Mall update tops council agenda

WESTMINSTER MALL at Bolsa Avenue and Goldenest Street in Westminster. A “community discussion” will be held on Monday, Aug. 19 on future plans for the center (OC Tribune photo).

An update on the specific plan process for Westminster Mall highlights the agenda for Wednesday’s meeting of the Westminster City Council.

The council will be briefed by Community Development Director Alexa Smittle on the process for re-purposing the mall, which has high rates of vacancies and is suffering from competition from newer, open-air shopping centers and on-line “stores” such as Amazon.

In the staff report, the complications of renewing or replacing the mall are noted. There are five different entities with ownership of the property, located at Bolsa Avenue between Edwards Street on the west and Goldenwest Street on the east, bordering the San Diego (405) Freeway.

The process of creating a specific plan began in 2019, and considerable outreach and research has been done. At that time, it was envisioned that the mall would be transformed into a “destination” mixed-use center with 3,000 housing units, 1.1 million square feet of commercial space and 425 hotel rooms.

However, changing buying habits and the impact of the coronavirus have complicated matters. And, as the staff report notes, “Westminster has long had what is defined as a ‘surplus’ of retail, which means there is not adequate buying power in the localized region to support more retail” and adds “creative solutions may be needed to ensure the project does not ultimately have a negative impact on the general fund.”

When the Mall opened in 1974 it was the largest shopping center in Orange County, anchored by four major department stores. Revenue from sales tax more than made up for the city’s low property tax rates. The decline of the mall has been a factor in the city’s continuing financial stresses.

The council will meet via teleconference with a closed session at 6 p.m. and an open session at 7 p.m.

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