Plans to revamp the Merced Mall moved forward this week and an official behind the company that runs the shopping center says construction could begin this year.
Officials announced a plan in 2016 to give the mall a new look as a means to get younger shoppers away from Internet shopping and into visiting the 50-year-old bricks-and-mortar plaza. They got the approval to move forward Monday by the Merced City Council.
The building’s facade would get an upgrade in the plan that’s scheduled to be complete by early 2021, according to Bill Kenney, a representative of Codding Enterprises, the mall’s owner.
The redesign would expand retail space by about 50,000 square feet on the southern end and add an open area to the mall, which officials have said is a way to create an experience that can’t be duplicated by online shopping. Kenney would not disclose which stores and eateries are involved in negotiations but said those talks have already begun.
There’s still one big decision to make: Should they move the nearby theater into the mall or enlarge it where it stands?
“While we prefer locating the theater into the mall, the ultimate decision is actually made by the theater tenant and also by the existing department stores,” Kenney said.
Under either plan, the roughly 22,000-square-foot cinema could be expanded to reach up to 55,000 square feet, according to officials. If the theater was moved into the mall, the standing cinema would be demolished and made into retail space.
The mall has lost a few stores and eateries in recent years. Perhaps most notably, it lost Sears late last year.
Upgrades to that roughly 90,000-square-foot section, which is owned separately, could potentially lag behind the other improvements, according to Frank Quintero, Merced economic development director.
“There are plans to renovate the facility but from the inside out. First, they’re working on tenants, then they’ll be working on the outside of the building,” he said.
The plans are not expected to have a significant impact on traffic in the area, according to Julie Nelson, an associate planner for the city of Merced.
A number of the elected officials expressed excitement about the mall project. “The mall’s going to be just a wonderful amenity for our community and 2021 is going to be here before we know it,” Mayor Mike Murphy said.