upgrades move forward with city’s OK
By JONATHAN WHITAKER
March 7, 2019
The Merced City Council on Monday night
voted to move forward with the long-awaited renovation project
to turn the Merced Mall into a shopping, dining and entertainment
center that will meet modern 21st century expectations.
Leaders unanimously approved an environmental
review study and a site utilization plan for the 50-year-old
retail landmark along Olive Avenue.
Mall planners expect to renovate buildings, expand retail
space, update the exteriors and facade so that more storefronts
face parking areas, create attractive outdoor open areas,
and add an exciting state-of-the-art theater complex.
Everything will have an emphasis on creating social gathering
sites, inside and out, and attracting younger visitors to
an experience unlike anything they can find online through
Construction could begin this year, according to Bill Kenney,
a representative of the mall’s owner, Codding Enterprises.
He said the project is expected to be completed by 2021.
“With your approval of our project this evening,”
Kenney said, “we can commence architectural and engineering
design, and we can pursue with vigor those exciting new
retail, restaurant and entertainment tenants that this community
so badly desires.”
Kenney said they are still trying to figure out if the
new theater complex will become part of the Mall’s
centerpiece attraction — by opening up a two-story
complex between JC Penney’s and Kohl's — or
if it will remain where the existing United Artists Regency
7 stands today. He said Mall tenants will have a say in
Kenney also mentioned that the Mall is already in negotiations
to bring in new retail shops, including the possibility
of major anchor department stores; however, those talks
are still ongoing.
The Mall has lost a few stores and eateries in recent years,
including the Sweet River Grill and Bar and the Sears department
store; not to mention the Payless Shoes is on its way out
after a nationwide closure.
Recent announcements about several nationwide chains closing
stores have been dubbed “Retail Armageddon”
in the mainstream media. They include JC Penney’s
stores — though Central Valley outlets were not listed
among the most recent announcements.
The vacant Sears store at the Merced Mall has caused some
concern because it is owned by a entity separate from Codding
Enterprises. Frank Quintero, the city’s economic development
director, said the site sits on about 9 acres, with 94,000
square feet of retail space. He said there are plans to
renovate the facility from the inside out, with a focus
on tenants, and then the outside of the building will follow.
The city’s Planning Commission has agreed with the
latest moves, and no one from the public has been opposed
to the project at their meetings.
On Monday night, Councilman Kevin Blake simply said, “It’s
a great project.”
Mayor Mike Murphy thanked Codding Enterprises for their
continued investment in Merced.
“The mall’s going to be just a wonderful amenity
for our community, and 2021 is going to be here before we
know it,” he said.