Moreno Valley Mall makeover would add eateries, hotels, housing – San Bernardino Sun

A dramatic makeover aims to breathe new life into the Moreno Valley Mall.

In the works is a redevelopment project that would leave intact the Macy’s and JCPenney stores, and the movie theater, while retooling the rest of the enclosed shopping center and constructing high-rise multifamily housing towers, an office building, hotels and a landscaped plaza on the mall’s east side.

The amount of available retail space would grow slightly to 1,152,358 square feet from the existing footprint of 1,128,702 square feet, wrote Steven Hanna, design and construction consultant, on behalf of Moreno Valley Holding, LLC, the project’s proponent.

While the project is in early stages and public hearings and decisions are months away, Moreno Valley officials welcome the effort. One of them, City Council Member Ulises Cabrera, said it is crucial for the local economy that the mall be successful.

“It is arguably our main gateway when you come in (to Moreno Valley) from the 60-215 interchange,” Cabrera said. “It’s the first thing that you see.”

And, he said, “It’s been struggling for a long time.”

In a few days, residents will get an early opportunity to weigh in on the plan.

The city will prepare an environmental impact report for the project, which is proposed by Moreno Valley Mall Holding, LLC, owner of the mall property.

IGP Business Group, parent company of Moreno Valley Mall Holding, runs the mall in Riverside County’s second-largest city along with others in Florida, Kansas and Missouri.

The city has scheduled a virtual “scoping meeting” for 6 p.m. Wednesday, May 18, to make a presentation and discuss what issues should be studied and included in the report. Those wishing to speak may do so via Zoom, for up to three minutes, a city notice states. People and agencies may submit comments in writing.

A draft environmental report is expected to be made available for review in late summer or fall, with public hearings to follow in late fall or winter, city spokesperson Matt Bramlett said.

According to the notice, the project has many elements, including:

  • Remodeling the mall’s first and second floors and the large department-store buildings that once housed Sears and Gottschalks.
  • Refashioning the food court into a “pavilion”-style market featuring permanent and pop-up food vendors and food trucks.
  • Constructing 1,627 multifamily housing units in high-rise buildings 4, 5 and 7 stories tall. Most of the residential communities would rise from parking lots on the mall’s southeast side. A 250-unit structure would be built on the northwest side.
  • Building two hotels with a combined 270 rooms, restaurant and conference center near the east entrance.
  • Putting up a 3-story, 60,000-square-foot office building to frame the east entrance along Centerpoint Drive. Targeted tenants would include medical, educational and professional-service businesses.
  • Redesigning the area between the theater and former Gottschalks building to provide outdoor dining.
  • Designing a plaza and open space area to serve as a “community gathering place” and pedestrian bridge between the mall and new buildings to the east.
  • Several bus stops.

Construction is expected to start in 2023 and wrap up in 2026, the notice stated.

Beyond the Macy’s and JCPenney anchors, Hanna wrote in an email that “the intent is to renovate and upgrade the commons to improve the overall shopping experience for all guests and retailers.” He  added wrote that the core part of the mall will remain covered.

“Multiple retail options” are being explored for the Sears and Gottschalks structures, Hanna wrote.

The plan, he wrote, will “repurpose vacant anchor store property, refresh the mall interior, add new residential uses” to help Moreno Valley comply with its state housing supply mandate and beautify the shopping center.

There is history where the center stands.

It was built on the site of the former Riverside International Raceway, which thrilled Southern California auto racing fans for 32 years from 1957 until its closing in 1989. Big-name drivers such as Dan Gurney and Mario Andretti raced and won, and A.J. Foyt suffered a broken back there. The racetrack appeared in several movies, such as Walt Disney’s “The Love Bug.”

The track thrived for years in what was once a predominantly rural area. Then Moreno Valley became a city in 1984 and filled the area with rooftops, and the mall was built.

Richard Stewart, who was mayor at the time, recalled ceremoniously cutting a ribbon to the mall opening in 1992.

During the mall’s first year, optimism filled the air and area officials credited it for helping fuel a countywide increase in sales-tax revenue. Today, the parking lot is mostly empty. A large sign on a wall advertises that spaces large and small are available for leasing.

“Obviously, malls are falling out of favor all over the United States,” Stewart said, and Moreno Valley Mall has fallen on hard times.

For years now, said Yxstian Gutierrez, the current mayor, residents have been telling him “the mall needs some TLC.”

“People don’t go to the mall,” said Elena Baca-Santa Cruz, the newly elected council member who represents District 1, which includes the mall area. “They go outside the city to Temecula or Riverside.”

Regional retail expert Brad Umansky, president of Progressive Real Estate Partners in Rancho Cucamonga, wrote in an email that part of Moreno Valley Mall’s challenge is that it is an enclosed shopping center.

“Indoor malls are a difference species than other retail properties,” Umansky said. “They are much more destination oriented with the purpose of shopping as entertainment.”

Because of that, when an indoor mall “loses enough quality retailers,” he wrote, “it becomes very difficult to maintain success.”

Moreno Valley Mall lost Gottschalks in June 2008. Its Sears store was shuttered in early 2020. Both buildings still sit empty.

“The inability to replace Gottschalks and Sears is likely due to a lack of available retailers and the configuration of these buildings as 2-story buildings with relatively low ceiling heights and a lot of columns,” wrote Umansky, who visited both in 2021.

Another factor, he wrote, is that the center is owned by a company with a smaller portfolio of properties than major mall owners such as Brookfield Properties and Westfield that have extensive industry connections and wield a greater ability to lure big retailers.

Toya Vick, who has lived in Moreno Valley 18 years, said she used to go to Moreno Valley Mall all the time. These days, not so much.

Vick was there Thursday, May 12 — but that was because her granddaughter asked to go.

When she moved to town, her whole family enjoyed going there.

“That was our excitement,” she said.

“We came up here a lot,” Vick, said. “They had a theater. I mean, everything.”

“They had a lot of stores that had cookies and ice cream,” she added. “And everybody was, you know, friendly. People are no longer friendly.”

The mall also no longer has some stores Vick liked, and she shops elsewhere.

“We come by once in a while,” she said. “Like, if I need a suit or something, I come to Macy’s.”

Vick wonders what the remake will look like.

“Hopefully it’ll be successful,” she said.

Umansky said the revitalization can succeed though Moreno Valley Mall is an enclosed center at a time when shoppers tend to “enjoy the outdoor experience of a Victoria Gardens or Fashion Island more than an indoor experience.”

“Quality indoor malls that are able to give people a reason to visit will survive,” he said.

Umansky wrote that positive steps are proposed such as adding eateries, which would make the site more of a destination, and constructing housing and hotels, which would put shoppers with disposable income “at the front door.”

Cabrera, the council member, said so far he likes what he sees.

“It’s going to be huge for our city in terms of bringing more entertainment, more restaurants and a better gathering place for our residents — something that our city has not had,” he said.

Baca-Santa Cruz said she likes the plan’s dining, lodging, public transit and housing components.

“There is a big need in this city for multifamily housing,” Baca-Santa Cruz said.

Stewart, the former longtime mayor and council member, though, suggested the mall is the wrong place for apartments. A better place, he said, would be between warehouses and single-family neighborhoods, where they could boost the housing supply and serve as transitions between types of development that he said don’t belong next to each other.

In any event, Stewart said, it is a good sign that a company wants to invest in the mall.

In contrast, the Redlands Mall, which closed in 2010, is going to be converted into 700 apartments and condos, restaurants, shops and more.

Baca-Santa Cruz said she is confident Moreno Valley Mall will flourish again as a shopping center and attract many shoppers.

“If they have great places to shop, they will shop here,” she said.


A scoping meeting is set for 6 p.m. May 18, via teleconference only. The public may observe the meeting as follows:

Step 1: Install the free Zoom app or visit the Zoom website at

Step 2: Get a meeting ID number and password by emailing or calling 951-413-3206, no later than 5:30 p.m. on May 18

Step 3: Choose an audio source (computer speakers/microphone or telephone)

Other details: Written comments may be submitted by Friday, May 27, to Julia Descoteaux, Moreno Valley senior planner, at Commenters are asked to include their name, phone number and address.

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