Why MainPlace Mall in Santa Ana, CA, is the Place to Be

The Birth and Growth of MainPlace Mall

In the bustling Santa Ana, California, the establishment of Bullock’s Fashion Square marked the emergence of a new shopping haven. It was 1958, a time of prosperity and growth, when this open-air center opened its doors.

With an initial investment of $11.5 million, the center was a beacon of modern retail, drawing in crowds from across Orange County. The grand opening was a spectacle, attracting over 40,000 people eager to explore the 32 stores, including high-end boutiques like I. Magnin and Desmond’s.

But as the years passed, the retail landscape began to shift. The once-thriving Fashion Square saw a decline, prompting a bold transformation. 1987, most of the original structure was demolished, creating a new era. 

MainPlace Mall rose from the ashes, an enclosed space designed by the visionary architect Jon Jerde. This was not just a renovation but a complete reinvention, with the mall now boasting a wider array of stores and services, catering to a diverse range of shoppers.

The arrival of new anchor stores marked the transformation, changing the face of MainPlace. Nordstrom and J.W. Robinson’s original tenants from 1987 set the standard for the mall’s upscale offerings.

However, the retail scene is ever-evolving, and MainPlace Mall has witnessed significant changes over the decades. Macy’s, stepping in where Bullock’s once stood, has become a staple, adapting to its customers’ changing tastes and demands.

MainPlace Mall in Santa Ana, California stands as a testament to the city’s growth and adaptation. From its early days as a fashion-forward shopping center to its current status as a community hub, MainPlace has mirrored the dynamic shifts in retail and consumer behavior.

The mall’s journey is far from over, with each chapter adding to its rich history and promising an exciting future.

Architectural Marvels and Design

Jon Jerde, the mastermind behind MainPlace Mall’s design, envisioned a space that was more than just a shopping center. He wanted it to be a place where community and commerce meet.

The result? A three-story structure that stands out in Santa Ana’s skyline. The design reflects a modern yet accessible vibe, drawing in families, young adults, and tourists alike.

The mall’s architecture is a blend of practicality and aesthetic appeal. With its vast retail floor area, MainPlace offers a variety of shopping experiences under one roof.

The spacious interior has wide aisles and well-lit stores, making shopping comfortable and enjoyable. Using skylights and indoor foliage adds a touch of nature, enhancing the overall ambiance.

MainPlace Mall is not just about shopping; it’s about experiences. The layout is designed to guide visitors seamlessly from one store to another, with clear signage and interactive directories.

The food court and entertainment areas are strategically placed for rest and recreation. This thoughtful design ensures visitors spend more time at the mall, enjoying its offers.

Major Retail Shifts and Economic Challenges

The retail landscape is ever-changing, and MainPlace Mall has had its share of shifts. The transition from Bullock’s to Macy’s in the mid-1990s marked a significant change in the mall’s retail lineup.

Macy’s brought a new era, catering to a broader audience and updating its product offerings to keep up with current trends.

However, the closure of Nordstrom in 2017 was a blow to the mall’s luxury segment. Nordstrom had been a key anchor since the mall’s inception in 1987, attracting a high-end clientele.

Its departure left a void and signaled a challenging period for MainPlace as it struggled to maintain its upscale image and foot traffic.

Economic challenges compounded these retail shifts. The rise of online shopping and the competition from nearby South Coast Plaza, known for its high-volume sales, put pressure on MainPlace.

The mall faced a decline in visitors and sales, prompting a need for reinvention and adaptation to the new retail environment.

The Transformation Plan and Future Prospects

In 2019, MainPlace Mall announced a $300 million project to transform into an open-air mixed-use development. This plan aims to revitalize the mall by introducing a European-style food hall, an interactive play center for children, and significant upgrades to the existing movie theater.

Additionally, the project includes the introduction of a grocery store and constructing two apartment communities, adding up to 700 new residential units. This move creates a vibrant community space, blending retail, dining, and residential living.

The transformation is set against declining retail sales and store closures. In the two years before the announcement, MainPlace Mall experienced the closure of 35 stores. It decreased gross sales, amounting to $54 million.

The ambitious redevelopment plan is a response to these challenges, aiming to attract more visitors and residents by offering a variety of new experiences and amenities.

MainPlace Mall
MainPlace Mall Arnold C (User:Buchanan-Hermit), Attribution, via Wikimedia Commons

The future of MainPlace Mall looks promising with these changes. The addition of residential units is expected to increase foot traffic. At the same time, the new entertainment and dining options are designed to enhance the overall visitor experience.

This comprehensive approach seeks to redefine MainPlace as a destination for more than just shopping, making it a central hub for the Santa Ana community.

The new Paloma Apartments, a significant addition to MainPlace, officially opened on October 25, 2023. This development, a collaborative effort by Lowe and Centennial, introduces 309 contemporary apartments, enhancing the area’s residential offerings.

The apartments in studio, one- and two-bedroom layouts feature modern amenities and design, aiming to provide a luxurious living experience. This initiative marks a step forward in the redevelopment of MainPlace, aiming to create a dynamic live-work-play environment for Santa Ana residents.

Anchors of MainPlace Mall: Their Stories

JCPenney’s journey at MainPlace Mall began in March 2007, taking over the space left vacant by the Robinsons-May Women’s & Children’s store. This transition marked a significant shift in the mall’s retail landscape, introducing JCPenney’s wide array of affordable fashion, home goods, and services.

The store’s opening filled a crucial gap, catering to the budget-conscious shoppers of Santa Ana and solidifying the mall’s status as a destination for diverse shopping needs.

Macy’s has a storied history within MainPlace Mall, originally opening as Bullock’s before transforming into the Macy’s we know today.

This changeover maintained the store’s position as a primary anchor, continuing a tradition of quality and variety in retail offerings. Macy’s has been pivotal in attracting a wide customer base, contributing significantly to the mall’s foot traffic and overall appeal.

Ashley HomeStore debuted at MainPlace, diversifying the mall’s retail mix with its furniture and home decor range.

The store’s opening responded to a growing demand for affordable home furnishing options in the area. Ashley HomeStore has carved out a niche within the mall, offering stylish and budget-friendly solutions for home improvement enthusiasts.

24 Hour Fitness transformed a portion of the mall previously dedicated to retail into a bustling fitness center. This conversion from a traditional retail space to a health and fitness hub reflects changing consumer preferences and the mall’s adaptability.

The gym’s presence at MainPlace has added a new dimension to the mall’s offerings, providing a convenient location for residents to maintain their fitness routines.

MainPlace Mall
MainPlace Mall Arnold C (User:Buchanan-Hermit), Attribution, via Wikimedia Commons

Round 1 Bowling & Arcade introduced a previously lacking entertainment dimension to MainPlace Mall that needed to be added. With its bowling lanes, arcade games, and karaoke rooms, Round 1 has become a popular destination for families, teenagers, and young adults looking for fun and leisure activities.

This entertainment anchor has significantly enhanced the mall’s appeal, turning it into a comprehensive destination for shopping and entertainment.

Picture Show Theater has undergone significant upgrades to enhance the movie-going experience for Santa Ana residents. With improved seating, sound systems, and screen quality, the theater has reaffirmed its role as a key entertainment anchor within MainPlace Mall.

These enhancements have made the theater a preferred destination for movie enthusiasts, contributing to the mall’s status as a center for community entertainment.

Famous Stores Inside MainPlace Mall

MainPlace Mall in Santa Ana, California, is a shopping destination and a vibrant community hub catering to various tastes and preferences. Several famous stores stand out among its tenants, each contributing to the mall’s unique atmosphere and appeal.

Fashion and Apparel

Fashion enthusiasts have plenty to explore at MainPlace Mall. Abercrombie & Fitch offers classic American apparel, targeting a young adult demographic with trendy and casual styles. 

Aeropostale provides another haven for youth fashion, offering affordable and stylish options for teenagers. For shoe lovers, ALDO presents a range of fashionable footwear and accessories.

At the same time, Forever 21 continues to be a go-to for fast-fashion lovers of all ages. H&M stands out for its wide selection of fashion-forward, budget-friendly clothing catering to adults and children.

Specialty Retailers

MainPlace Mall has several specialty retailers catering to specific interests and needs. Anime Monster is a paradise for anime and manga fans, offering a wide selection of merchandise from popular series. Galactic Challenge and GameStop are must-visit locations for gamers, providing the latest in video game consoles, games, and accessories. For those interested in personal adornment, Claire’s and Lids offer a variety of accessories and headwear, respectively.

Health and Beauty

For visitors looking to pamper themselves or maintain their wellness routines, MainPlace Mall offers several options. Bath & Body Works is renowned for its fragrant collection of body care, candles, and home scents. 

MAC Cosmetics and Sephora cater to beauty enthusiasts with their wide range of makeup, skincare, and beauty services. Luxury Perfumes offers extensive fragrances featuring classic scents and new arrivals.

Jewelry and Accessories

Shoppers seeking to add a touch of elegance to their outfits can explore stores like Daniel’s Jewelers and Kay Jewelers, which offer a variety of fine jewelry pieces, from engagement rings to elegant watches. Kevin Jewelers and M&R Jewelers provide additional options for quality craftsmanship and exquisite designs.


Footwear is well-represented at MainPlace Mall, with stores like Foot Locker and Vans offering a wide range of sports, casual wear, and fashion shoes. 

Shoe Palace stands out with its selection of trendy and athletic footwear, catering to the needs of all family members.

These famous stores, among others, make MainPlace Mall a diverse and dynamic shopping environment, ensuring that there’s something for everyone, regardless of their shopping preferences or needs.

Diverse Dining Delights at MainPlace Mall, Santa Ana, CA

MainPlace Mall in Santa Ana, CA, offers a culinary journey that caters to every palate, making it a prime destination for food enthusiasts. From classic American dishes to exotic international flavors, the dining options are as diverse as they are delicious.

American Classics and Comfort FoodApplebee’s and Johnny Rockets serve classic dishes and comfort food in a friendly atmosphere for those craving traditional American flavors. Charleys Philly Steaks offers mouthwatering sandwiches, while Cinnabon provides sweet treats that are hard to resist.

International Flavors: Embark on a global culinary adventure right in Santa Ana. Boudin SF brings the taste of San Francisco with its famous sourdough bread and hearty soups. 

Osaka Japan and Panda Express offer delightful Asian cuisines, while Panini Kabob Grill presents Mediterranean favorites. La Mia Pasta and California Pizza Kitchen provide Italian classics that are sure to please.

Mexican and Latin American Delights: For a taste of Latin America, Botana Express and Three Roots Mexican Cocina serve up authentic Mexican dishes. La Michoacana offers traditional Mexican ice creams and treats, adding a sweet touch to your dining experience.

Healthy and Fresh Options: Health-conscious visitors will appreciate California Plate and Truly Fresh J, which offer nutritious meals with fresh ingredients. Cancun Juice delivers refreshing smoothies and juices, perfect for a quick health boost.

Sweet Treats and Desserts: Indulge in various sweet options at MainPlace Mall. Mrs. Fields Cookies and Izzy’s Cake Pops provide delightful baked goods. At the same time, Sweet Boba and Tutti Frutti offer refreshing frozen desserts. Yogurt Bear is the go-to spot for frozen yogurt lovers.

Quick Bites and Snacks: For those on the go, SubwaySbarro, and Wetze’s Pretzels offer quick and satisfying options. Surf City Squeeze and Starbucks are perfect for grabbing drinks and snacks between shopping sprees.

Unique and Specialty EateriesCali Licious Crab and Brews introduces a unique seafood dining experience. At the same time, Coffee Heist and CrepeMaker offer specialty coffees and made-to-order crepes. Delight and Mr. Waffle provide special treats that will satisfy any sweet tooth.

MainPlace Mall’s diverse dining options ensure every visit is a delicious adventure, making it a must-visit destination for Santa Ana, CA, foodies.

Community and Cultural Events

MainPlace Mall has become a hub for community and cultural events, enriching the shopping experience with a sense of local spirit.

The mall hosted a Lunar New Year celebration on February 17, 2024, inviting the community to ring in the Year of the Dragon with cultural performances and activities. This event showcased MainPlace’s commitment to celebrating diversity and bringing different cultural experiences to Santa Ana.

The Hoppy Easter Celebration, set for March 9, 2024, is another example of the mall’s engagement with the community.

This event provides families with a festive experience, featuring activities and photo opportunities with the Easter Bunny. Such events are essential in creating a family-friendly atmosphere and drawing visitors to the mall for reasons beyond shopping.

MainPlace Mall also addresses the needs of diverse groups within the community. Events like “Sensory Santa,” designed for children with special needs, offer a quieter and more comfortable environment for meeting Santa Claus.

This thoughtful inclusion underscores the mall’s role as an inclusive community space, welcoming to all residents of Santa Ana.

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