Ilbak was vague about the construction timeline, but said he is ready to start “as soon as possible.”

The sooner that happens the better, said Jamil Dada, a board member with the Moreno Valley Chamber of Commerce.

“I cut the ribbon at the mall’s opening ceremony, on behalf of the chamber,” Dada told the council.  “I know how important the Moreno Valle Mall is to this city, and I know this project will make Moreno Valley proud. It will bring jobs, sales tax revenue, and bed-tax revenue and it will improve the city’s image.

Like the Carousel Mall and San Bernardino, reviving Moreno Valley Mall is crucial to that city’s economic future, according to Cabrera.

“I think people will flock to this project because there’s nothing else like it in the Inland Empire,” Cabrera said. “We can capture a lot of the traffic on the 60 Freeway.”

One speaker raised concerns about the project. Attorney Adam Frankel, representing Supporters Alliance for Environmental Responsibility, raised several environmental concerns, including the need to reduce the project’s greenhouse gas emissions.

Council members did not comment on Cabrera’s remarks.


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