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Tucson Mall getting new look

Citizen Staff

Owners plan to make the mall more open, add a play area and revamp the food court and Arizona Avenue.



Tucson Mall starts heavy-duty spring cleaning Monday, one that will run through spring, summer, fall, winter and all of 2003.

The owners will spruce up the mall with new floors, a children’s play area, new and refurbished restrooms, soft seats such as at Park Place, tinkering with the food court and Arizona Avenue, changes to fountains and a new paint scheme.

Mall owner General Growth Properties won’t say how much Tucson Mall’s first major overhaul since its opening in 1982 will cost other than “more than $10 million,” said Mike Hackstadt, group general manager at Tucson Mall and Park Place.

“It really is time for the Tucson Mall to be renovated,” Hackstadt said.

Renovation will affect all aspects of the interior from floor to ceiling, but the mall will stay open for business throughout construction. So far it’s all cosmetic: Nordstrom is not on the way.

Chicago-based General Growth bought Tucson Mall in August 2001, putting the two largest malls in Tucson under the same ownership. The ownership immediately targeted Tucson Mall for some renovation, but Hackstadt and his local team convinced General Growth that newly renovated Park Place and the new Fashion Square in Chandler demanded more work for Tucson Mall.

“Initially, the renovation was much less significant than it ended up being,” Hackstadt said. “We convinced General Growth we need to go farther than the initial plan.”

Mall staff surveyed some 400 or 500 shoppers one weekend in October to gauge their desires and get a profile of the typical Tucson Mall visitor: ages 25 to 45, half have children, 40 percent shop with their children, middle income.

“The survey reaffirmed what we already new,” said Lori Inman, marketing director for both malls. “It reaffirmed we have a strong family shopper.”

That strong family shopper will get a children’s play area next year to replace two fountains outside Dillard’s. General Growth saw the play area that opened in Park Place in August has been hugely successful.

“I’m amazed,” Inman said. “Families are in there from 8 in the morning until 10 at night. With 40 percent of people shopping with children, we expect it to be a bigger success at Tucson Mall.”

But the play area won’t come until Phase 2B, in the first half of next year.

Starting Monday, Phase 1 will tackle the upstairs restrooms, which will get new tile floors and walls and new counters. Upper-level ceilings will get a new paint job.

Following in about July and continuing for the rest of the year, the focus will shift to the center court area. The sunken floor and ramps will come out, replaced by new tile flooring that is level out with the rest of the mall.

The fountain will wrap around the elevator, and water will spill down the outside of the elevator shaft. Soft seats and carpeting will go where the fountain is now.

Hackstadt believes it’s the mall’s age rather than the store lineup that keeps Tucson Mall from being as busy as it could be.

“We feel there is leakage to Phoenix,” Hackstadt said. “With the upgrade, we can stop some of that. We have the variety of stores, but with the outdated feel people don’t feel comfortable (at the Tucson Mall). By making it more comfortable, we increase their stay at the mall.”

From January to May next year, the children’s play area will be built in front of Dillard’s, and three staircases that are little used will be removed. Also, the picket railing on the upper level will be replaced by glass.

The stairs near Dillard’s will be replaced with an escalator and elevator, and the center court stairs by Robinsons-May will be gone, as will the one near customer service.

In early 2003, crews will replace downstairs flooring with cream, terra cotta and green tile. The sunken tree wells and bulky trees will also come out, to be replaced by smaller trees at floor level.

“We’re opening up the mall, brightening the mall, showcasing the stores better,” Inman said.

Work moves into the food court in spring 2003. Phase 3 will see a reconfiguration of the food court with a new seating layout and relocation of some eateries, Hackstadt said.

The food court restroom also will be enlarged with additions of family and lounge areas similar to Park Place’s.

Neighboring Arizona Avenue with its Southwest-themed stores will get a makeover of its own.

“We are going to make it more like a mercado with an outdoor festival feel,” said Monnie Applegate, assistant general manager at Tucson Mall. “We will make it more realistic so it feels like walking on the street of a mercado.”


1982: Mall opens with about 100 stores and five department stores, including Broadway, JC Penney, Mervyn’s, Diamonds and Sears

1990: Dillard’s expands, and parking garage is added to Dillard’s parking area

1991: New wing opens, anchored by Robinsons-May

1993: Food court is renovated with addition of carousel and Arizona Avenue

2001: General Growth Properties bought Tucson Mall from the original owner and developer, Forest City Development. Mall now has 200 stores and six department stores, Macy’s, JC Penney, Mervyn’s, Dillard’s, Sears and Robinsons-May

DRAWING: Artist’s rendering

CUTLINE: General Growth Properties plans to spend more than $10 million on renovation of the Tucson Mall. The remodeling will include new floors, a children’s play area, new restrooms, soft seating, a paint job and changes in the mall’s fountains.


CUTLINE: One of the many projects set for the remodeling of Tucson Mall is to add a play area similar to the one at Park Place.

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