The owner of Tacoma Mall has plans for the future that take into account changes in the retail landscape and consumer spending habits. These could bring in new stores and restaurants, and the return of movie screens to the complex. Charles Davis is senior vice president of development west for Simon Property Group, which owns the mall. On May 29 he met with Tacoma City Council’s Economic Development Committee to share ideas about redevelopment.
Davis presented some information on the changing retail industry. Some large chains are struggling as a result of taking on too much debt. He said in general retailers are optimistic. Simon malls on average have a 95 percent occupancy rate. Simon has invested in some retailers, such as Aeropostale. It now has control over 12 Sears stores, including the one at Tacoma Mall. The store is targeted for demolition. Plans call for replacing it with several retail stores ranging in size from 10,000 to 30,000 square feet. The current Sears store is 162,000 square feet. Davis said the trend for department stores is to reduce their size. A movie theater of approximately 40,000 square feet is also envisioned. A theater once was in this part of the mall, where the Krispy Kreme now stands. It was demolished in 2002. Davis said discussions have taken place with a theater operator that would have a range of food and beverage options, something available elsewhere in the Puget Sound. “This is something we find is missing in this marketplace,” Davis remarked.
Plans call for sprucing up the northern entrance to the mall from Steele Street, including landscaping and a roundabout just west of Sears. Just south of the roundabout would be five spaces for shops or restaurants, ranging from 3,235 to 9,160 square feet.
Davis noted the south side of the mall is now home to many restaurants such as Cheesecake Factory, which he said is doing very well. He noted some restaurant operators have expressed concern about the increase in minimum wage.
Ideally, Simon Property Group would like to begin demolishing the Sears store in the first quarter of 2019.
Davis was asked about how brick and mortar stores are faring in an era of online shopping. He said both forms of shopping complement each other, noting that several businesses that began as online only now operate stores in shopping malls. “This is an evolutionary process.”
On the east side of the property, plans call for improved pedestrian connections adjacent to new retail spaces.
He is unable to reveal names of any future tenants at this time. He said Simon is making an aggressive push to add retailers, including local and regional chains.