Westfield Plaza Bonita Mall, National City, CA: From Golf Course to Shopping Haven

Early Development and Opening (1980s)

In the late 1970s, May Centers bought the property from National City and developed the mall over what used to be an 18-hole golf course. The new shopping center, Plaza Bonita, opened on February 8, 1981, making it the first indoor mall in the South Bay area.

The mall initially housed several key anchors. JCPenney, Mervyn’s, Montgomery Ward, and the May Company were the original major tenants.

These stores drew many shoppers from the surrounding areas. Plaza Bonita’s design featured fall tones, both inside and out. The interior and exterior had a brick finish, and the mall had many fountains.

In 1983, Mann Theaters opened near the east entrance of the mall. This addition provided entertainment options for visitors, complementing the retail stores. The mall’s original logo featured a three-toned rainbow (red, orange, and yellow) and the words “Plaza Bonita” in a Dynamo font.

Since its opening, Plaza Bonita has become a popular shopping and entertainment destination. Its convenient location and variety of stores attracted people from National City and beyond.

Westfield Plaza Bonita

The development of Plaza Bonita marked an important phase in the area’s commercial growth, adding to the things to do near San Diego, CA.

Transition and Expansion (1990s)

1994, Westfield America, Inc. acquired Plaza Bonita, bringing a new development phase. In 1998, the mall’s name changed to Westfield Shoppingtown Plaza Bonita.

By June 2005, Westfield had removed the “Shoppingtown” from all its malls and simplified the name to Westfield Plaza Bonita.

During the late 1990s, the mall added a large sign visible from the 805 freeway. This sign sparked controversy among commuters, leading to its modification. Despite these issues, the sign became a landmark for the mall.

Mann Theaters Plaza Bonita 6, which had operated since the 1980s, closed in the late 1990s. The closure marked the end of an era, as the theater had been a popular destination for moviegoers.

The late 1990s were a time of change and adaptation for the mall, setting the stage for future developments.

The mall’s management focused on keeping it relevant and attractive to shoppers. They planned and executed various renovations and improvements, ensuring Westfield Plaza Bonita remained a key shopping destination in the region.

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Renovations and New Tenants (2000s)

Westfield Plaza Bonita underwent extensive renovations in the early 2000s and a major facelift in 2002. Workers installed new stucco over the old brick exterior and new ceramic tiles, giving the mall a modern look.

During this period, the food court received a complete overhaul. It transformed into a more inviting space with a variety of dining options.

In 2003, Outback Steakhouse opened in the northwest parking lot, joining Applebee’s, which had been there since 1993.

Westfield Plaza Bonita
Westfield Plaza Bonita” by Maesinfin is licensed under CC BY-SA 4.0

In 2006, the south end of the mall was demolished and rebuilt. The former location of Montgomery Ward, which closed in 2001, was repurposed.

Target opened in its place in 2008, becoming a major anchor. The same year, AMC Theatres opened a 14-screen complex, bringing a new entertainment hub to the mall.

Another notable addition was the Jollibee Foods Corporation’s dining hall, which opened in 2009.

It featured Jollibee, Red Ribbon Bakeshop, and Chowking near Target. This unique “Filipino food court” was the first in the United States. However, it closed in 2011.

These changes and additions revitalized Westfield Plaza Bonita, keeping it competitive in the evolving retail landscape. The mall continued to attract shoppers with its updated look and new tenants.

Changes and Challenges (2010s)

The 2010s brought more changes and challenges to Westfield Plaza Bonita. In 2010, John’s Incredible Pizza Company opened on the first floor of the former Mervyn’s store. This addition provided a new family-friendly dining and entertainment option.

In May 2011, Nordstrom announced plans to open a Nordstrom Rack at Plaza Bonita. This store occupied the second floor of the former Mervyn’s location. The addition of Nordstrom Rack expanded the mall’s range of high-end discount shopping options.

In August 2012, Crunch Fitness opened in the space previously occupied by Borders, which had closed in 2011 after the company filed for bankruptcy. This new gym brought a fitness-focused clientele to the mall, diversifying its customer base.

Throughout the 2010s, Westfield Plaza Bonita adapted to the changing retail landscape.

The mall faced the challenge of keeping up with new shopping trends and economic shifts, but despite these challenges, it remained a popular shopping destination.

Impact of COVID-19 (2020s)

The COVID-19 pandemic hit Westfield Plaza Bonita hard. In May 2020, Unibail-Rodamco-Westfield temporarily closed the mall due to health concerns. This closure affected many non-essential stores and significantly reduced foot traffic.

John’s Incredible Pizza Company, a major attraction since 2010, did not reopen in 2021. By June 2021, the space it occupied was gutted, marking another shift in the mall’s tenant landscape.

In April 2022, Unibail-Rodamco-Westfield announced plans to sell all 24 U.S. properties, including Plaza Bonita, by the end of 2024. This decision reflected the company’s strategy to exit the U.S. market.

In the summer of 2022, Round 1 Bowling & Amusement announced plans to open its first San Diego location at Westfield Plaza Bonita.

This new tenant, expected to open in 2024, will occupy the former John’s Incredible Pizza space. The addition of Round 1 aims to reinvigorate the mall with a new entertainment option.

Despite the challenges posed by the pandemic, Westfield Plaza Bonita continues to evolve and adapt. The mall’s ability to attract new tenants and keep up with changing times shows its resilience and ongoing appeal.

Anchor Stores and Major Tenants

Anchor stores play a huge role in the success of any mall. Westfield Plaza Bonita is no exception. JCPenney has been a cornerstone since the mall’s opening in 1981.

Originally located in Downtown San Diego and South Bay Plaza, JCPenney moved to Plaza Bonita and has remained a stable presence ever since.

Another key anchor, Macy’s, converted from Robinsons-May in 2006. Before that, it was the May Company until 1993.

Macy’s offers a wide range of products, from clothing to home goods, and continues to attract a loyal customer base.

Target joined the mall in 2008, taking over the space previously occupied by Montgomery Ward, which had closed in 2001.

Target’s broad selection of items, from groceries to electronics, makes it a convenient stop for shoppers.

Westfield Plaza Bonita
Westfield Plaza Bonita” by Vrysxy is licensed under CC BY-SA 4.0

AMC Theatres, which opened a 14-screen complex in 2008, provides entertainment options for visitors.

It replaced the Mann Theatres, which closed in the early 2000s. Crunch Fitness, which took over the old Borders location in 2012, attracts health-conscious customers.

Nordstrom Rack, which opened in 2011, occupies the second floor of the former Mervyn’s store. It offers discounted high-end fashion, making it a popular destination for bargain hunters.

The upcoming Round 1 Bowling & Amusement, set to open in 2024, will add a new entertainment element to the mall.

Westfield Plaza Bonita: Recent News and Incidents

The latest events at Westfield Plaza Bonita have brought challenges and developments. In May 2024, a plumber got trapped in a trench while working on a building near Nordstrom Rack.

First responders rescued him after nearly five hours. This incident halted construction, and OSHA began investigating the site.

Earlier in the year, the mall experienced chaos due to an attempted burglary and a false shooting report. These incidents caused panic among shoppers and required a heavy police presence to manage the situation.

Despite these challenges, Westfield Plaza Bonita continues to evolve. The upcoming opening of Round 1 Bowling & Amusement marks a new chapter for the mall, showing how it keeps adapting to meet the needs and interests of its visitors.

Plaza Bonita’s resilience strikes me. It has faced many challenges but always finds ways to bounce back. Its mix of retail, dining, and entertainment options makes it a central hub in National City.

Whether you’re shopping, dining, or looking for things to do in National City, CA, Westfield Plaza Bonita has something to offer.

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