LaguaHills.com – Luxury apartments, a movie theater, a park, and indoor and outdoor shops are part of the official plan to revitalize the tired Laguna Hills Mall.
Merlone Geier Partners bought the property from Simon Property Group in 2013 and has been eyeing ways to update it.The city on March 22 approved the mall’s plan to bring new life and entertainment to the 68-acre retail center.
“When you go through redevelopment, it takes time to understand the market and really plan,” said Stephen Logan, project director of development at Merlone Geier.
David Chantarangsu, community development director of the city of Laguna Hills, said the city has been planning for the redevelopment of the mall since 2000.
“The city’s goal is to build a village core, and part of that is live, play, stay, create an environment where a resident could walk to work and stay within this community,” he said. “We want to create a real downtown that a lot of newer cities like Laguna Hills don’t have.”
With redevelopment approved, construction on Five Lagunas, the mall’s new name, will start this summer. The first phase is expected to be complete in 2018.
Laguna Hills Mall was built in 1973. With the exception of minor updates in 1994, changes have not been made to the center, which has long been marked by high vacancy rates.
The mall, which has a B-minus grade, is sandwiched between two A-plus malls, The Shops at Mission Viejo and Irvine Spectrum Center. Mall grades, which are determined by a variety of factors including sales per square foot, were provided by Green Street Advisors, a Newport Beach-based real estate research firm.
Green Street mall analyst DJ Busch said that to be successful, the Laguna Hills site must add food and entertainment.
“It helps position the mall to compete against e-commerce, and it is an important source of demand to back-fill for underperforming retailers,” Busch said.
Merlone Geier will gut the mall between the former Sears and JCPenney. The resulting area will be open, airy and trendier than what was there before.
Developers will add a luxury movie theater with 14 screens, upscale dining and VIP levels for guests older than 21. A 1-acre green space called Sycamore Park will host live music and events, and a farmer’s market and chef-driven restaurants will be added.
Merlone Geier declined to say how much the overhaul would cost.
Perhaps the biggest change will be the addition of luxury apartments. In the first phase of the project, 350 units will open, with more than 900 apartments at the final tally.
The apartments will have luxury amenities such as pools and yoga studios.
Mall anchors JCPenney, Macy’s and Nordstrom Rack will remain, as will a handful of restaurants. The facades of JCPenney and Macy’s will be redone.
A small portion of the mall will remain indoors, but most of it will be converted to outdoor spaces.
Around 60 retailers will be at Five Lagunas, Logan said. The mall is hoping to have a mix of local and national, luxury and fast-fashion brands.
A six-story parking garage will accommodate shoppers.
McPherson and Logan agreed that once completed, the project will be the community gathering Chantarangsu wants for Laguna Hills.
“My favorite part of this project is that we’re recycling a property. We’re taking something broken and fixing it,” McPherson said.