The Merced Mall is set for a potential face-lift aimed at making it more appealing to the millennial generation, a direct reflection of the growth of UC Merced, according to investors.
The planned upgrade, which calls for the addition of “trendy” restaurants and venues, could add as much as 90,000 square feet and a second floor to the mall, according to Bill Kenney, a representative of Codding Enterprises, the mall’s owner.
“Millennials today are more interested in the experiential than the physical,” he said on Monday. “They prefer dining out, going to bars and entertainment venues, and traveling over spending their hard-earned money on apparel and accessories.”
One “catalyst” for the timing is the $1.3 billion expansion planned at UC Merced, Kenney said. The campus looks to make enough room for another 3,300 students by 2020 at the campus of 6,700, according to school leaders.
Millennials today are more interested in the experiential than the physical.
Bill Kenney, of Codding Enterprises, Merced Mall’s owner
The project is also contingent on the mall leadership nailing down anchor tenants, he said. Along with upgrades, the theater could be relocated to the new second floor of the mall.
“Let me be clear that we have not yet received commitments from the anchor stores that we need to make that project successful,” Kenney said.
The plans also call for more stores or restaurants that face outward into the parking lot.
City Manager Steve Carrigan noted the mall’s potential upgrade could be about two years out, around the same time as downtown projects at the El Capitan Hotel and Mainzer Theater.
“Two years from today, you’re going to see a number of cool projects,” he said.
Also in the works are the 67,400-square-foot Downtown Center, a $45 million UC Merced project set to bring as many as 370 workers to the downtown district.
The mall’s upgrade was announced during Monday’s City Council meeting. A number of council members thanked the developers for investing in the city.
“I think this is very exciting, and I certainly look forward to it,” Councilman Kevin Blake said.
Also during Monday’s meeting, the council reaffirmed its plan to purchase the Merced Sun-Star building at 3033 G St. and make it the next police station.
With a 6-1 vote, the council set the ball rolling to begin negotiations on the 5.5-acre G Street property. Councilman Noah Lor cast the dissenting vote, saying he’s spoken to constituents unsure of the plans.
“They are very concerned about buying the property without a traffic study,” he said.
Lor cast the vote despite a reassurance from Frank Quintero, the city’s economic development director, who said a traffic study is coming.
The Sun-Star’s building has been on the market for years while the media company has considered moving to a new location.
“We’re optimistic that this will work out well for both the city of Merced and the Sun-Star,” Publisher Ken Riddick said. “The Sun-Star is committed to continuing to serve the community of Merced with reliable journalism and community service. The office space might change, but our commitment to the community remains.”