The Changing Face of MainPlace Mall in Santa Ana, CA

The Dawn of an Era: Bullock’s Fashion Square

In Santa Ana, California, a significant development took place in 1958 that would forever change the city’s retail landscape.

Bullock’s Fashion Square, a sprawling shopping center, was established, marking a significant milestone in the city’s growth. This wasn’t just a shopping center but a symbol of prosperity, a testament to the post-war economic boom sweeping the nation.

Bullock’s Fashion Square was home to many tenants, each offering a unique shopping experience. From high-end fashion stores to local boutiques, the mall was a one-stop shop for the residents of Santa Ana and beyond. The public’s response was overwhelmingly positive, with the mall quickly becoming a bustling hub of activity.

The Transformation: From Bullock’s to MainPlace Mall

However, the once vibrant Bullock’s Fashion Square began to lose its charm as the years passed. The foot traffic that once filled its corridors started to dwindle, and the mall’s future seemed uncertain.

Recognizing the need for change, the decision was made in 1987 to redevelop the shopping center into what we now know as MainPlace Mall.

This wasn’t just a facelift; it was a complete transformation. The mall’s identity was overhauled, with changes in anchor stores and the introduction of new tenants.

The architecture was modernized, and the mall was given a fresh, contemporary look. This transformation breathed new life into the mall, rekindling the public’s interest and restoring its status as a popular shopping destination.

A Series of Changes: Ownership and Naming

A series of ownership changes have marked the journey of MainPlace Mall, each bringing its influence to the mall’s development. One of the most significant changes came when the Westfield Group took over the mall’s ownership.

Under their stewardship, the mall was renamed Westfield MainPlace, a short-lived change as the “Shoppingtown” moniker was eventually dropped. The mall remained a staple in the Santa Ana community, serving as a hub for shopping and socializing.

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

Rising to the Challenge: Competition and Innovation

Like any business, MainPlace Mall faced its share of challenges. One of the biggest was the competition from South Coast Plaza, another popular shopping destination in the area. Despite this, MainPlace Mall held its ground, implementing strategies to stay competitive.

One such strategy was a $50 million renovation announced in 2014, aimed at modernizing the mall and enhancing the shopping experience for visitors. This renovation saw the introduction of new stores, a revamp of the food court, and the addition of a state-of-the-art cinema.

In December 2015, the mall’s ownership changed when Westfield sold it to a consortium. This group was led by Centennial Real Estate Company and included other prominent members such as USAA Real Estate Company and Montgomery Street Partners.

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

A New Chapter: Recent Developments and Future Plans

In 2017, the mall saw the closure of Nordstrom, one of its original anchors. This marked the end of an era and the beginning of a new one. By the time 2019 rolled around, MainPlace Mall had experienced a significant downturn, with 35 stores shutting their doors and gross sales plummeting by $54 million for two years.

However, in March of the same year, a silver lining emerged in the form of a $300 million project announcement. This ambitious plan aimed to revitalize the mall by transforming it into a mixed-use development.

The project proposed the introduction of a “European marketplace” style food hall, an engaging play center for children, enhancements to its movie theater, a grocery store, and the construction of two residential communities, adding 700 new residential units to the complex.

In 2023, the first phase of this transformation is set to deliver 309 rental units, adding a significant number of residences to the city’s housing inventory. Half of these units are expected to be available by the summer, with the rest coming online by the end of the year.

The project’s second phase will see the addition of 410 more units on a 3-acre site, further enhancing the mall’s residential offerings.

More Than Just a Mall: Current Events and Activities

MainPlace Mall is not just a place for shopping but for community engagement and diverse experiences. The mall hosts various events and activities, such as the “Back to the Basics” event and a backpack giveaway to foster a sense of community and provide fun experiences for visitors.

These efforts and the mall’s diverse offerings ensure that MainPlace Mall remains a vibrant and integral part of the Santa Ana community.

A Look Back and Ahead

From its humble beginnings as Bullock’s Fashion Square to its current transformation into a mixed-use development, MainPlace Mall has been a constant presence in the Santa Ana community.

Its journey is a testament to its resilience and adaptability, reflecting the changing times and evolving consumer preferences. As it embarks on its latest chapter, MainPlace Mall continues to be a symbol of community, a hub for shopping and socializing, and a significant contributor to the local economy.

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