Laguna Hills Mall Undergoes a Complete Transformation to Become the Village at Laguna Hills
Laguna Hills Mall, once a bustling shopping destination in Southern Orange County, California, underwent a significant transformation in 2023.
The mall, which had been in operation for decades, was closed on December 31, 2018, and underwent a complete demolition to pave the way for the new Village at Laguna Hills development.
While the old mall may have been a relic of the past, the new Village at Laguna Hills is set to become a bustling hub of activity for the local community and visitors alike. The owners have a grand vision of replacing the old shopping center with various modern amenities.
Village at Laguna Hills is set to become a thriving destination for residents and visitors alike. The development promises to cater to various needs and preferences by boasting an impressive array of amenities.
Among the most notable features of the Village at Laguna Hills are the expansive office spaces, which span an impressive 465,000 square feet. In addition to the professional workspaces, the development also includes 1,500 residential units, making it an ideal location for those who value convenience and accessibility.
The retail, restaurant, and entertainment options at the Village at Laguna Hills are equally impressive, with 250,000 square feet dedicated to various businesses and experiences.
In addition, the multi-purpose central park, covering 2.5 acres, is a haven for outdoor enthusiasts, with ample space for recreation and relaxation.
Moreover, the development boasts a high level of walkability and bike-ability, making it easy and convenient for residents and visitors to navigate the area. Finally, adding a boutique hotel with 100-150 rooms rounds out the impressive amenities at the Village at Laguna Hills.
Looking Back: The Launch of Laguna Hills Mall in 1973
As the spring of 1973 rolled in, the residents of Laguna Hills eagerly awaited the grand opening of their new shopping destination, the Laguna Hills Mall. The mall, spanning over 393,000 square feet of retail space, was a feat of modern architecture, designed to house over 55 shops and feature multiple anchor stores.
The mall’s grand opening was gradual, with the 214,000-square-foot Sears as the first anchor store to open its doors. This was followed by the two-level Buffums, spanning over 50,000 square feet, on September 5, 1973.
The opening of Broadway in August 1975 and J.C. Penney in 1976 completed Phase II of the mall’s development and brought an impressive 832,000 square feet and 83 shops to the total retail space.
Laguna Hills Mall: Short Look Back at its History
In the 1990s, the mall underwent some significant changes. Buffum’s, a popular department store, was forced to close its doors in May 1991 due to the chain’s liquidation. Three years later, the store’s second level was converted into an upscale food court, which opened its doors to the public in 1994.
This food court was the only part of the general mall on the second level. In May 1996, another significant change took place, as The Broadway was converted into a Macy’s department store.
As the 2010s rolled around, the Laguna Hills Mall faced further changes. In May 2013, Merlone Geier Partners acquired the property from Simon Property Group. The following year, Merlone Geier purchased the Sears anchor store, which had been a part of the mall since its inception.
However, the mall’s original anchor store, Sears, was forced to shut its doors in July 2014, leaving it with one less anchor store.
Despite the challenges, the mall remained a popular destination for shoppers. In 2016, major renovations began at the mall to modernize and revitalize the shopping experience.
“Five Lagunas”: New Era for Laguna Hills Mall
As the year 2018 came to an end, the Laguna Hills Mall bid farewell to its loyal customers and shut its doors. The once-bustling shopping center had lost its anchors, with Macy’s closing in March and JCPenney following suit in October, leaving the mall with no remaining anchors.
The renovation project included the construction of pedestrian plazas and new retail sections. It also featured a 988-unit apartment complex, a multi-screen movie theater, and a 1,500-space parking structure. In addition, the mall’s signage has also been revamped to reflect its new identity as “Five Lagunas.”
Five Lagunas: Vision for a New Kind of Mall
In November 2019, Merlone-Geier, the real estate development company behind the “Five Lagunas” rebranding of the Laguna Hills Mall, unveiled its updated plans for the new shopping center.
The previous plans, proposed in 2016, had called for nearly one million square feet of retail space and 988 residential units. But in a move that reflected changing trends in the retail industry, Merlone-Geier had decided to shift gears and reduce the amount of retail space in favor of more housing.
Under the revised proposal, the new Five Lagunas would include a 110,000-square-foot cinema, 225,000 to 300,000 square feet of retail space, a 125-room hotel, and 390,000 to 520,000 square feet of office space. In addition, the new plans called for two three-story parking structures and the potential for 1,200 to 1,500 more apartments.
The reduction in retail space was a bold move, but it reflected a growing trend in the industry as more and more consumers turned to online shopping. Moreover, by adding more housing, the new Five Lagunas could offer a unique mix of shopping, entertainment, and residential living that would be hard to find elsewhere.
In the end, the project was approved under the name Village at Laguna Hills with the characteristics described at the beginning of the article.