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Retail Revamp: OC Mall Sales Up 28%

Luxe Malls Attract Tenants; Others Eye Mixed-Use Adds

Orange County’s top shopping centers are in transition, from a diversification of tenant rosters to investments in new uses like housing and entertainment.

The efforts appear to be working: the top 34 shopping centers in OC reported a combined $9.7 billion in taxable sales for the 12 months ended June 30, up 28% from last year, according to this week’s Business Journal list.

Gains were clear on the luxe end of the area’s top malls, with South Coast Plaza seeing a record $2.4 billion in annual sales during the 12 months ending June 30, making up 25% of the list’s total revenue and coming in at No. 1 on the list.

Luxe Presence

Approximately 30 new stores will have opened at South Coast Plaza by the end of this year, including remodels and relocations.

Another 15 are set to debut in early 2023.

The mall, which counts north of 280 storefronts and restaurants already, is adding to its footprint via short-term exhibits and pop-ups to showcase a different side to luxury retail.

According to South Coast Plaza, there are at least 30 different luxury jewelry and timepiece boutiques under its roof as of this year—the largest collection of such stores in the country, with five opening this year alone.

Both Louis Vuitton and Gucci opened their second stores at the shopping center in the past year, with the latter Italian fashion house debuting its first U.S. dedicated luggage store last week.

The center sports about 2.8 million gross leasable square feet and has vacancies yet to be filled, including the long-awaited revamp of the former Sears anchor store.

Additions for next year at South Coast Plaza include new stores from Alexander Wang and Missoni.

Fashion Island, which saw sales jump 31% this year to $783.7 million, coming in at No. 2, also touts exclusivity with Irvine-based Lugano Diamonds & Jewelry Inc. set to open its first flagship, a 11,500-square-foot location, in December with a new membership club called Privé slated to follow early next year.

RH Newport Beach—previously known as Restoration Hardware—is preparing to deliver its new four-story, 80,000-square-foot location by summer 2024. It’ll be OC’s only RH gallery.

Fashion Island opened 16 stores this year with six renovations, including Huntington Beach-based TravisMathew which added 5,000 square feet to its flagship location.

Both shopping centers are in their 55th year of business.

2022 Growth

A majority of OCs largest centers experienced double-digit growth in the past year with the Downtown Disney District and The Center at Rancho Niguel reporting the highest comeback in sales, up 188% and 50%, respectively.

Brea Mall, which grew 46% to $631 million this year, is looking to capitalize on that growth through the addition of 15 new brands in 2022.

“The strategy has always been to bring new, exciting retail and dining options to the market and to add to our shoppers’ experiences, both on a national and local level,”
Director of Marketing and Business Development Nate Weirbach said.

The mall is in the process of reimagining its own former Sears location into a mixed-use site including 150,000 square feet of new retail use and more than 300 residential units.

Irvine’s Park Place and University Center reported over 40% growth as well, following the return of business and school sectors in the area.

Only two centers reported a decline in sales: The District at Tustin Legacy and Mission Viejo Freeway Center. The former is currently looking for a new tenant to replace Aki Home, which will shutter in January.

Mixed-Use Plans

Many shopping centers are eyeing homes to revitalize their offerings in the coming years.

Santa Ana’s MainPlace Mall has a $500 million redevelopment plan in place which will decrease its overall retail footprint and add two residential complexes with 720 multifamily units, 492,000 square feet of small shop space, a new dining concept and a live music venue.

Owner Centennial Real Estate Co. said it is prioritizing entertainment venues and specialty concepts to match market demand.

Apartment development plans are also under consideration for the Irvine portion of The Market Place. Still in early stages, Irvine Co. has proposed building 1,261 residential units located on 79 acres east of Jamboree Road.

Following a $102.5 million sale in July to Irvine-based World Premier Investments, the 219,902-square-foot Fullerton Town Center will add multifamily uses headed by a separate residential developer.

In Westminster, Shopoff Realty Investments is looking to redevelop the city’s namesake mall into a mixed-use campus with plans to add housing, medical offices, and contemporary retail concepts.

Plans to redevelop the former Laguna Hills Mall, underway since 2013, are being advance by Merlone Geier Partners. The rebranded Village at Laguna Hills aims to build up to 250,000 square feet of retail, up to 465,000 square feet of office space in four buildings, a hotel with as many as 150 rooms, and about 1,500 apartments in five different complexes, including 200 units of affordable housing.

Food and Beverage

Dining has also played a notable role in retail revamping efforts.

Bristol Farms at the Irvine Spectrum Center was one of the largest grocer openings this year with the nearly 34,000-square-foot Newfound Market debuting at the center during the spring. The store’s indoor food hall brought seven new restaurants to the center, which reported a 45% increase in sales to $569 million as of June.

The Walt Disney Co. this year announced two new restaurants for Downtown Disney—Din Tai Fung and Porto’s Bakery & Cafe—while OC’s first JOEY restaurant is set to open at Fashion Island late this year.

The District at Tustin Legacy finished its own $4 million refresh this year with six new dining concepts, though the future of the center’s Union Market food hall is up in the air after the space’s sublessor failed to pay rent, filings indicate. It’s now closed.

General Manager Arian Maher indicates new leases are in negotiations.

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