Mall World Tour, Stop #1: Moreno Valley Mall

Note:  The first of an occasional series highlighting the mall scene in Southern California

Moreno Valley Mall has a soft spot in my heart.  It isn’t because it’s an awesome mall (It isn’t).  It isn’t because of the variety of retailers inside the mall (Well…I’ll address that later).  Mo Val Mall gets some love from me because it is closest to my domicile.  Therefore, it is the first of what I hope will be many tour stops featured here on Mall World.  I mean to blog about you have to go to malls, yes?  

Moreno Valley Mall snapshot:  Opened in 1993, the mall sits on land that once was the Riverside International Raceway although you’d be hard pressed to find any reminders of its former glory.  It was developed by Fritz Duda and initially owned by General Growth Property.  It beat out a competitor for the Mo Val market (We’ll talk about Canyon Springs Mall in a future blog post) and opened with May Co., Sears, Harris’ and JCPenney.  Bullock’s was going to be a fifth anchor but pulled out shortly after the mall opened.

A bursting housing bubble and the realignment of March Air Force Base in 1996 was a double whammy that hurt the mall.  Soon, retail chains closed up shop.  Some because of the sales volume.  Others because they ceased operations.  In their place came mom and pop operations that people outside of Mo Val never heard of.  

Around 2005, Harkins Theatres claimed the spot once reserved for Bullock’s.  It marked a minor resurgence for the failing mall.  However, four years later, GGP declared Chap. 11 and sold off the low hanging fruit which included Mo Val Mall and its cousin, Montclair Plaza.  In 2009, the mall lost one of its original anchor stores when Harris’/Gothchalk’s closed their doors.  That space has been empty ever since.  

The mall can market itself as having one of two Round 1 Centers in California (the other being at Puente Hills Mall in Industry).  It also will be adding a Crunch Fitness in the near future.

The Good:  The city should be thankful to have an enclosed mall.  Depending on your personal style, the mall isn’t anything you haven’t found in every other mall in So Cal.  Most of the usual suspects are here:  PacSun, Wet Seal, Champ’s Sports, Express, Aeropostale, among others.  Also a lot of stores you’d never find at any respectable mall in California.  I mean honestly, how does that Rasta store stay in business?  I suppose a recent attempt to market the mall for date night (dinner and a bowling game, my love?) might pay off.  I will say that the Macy’s is nice (formerly a Robinson’s May).  And there’s a nice movie theater.

The Bad:  The mall was built too big.  It should’ve been built a lot smaller and then expanded when it was time.  Enter through Macy’s and then take a good look.  The mall is 50% empty storefronts.  The owners claim a 93% occupancy rate but those must be disguised as empty storefronts.  Or, I’m going blind.  It doesn’t help that some stores still there could use a few shots of Windex.  The absence of some chains means that tax dollars are going to Riverside.  I’m really hoping the new owners find a way to bring more stores to the mall.  The appearance of so many shuttered stores just gives the customer a perception that this mall is dying.

My take:  The new owners are talking a good game.  Although I have to wonder how Crunch is going to help bring customers to the mall and spend money.  Time will tell if the Japanese gamble with Round 1 will pay dividends in the future.  I’m really hoping a genuine big box retailer like Dillard’s will increase their presence in California.  Changing the tenant mix would be a good start.  If and when we ever get a full on economic recovery maybe retailers with a national footprint may come.  In the meantime, the mall is good enough for your basic needs.  If you’re a label whore, there’s always Cabazon.