A New Chapter: Laguna Hills Mall’s Transformation into Village at Laguna Hills, CA

Once a thriving shopping hub in Southern Orange County, California, the Laguna Hills Mall embraced a remarkable metamorphosis in 2023.

Having served the community for numerous decades, the mall bid farewell on December 31, 2018, making way for a thorough demolition.

This was the initial step towards the inception of the fresh and vibrant Village at Laguna Hills.

Though a cherished echo from the past, the former mall pales compared to what the Village at Laguna Hills aspires to be. A lively nexus for both locals and visitors is on the horizon.

The proprietors harbor a grand blueprint, envisioning replacing the former shopping area with various contemporary facilities.

The Dawn of Commerce: Laguna Hills Mall (1973-2018)

The Laguna Hills Mall, once a beating heart of retail in the cozy corner of Laguna Hills, California, embarked on its journey in the spring of 1973.

It wasn’t merely a mall but a symbol of community and modernity. Its vast corridors echoed with laughter, chatter, and the soft patter of footsteps against the polished tiles.

The Laguna Hills Mall was more than a commercial establishment—it was a microcosm of the community’s evolving lifestyle and desires.

As you might recall, the mall unveiled its glory with a grand opening of a 214,000-square-foot Sears as the first anchor, followed by a two-level Buffums, which opened its doors to an eager crowd on September 5, 1973.

The Broadway and J.C. Penney joined the league in August 1975 and 1976, respectively.

By this time, the mall was a bustling enclave of retail, housing 55 stores with a total retail space of 393,000 square feet in Phase I and 83 stores with 832,000 square feet of retail space in Phase II.

What was the estimated cost of this magnificent creation? A cool $50 million!

Transitioning into the 90s, the mall witnessed a shift in its narrative. Buffums bid farewell due to a liquidation event in May 1991. However, the mall refused to lose its charm.

The vacant space birthed an upstairs food court in 1994, a new hangout spot for families and youngsters.

The food court remained a buzzing spot until its closure in 2011. Meanwhile, Macy’s graciously took over The Broadway’s place in May 1996, weaving a new thread of modernity into the mall’s fabric.

Moving on to the 2010s, a significant milestone marked the mall’s timeline when Merlone Geier Partners acquired the property from Simon Property Group in May 2013.

The Sears store, a long-standing mall companion, closed its doors in July 2014, paving the path for a new vision.

Laguna Hills Mall
Laguna Hills Mall” by Chris Jepsen is licensed under CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

Macy’s closed in March 2018, and JCPenney in October 2018. As time tiptoed into December 31, 2018, the mall, now a cherished relic of the past, closed its gates.

But as they say, when one door closes, another opens. And so began the whispers of redevelopment, murmuring the promise of a new dawn.

The Seeds of Change: Initial Challenges and Redevelopment Plans

The transition from a retail hub to a mixed-use haven wasn’t as smooth as imagined. The initial whispers of change were stifled by the robust walls of the old structures and the memories they housed.

Yet, the visionaries at Merlone Geier Partners saw potential amidst the relics of the past.

The transformation aimed at redefining the essence of community living, blending the old with the new.

The new ownership heralded a paradigm shift. Their eyes were set on redefining the space to resonate with the evolving societal trends.

The mission was clear— to morph the Laguna Hills Mall into a pulsating hub that mirrored the dynamic needs and aspirations of the modern dweller.

In May 2013, the winds of change began to rustle through the once-crowded mall corridors softly.

The purchase of the property by Merlone Geier Partners from Simon Property Group wasn’t merely a transaction; it was a pledge to usher in a new era of community living.

What followed was a meticulously crafted plan to metamorphose the mall into a mixed-use marvel. A project that envisaged retail spaces, residential units, office spaces, and a welcoming community park.

The redevelopment was envisioned as a tapestry of experiences, each thread woven with careful consideration to craft a harmonious blend of work, play, and living.

As the pages of the calendar flipped, the residents of Laguna Hills awaited with bated breath, watching the old structures give way to new blueprints. The anticipation in the air was palpable as the community stood on the cusp of a new era.

Laguna Hills Mall
Laguna Hills Mall” by Chris Jepsen is licensed under CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

And as the adage goes, “Patience is bitter, but its fruit is sweet.” The detailed planning eventually came to fruition when the city council endorsed Merlone Geier Partner’s innovative plans, turning the area, once humming with retail hustle, into a comprehensive mixed-use destination.

VILLAGE AT LAGUNA HILLS SITE PLAN

Retail Revival: The Modern Market Space

Ah, the sweet scent of commerce! As the old structures bid goodbye, they made way for an expanse of modern retail spaces. Imagine entering a realm where every brand you adore welcomes you with open arms.

The Village at Laguna Hills promises to be a retail utopia with up to 250,000 square feet of single-building pads and neighborhood pods.

The blueprint is meticulously crafted to ensure the retail spaces aren’t just about shopping.

They are envisioned as a social hub where you can bump into old friends, make new ones, or watch the world go by as you sip on a warm cup of latte.

The retail arena is designed to be a ‘stay-all-day’ place. A place where shopping is not a chore but an experience. A place where you don’t just shop but create memories.

With its proximity to elegant residences, a cinema, and a hotel, the retail space is more than just a commercial hub—it’s a vibrant part of a living, breathing community.

Now, let’s not forget the alluring allure of the Technology Coast. As you may know, this region is among the fastest-growing in California, and the retail spaces at the Village are strategically positioned to tap into the burgeoning market.

The retail spaces are modern and connected, providing a seamless blend of commerce, leisure, and lifestyle.

At the heart of this retail revival is the promise of a rich shopping experience. The planners have left no stone unturned to ensure the retail spaces are nothing short of mesmerizing.

The retail offerings will leave you spellbound as you stroll through the well-laid-out shops. And if you are on the lookout for things to do in Laguna Hills, California, the Village is poised to be your new favorite destination.

And so, as the sun casts a golden glow on the horizon, the Village at Laguna Hills stands as a testimony to the community’s indomitable spirit—a community ready to embrace the new while cherishing the old.

Laguna Hills Mall
Laguna Hills Mall” by Chris Jepsen is licensed under CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

Living in Laguna: Residential Renaissance

Picture this—you wake up to the chirping of birds, the morning sun casting a warm glow on Laguna Hills.

As you step out, the crisp morning air greets you, hinting at the promise of a new day. Welcome to the residential haven nestled in the heart of the Village at Laguna Hills.

The residential aspect of this mixed-use marvel is nothing short of a dream. With 1,500 units housed in five elegantly designed residential buildings, the Village offers a sanctuary for every soul.

Transitioning into the details, each residential building is a masterpiece of modern architecture, offering a blend of luxury and comfort.

And it’s not all about the buildings; the Village promises a lifestyle. With dedicated parking for residents, the morning rush to find a parking spot is a thing of the past.

The Village is not just a place to live; it’s a place to thrive. With easy access to trails, a 2.5-acre park, and an amphitheater, it’s a haven for those who love the outdoors.

Imagine spending your weekends exploring 42 miles of Orange County’s mesmerizing coastline or taking a day trip to the desert or mountains—all within arm’s reach.

Additionally, the residential area is strategically positioned to offer more than just a roof over your head. It’s a community where you can forge lifelong friendships, create unforgettable memories, and lead a fulfilling life.

With the Technology Coast buzzing with activity and job opportunities, the residential spaces are a sanctuary for the bustling community of tech professionals.

It’s a place where innovation meets tranquility, offering a perfect blend of work and leisure.

Working in Style: The Office Oasis

As the sun rises, casting a warm glow on the city, the Village at Laguna Hills buzzes to life with the promise of innovation and productivity.

Welcome to the Office Oasis—a place where work isn’t a four-letter word but a journey of exploration and innovation.

The office spaces at the Village redefine the traditional workspace. With four 4-story office buildings, the design is innovative and functional. But it’s not just about the buildings.

The office spaces are lively, surrounded by retail spaces, residential buildings, and many dining options.

Imagine stepping out of your office, the latest project completed, and having a world of leisure and relaxation waiting for you.

Whether catching a movie at the local cinema or enjoying a leisurely meal at one of the many eateries, the Village offers a perfect blend of work and relaxation.

Office buildings are about functionality and creating a conducive environment for innovation. With outdoor meeting areas, the blue sky is the limit for brainstorming and idea generation.

Moreover, the office spaces are not rigid structures but flexible canvases waiting to be molded according to the occupants’ needs.

With the option to deliver in phases or all together, the Village offers a unique opportunity for businesses to design a curated, customized indoor-outdoor office environment.

As the day winds down, the office oasis doesn’t sleep. The vibrant nightlife at the Village offers a perfect unwind, whether it’s a casual dinner with colleagues or a night of exploring the local music scene.

From Mall to Mixed-Use: The Latest Updates

Transitioning into a new era, the Village at Laguna Hills stands tall as a testimony to the community’s resilience and adaptability.

As the final remnants of the Laguna Hills Mall came down, a new narrative was etched in the annals of Laguna Hills’ history.

The Village at Laguna Hills is not just a physical transformation—it’s a journey of a community evolving to meet the modern-day aspirations and needs.

As the news broke out about the final demolition of the old mall structures, the city buzzed with anticipation.

The transformation was not merely a change in the physical landscape but a promise of a new lifestyle and a way to experience the charm of Laguna Hills.

The mixed-use development model is not merely a trend—it’s a reflection of the modern lifestyle.

As the Village at Laguna Hills takes shape, it promises a blend of retail, residential, and office spaces, each designed with a modern, sophisticated aesthetic.

As the sun sets, casting a golden hue over the Village, it’s not just the end of a day but the beginning of a new era. An era that promises limitless possibilities, new experiences, and a modern, vibrant lifestyle for the residents of Laguna Hills.

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Comments: 6
  1. Avatar of Sue Donze
    Sue Donze

    Yeah, this is what is being ballyhooed for the Village at Orange. Another way for the developers to squeeze more money out of the acreage while adding to traffic and general congestion. We have been surveyed about adding more unwanted “pedestrian and biking opportunities” i.e. fewer traffic lanes, when most of the residents are car-preferring and would not care to reside in the high-density proposed housing, and the impact on nearby homeowners via already-rising transient populations and loss of parking to make room for high rise buildings is concerning.

    Reply
    1. Avatar of Spencer Walsh
      Spencer Walsh (author)

      Your concerns about the Village at Orange development are well-founded. Balancing growth and community needs is crucial, especially regarding traffic and housing density. Resident preferences must be considered.

      Reply
  2. Avatar of Susan Kingsbury
    Susan Kingsbury

    ;-)very interesting would love to see more as it goes along. Thank you.

    Reply
    1. Avatar of Spencer Walsh
      Spencer Walsh (author)

      Thanks for your interest in the developments at Village at Laguna Hills. It’s always great to see enthusiasm for local projects. I’m also looking forward to seeing how it evolves.

      Reply
  3. Avatar of
    Anonymous

    yada yada yada – I’ll believe it when I see it (if I see it in my lifetime!) In the meantime, give me back my Macys and Penny’s

    Reply
    1. Avatar of Spencer Walsh
      Spencer Walsh (author)

      I understand your skepticism about the developments at Laguna Hills. The loss of familiar stores like Macy’s and Penny’s is felt by many. Let’s hope the future brings positive changes.

      Reply
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