The Great Mall in Milpitas, CA: Blending Entertainment with Shopping

The Birth and Evolution of The Great Mall

Introduction to The Great Mall

The Great Mall of the Bay Area, a prominent landmark in Milpitas, California, opened its doors on September 22, 1994.

This significant date began a new era in the city’s retail landscape. Developed as a collaborative venture between Ford Motor Land Development and Petrie Dierman Kughn, the mall quickly established itself as a key destination for shoppers.

Its inception was an addition to Milpitas’ commercial scene and a transformational development in the area.

From Auto Plant to Shopping Haven

Before its current glory as a bustling shopping center, the site of The Great Mall was steeped in industrial history. It was originally built in 1955 and served as the Ford Motor Company’s San Jose Assembly Plant.

However, the plant ceased operations in 1983, primarily due to the increasing competition from Japanese auto manufacturers. This closure marked the end of an era but also the beginning of a new chapter.

In the early 1990s, developers saw potential in the expansive site, converting it into a retail haven. This transformation was a significant shift, repurposing an industrial space into a commercial powerhouse, offering things to do in Milpitas, California.

Ownership Changes and Expansions

Several changes in ownership and management have marked the journey of The Great Mall, each bringing its own set of developments and expansions.

In 2003, the mall came under the ownership of the Mills Corporation, signifying a new phase of growth and development.

Another major change followed this transition in April 2007, when Simon Property Group, a renowned retail real estate company, acquired the mall.

Under their management, The Great Mall has expanded in size and enhanced its offerings and services, solidifying its position as a key player in the region’s retail industry.

Architectural Design and Layout

Unique Design Elements

The architectural design of The Great Mall stands out for its distinctive features, a testament to its industrial past.

Unlike typical multi-level malls, The Great Mall is a “flat” mall sprawling across a single story with an oval racetrack layout.

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This unique design is a direct inheritance from its previous life as the Ford automobile assembly plant.

The mall’s layout offers easy navigation but adds a special character, differentiating it from conventional shopping centers.

Size and Capacity

Boasting a total retail floor area of approximately 1.35 million square feet, The Great Mall is not just a large outlet mall but also ranks as the 8th largest mall in California.

At its inception, it was the largest mall in Northern California, a title that other developments have since surpassed.

The mall’s vast size accommodates a wide array of stores and services, numbering around 180, making it a comprehensive shopping destination.

Neighborhoods and Sections

The Great Mall is divided into six distinct neighborhoods, each offering a unique shopping and browsing experience. This segmentation allows for a more organized and thematic shopping journey.

Shoppers can navigate through various sections, each characterized by specific types of stores and services, enhancing the overall shopping experience.

Anchor Stores and Their Stories at The Great Mall

Kohl’s: A One-Stop Shop for Family Apparel

Kohl’s, a key anchor at The Great Mall, is a favorite destination for families in Milpitas, CA.

Kohl’s, renowned for its extensive collection of apparel, accessories, and home essentials, delivers a complete shopping journey.

This store’s dedication to offering high-quality items at reasonable prices has established it as a preferred destination for those in search of both value and a diverse selection.

Burlington: Affordable Fashion for All

Burlington, another major anchor, brings an array of affordable fashion options to The Great Mall.

This store is renowned for its extensive selection of designer and name-brand apparel at discounted prices.

Burlington’s presence in the mall caters to budget-conscious shoppers who want to maintain their style and quality.

Dick’s Sporting Goods: For the Sports Enthusiast

Dick’s Sporting Goods adds a dynamic dimension to The Great Mall with its vast selection of sports equipment, apparel, and outdoor gear.

Catering to sports enthusiasts and fitness buffs, this store is a hub for those looking to gear up for their next adventure or sporting activity.

Century Theatres: A Cinematic Escape

Century Theatres offers a cinematic escape within The Great Mall, providing entertainment beyond shopping.

With the latest movies and state-of-the-art screening facilities, this theater is a popular destination for movie-goers seeking a high-quality viewing experience.

Dave & Buster’s: Entertainment And Dining Combined

Dave & Buster’s at The Great Mall is where fun meets dining. This anchor combines an arcade with a full-service restaurant, offering a unique entertainment experience.

It’s a favorite spot for families and friends to gather for games, food, and fun.

Marshalls: Designer Brands at Discounted Prices

Marshalls enhances the shopping experience at The Great Mall by offering designer and brand-name fashion at discounted prices.

This store is a treasure trove for shoppers who love discovering high-quality merchandise at affordable rates, making it a popular destination for fashion-forward consumers.

Saks OFF 5TH: Luxury Fashion Within Reach

Saks OFF 5TH brings luxury fashion to The Great Mall, offering high-end designer apparel and accessories at outlet prices.

This store is a haven for those who seek premium brands without the high price tag, making luxury fashion accessible to more shoppers.

Legoland Discovery Center: A Family Adventure Zone

The Legoland Discovery Center adds a unique family-oriented dimension to The Great Mall.

This interactive attraction offers a range of Lego-themed activities, making it an ideal destination for families with children and adding an educational and fun-filled experience to the mall.

Accessibility and Public Transit

Public Transit Access

The Great Mall’s strategic location in Milpitas, California, is complemented by its excellent public transit connections.

The mall is accessible via various Santa Clara Valley Transportation Authority (VTA) bus routes and services provided by AC Transit.

This ease of access via public transportation makes the mall convenient for shoppers across the region.

The Great Mall/Main station, a key node in the area’s transit network, is a central point for these bus routes, facilitating smooth connectivity for visitors.

Integration with Bay Area Transit

The integration of The Great Mall with the wider Bay Area transit system was significantly enhanced with the opening of the Milpitas station on June 13, 2020.

This development marked a new chapter in the mall’s accessibility, linking it directly to the Bay Area Rapid Transit (BART) network.

The Milpitas station provides direct access to the mall. It connects it with broader regional destinations, further solidifying its position as the Bay Area’s key shopping and entertainment hub.

Parking and Local Infrastructure

In addition to robust public transit options, The Great Mall offers ample parking facilities, catering to visitors who prefer to drive.

The mall’s integration with local roads and highways, such as the Great Mall Parkway and Montague Expressway, ensures easy vehicular access.

This comprehensive approach to accessibility, combining public transit with convenient driving options, reflects the mall’s commitment to providing a seamless visitor experience.

Recent Developments and News

Renovations and Additions

In 2016, The Great Mall announced a significant renovation project to commence in the spring. This renovation aimed to revitalize the mall’s infrastructure and aesthetic appeal, ensuring it remains a top destination for shoppers.

The project included the introduction of new stores and eateries, enhancing the mall’s retail and dining options.

These developments reflect the mall’s ongoing commitment to innovation and improvement, adapting to its visitors’ evolving needs and preferences.

Security and Safety Measures

The Great Mall has been proactive in addressing security and safety concerns. Recent incidents have prompted the mall to implement enhanced security measures to ensure the safety of its shoppers.

These measures include increased surveillance, a stronger security presence, and collaboration with local law enforcement agencies.

The mall’s dedication to providing a safe and secure shopping environment is paramount, reflecting its commitment to the well-being of its visitors.

Community Engagement and Events

The Great Mall is active in the Milpitas community, hosting yearly events and activities. These events range from cultural celebrations to seasonal festivities, fostering a sense of community among visitors.

The mall’s engagement with local events enhances the shopping experience and contributes to Milpitas’s social and cultural fabric.

This community-focused approach underscores the mall’s role as more than just a shopping destination but a vibrant center for community life.

New Retail Experiences

Seven new businesses opened in 2023, broadening the mall’s appeal to a diverse audience. These establishments range from eateries to stores that cater to various needs and preferences.

Shoppers can now explore new destinations like Five Below, The North Face, Dockers Outlet Store, Pandora, Ume Tea, Build-A-Bear Workshop, and KPOP 1004.

Each of these businesses brings a unique flavor to the mall, enhancing the shopping experience with a blend of value, quality, and entertainment.

This influx of new retailers significantly boosts the mall’s profile, ensuring it remains a key destination for shoppers of all ages​​.

Economic Impact and Future Prospects

Contribution to Local Economy

Since its inception in 1994, The Great Mall has played a significant role in bolstering the local economy of Milpitas, California.

As one of the largest shopping centers in the area, it has been a major employer, providing numerous jobs across its various stores and services.

The presence of major retail players like Kohl’s, Burlington, and Dick’s Sporting Goods, along with entertainment anchors such as Century Theatres and Dave & Buster’s, has attracted a steady flow of visitors, contributing to the economic vitality of the region.

The mall’s success has also encouraged the growth of surrounding businesses, creating a thriving commercial ecosystem.

Challenges and Opportunities

Like many retail establishments, the Great Mall faces challenges in the digital age, where online shopping continues to grow.

However, the mall’s diverse range of stores, entertainment options, and commitment to providing a unique shopping experience present significant opportunities.

By continuing to evolve and adapt to consumer trends, The Great Mall is well-positioned to meet these challenges and capitalize on new opportunities in the retail sector.


The Great Mall: A Milpitas Landmark

The Great Mall in Milpitas, California, is a shopping center symbol of adaptive reuse and economic resilience today.

The mall has transformed remarkably from its origins as a Ford automobile assembly plant to its current status as a bustling retail and entertainment hub.

Its unique architectural design, diverse range of stores and services, and commitment to community engagement have made it a key destination in the Bay Area.

Reflecting on the Journey

Reflecting on The Great Mall’s journey, its success is rooted in its ability to adapt and evolve.

The mall’s continuous expansions, renovations, and adaptations to the changing retail environment demonstrate a forward-thinking approach.

This adaptability, coupled with its economic contributions and community involvement, cements its status as a vital part of Milpitas’ social and economic fabric.

Looking to the Future

As The Great Mall moves forward, it faces the future with a solid foundation and a clear vision. Its ongoing commitment to providing a comprehensive shopping experience and its adaptability to market trends position it well to continue thriving in the years to come.

The Great Mall is a testament to the enduring appeal of physical retail spaces, offering experiences and connections beyond the digital realm.

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