Westminster Mall: The Changing Face of Retail in Westminster, CA

The Birth and Growth of Westminster Mall

Westminster Mall, a once-thriving retail hub, opened its doors on August 7, 1974, marking a significant addition to the commercial landscape of Westminster, California.

Developed by Homart Development Company, a renowned name in the retail construction sector, the mall initially welcomed shoppers with open arms. It featured prominent anchor stores such as Sears, May Company, and Buffum’s.

The following year, in 1975, J. W. Robinson joined the league as the fourth anchor, further solidifying the mall’s position as a retail powerhouse.

The 1990s brought about a wave of transformation within the mall’s walls. Buffum’s, unable to withstand the competitive retail environment, closed its doors in May 1991. This period also witnessed the merger of two retail giants, Robinson’s and May Company, birthing Robinsons-May.

The merger led to a strategic rebranding; the May Company store transitioned to Robinsons-May, while the J. W. Robinson’s store was one of the 12 to cease operations as part of the consolidation efforts.

Buffum’s vacant space remained empty briefly, as it was repurposed into a Robinson’ s-May Home Store in March 1993.

In a significant move, JCPenney, seeking a fresh start, relocated from Huntington Center Mall to occupy the space left by the closed Robinson’s store in November of the same year.

The mall’s architecture and retail offerings continued to evolve. In 2002, the Robinsons-May Home Store building made way for a new Macy’s store, a strategic move aligning with the retail trends of the time.

The September 2006 acquisition of Robinsons-May by Federated Department Stores (now Macy’s, Inc.) led to Macy’s moving into the former Robinsons-May building.

This shift opened up space for Target, introducing a new dynamic to the mall’s retail mix. Alongside these anchor stores, Old Navy added to the diversity of shopping options.

The mall’s commitment to providing a comprehensive shopping experience was further underscored by a renovation in 2008, which saw the carousel relocated to make room for a new play area, culminating in a grand re-opening on November 15, 2008.

The mall’s evolution continued in 2015 with the introduction of the Luxe Buffet, which replaced the Todai Seafood and Sushi Buffet and offered visitors a fresh culinary experience.

With its rich history and continuous adaptation to the retail landscape, Westminster Mall has been more than just a shopping destination; it’s been a testament to the ever-changing world of commerce and consumer preferences.

As of January 2024, the mall is a reminder of the vibrant past and the transformative nature of retail spaces, among many interesting things to do in Los Angeles, California.

Westminster Mall
Westminster Mall Kennethshoe, CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons

The Decline of a Retail Giant

Westminster Mall’s trajectory took a downturn in the 2010s, marking the beginning of a challenging era for this retail landmark.

Sears, one of the mall’s initial anchors, shut its doors in April 2018, a move that rippled through the mall’s ecosystem.

The departure of Sears, a long-standing retail giant, left a significant void, signaling a shift in retail dynamics and consumer behavior.

This closure was not just a loss of a store but a symbol of the changing tide in the retail industry, affecting foot traffic and the overall vibrancy of the mall.

The advent of online shopping further accelerated Westminster Mall’s decline. The convenience, variety, and competitive pricing offered by e-commerce platforms drew customers away from traditional brick-and-mortar shopping.

This shift in consumer preference led to a noticeable reduction in foot traffic, a crucial lifeline for any retail establishment.

As more people opted for the digital shopping experience, mall sales dwindled, leaving many stores grappling with the challenge of maintaining profitability in an increasingly digital marketplace.

The COVID-19 pandemic dealt another blow to the already struggling Westminster Mall. The global crisis forced many businesses to adapt to unprecedented circumstances, leading to temporary relocations and, in some cases, permanent closures.

The pandemic exacerbated the existing challenges, with health concerns and restrictions further diminishing foot traffic and sales.

This period underscored the mall’s vulnerability to external shocks and highlighted the need for adaptability in an ever-evolving retail landscape.

The Current State of Westminster Mall

In its current state, Westminster Mall presents a stark contrast to its bustling past. The tenant roster has seen a significant transformation, with a mix of retail, dining, and entertainment options holding the fort amidst the changing tides.

Tenants like Cube, Philia, and Denim Express continue to serve the community alongside various dining choices, including Auntie Anne’s Pretzels, Outback Steakhouse, and Luxe Buffet.

These establishments, along with others like PINK by Victoria’s Secret, Spencers, and Ko Ko, contribute to the mall’s variety.

Physically, the mall mirrors its challenges. The term “dead mall” is often whispered in the corridors, reflecting the reduced foot traffic and the quiet that has replaced the once lively ambiance.

The vacant storefronts and the muted atmosphere depart from the mall’s heyday, serving as a visual testament to the retail industry’s struggles and the mall’s fight to remain relevant in an era of digital dominance and changing consumer behaviors.

The community’s perception of Westminster Mall blends nostalgia and realism. For many locals, the mall is a reminder of a vibrant past, a place intertwined with personal memories and communal experiences.

However, the reality of the mall’s current state does not escape them. While there is a longing for the mall’s better days, there is also an understanding of the broader economic and societal shifts that have led to its decline.

The community watches with a hopeful yet cautious eye, anticipating the mall’s next chapter and its potential resurgence as a reimagined space that can once again be a central hub for commerce, interaction, and community life.

The Anchors’ Tales: JCPenney, Macy’s, Target

Westminster Mall’s narrative is incomplete without the stories of its anchor tenants, JCPenney, Macy’s, and Target, each playing a pivotal role in the mall’s retail chronicle.

JCPenney strategically moved to Westminster Mall, relocating from Huntington Center Mall. This transition marked a new chapter for JCPenney and the mall, bringing its wide array of merchandise, from clothing to home furnishings to a new customer base.

Over the years, JCPenney has stood as a testament to traditional retail resilience, adapting its offerings and in-store experiences to meet changing consumer demands and market trends.

Despite the broader challenges in the retail sector, JCPenney has managed to maintain its presence, continuing to serve the community as a reliable destination for shopping.

Macy’s has its tale of transformation within the mall. Originally operating as Robinsons-May, the store rebranded when Federated Department Stores (now Macy’s, Inc.) acquired the Robinsons-May chain.

This transition not only changed the building’s name but also brought a refreshed retail approach and an updated product assortment to cater to modern shoppers.

Macy’s has been known for its wide range of products, from the latest fashion trends to home decor, making it a one-stop shop for many.

However, like many traditional department stores, Macy’s has faced challenges in the evolving retail landscape, striving to balance its brick-and-mortar presence with the growing demand for online shopping.

Target entered the scene in a space that once housed Macy’s, introducing a new dynamic to the mall’s retail mix. Known for its trendy yet affordable products, Target brought a different shopping experience to Westminster Mall.

Its wide assortment, including groceries, clothing, electronics, and home goods, combined with a reputation for style and value, made it a popular destination for a diverse customer base.

Target’s presence in the mall underscores the shift in consumer preferences towards convenience and one-stop shopping solutions, aligning with superstores becoming key players in shopping malls.

Together, JCPenney, Macy’s, and Target narrate the evolving story of Westminster Mall, highlighting the adaptability and resilience required in an ever-changing retail landscape.

Each, in its way, continues to contribute to the mall’s identity, offering a blend of shopping experiences to the community.

Westminster Mall’s Transformation: A Vision for the Future

The year 2023 marked a pivotal moment for Westminster Mall with the unveiling of ambitious redevelopment plans by Shopoff Realty Investments.

The vision for the mall’s transformation is not just a blueprint for construction but a roadmap to revitalizing the entire area.

The meticulously crafted plans propose converting the Macy’s site into a community-centric space featuring residential townhomes and a 2.5-acre public park, complete with an amphitheater poised to host summer concerts.

The Sears wing, another cornerstone of the mall, is envisioned to transform into a series of market-rate apartments, each surrounded by manicured landscaping and swimming pools, promising a blend of luxury and comfort.

Further enhancing the allure, the current Sears parking lot is set to evolve into a three-star hotel, offering amenities such as a pool, spa, and an inviting outdoor lounge.

Shopoff Realty’s blueprint, known as the Bolsa Pacific at Westminster, is a comprehensive plan to revitalize the 26-acre portion of the mall.

The ambitious project features nearly 1,100 market-rate contemporary-styled apartments, over 100 for-sale residential townhomes, a 175-room hotel, and a 2.5-acre park.

The plan includes a dog park, pickleball courts, and a substantial 25,000 sq ft space for retail, restaurants, and a food hall.

This transformative project is not just about buildings and amenities; it’s about creating a thriving community hub where housing, hospitality, retail, and nature merge to form a vibrant center.

The journey to actualize this vision is set to commence in 2025, contingent on the successful navigation through the entitlement process.

Shopoff Realty and the city of Westminster envision this project as a catalyst for economic rejuvenation, bringing value to the county and surrounding neighborhoods.

The project stands as a testament to the potential of reimagining and repurposing spaces to adapt to the evolving needs and preferences of the community.

The anticipation and excitement are palpable as the plans for Westminster Mall’s transformation unfold. The project is not just about redefining a physical space; it’s about reshaping experiences, fostering community ties, and setting a precedent for future urban redevelopment projects.

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Comments: 4
  1. Avatar of Bruce Stevens
    Bruce Stevens

    MAybe this is one of those 15 minute cities.

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

      That’s an interesting perspective. Indeed, the mall’s location and services could contribute to creating a self-sufficient micro-city.

      Reply
  2. Avatar of JeanieQ
    JeanieQ

    When the Mall cut back it’s Christmas Decor, I just quit going to it. I loved May Co and Robinson’s May, but I didn’t like Macy’s. They changed the brands, styles and the lovely employees that I had grown to know over the years. I think the Mall would still be going strong if they hadn’t killed Christmas.

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

      Thank you for sharing your feelings about the changes at Westminster Mall. The holiday season decorations and familiar stores create a sense of nostalgia and belonging, reminding us of the importance of maintaining traditions and community connections.

      Reply
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