The Capitola Mall as it stands today will change with the times as large department stores close leaving big vacancies a reality of our e-commerce life. Talks, meetings and big plans are underway to redevelop it from an enclosed traditional mall to an open-air experience with a more relevant and entertaining way to spend time away from work and home.
This ambitious plan to transform the 42- year old mall into a thriving mixed-use area with parks, new indoor-outdoor shops, a dining and entertainment center and increased residential homes is real.
Details for a major overhaul of the Capitola Mall were presented to the community in the former Sears store in June, after survey results from 2018 were taken by 7700 Capitola and Santa Cruz residents who participated.
Stephen Logan, vice president of development of Merlone Geier Partners, a private real estate investment company who owns 67% of the Capitola mall, presented the five-year redevelopment plan for a new “Capitola Town Square” to a warm reception of over 200 attendees.
“Retail’s not dead, retail’s just changing,” said Logan. “There will be a lot more opportunities for gathering in areas with outdoor seating, and enjoying live entertainment. This is a concept moving forward, and plans to change the name of the site are subject to change as well.”
Housing, a fitness center, and a luxury movie theater are also on the table as part of the development plans. About 630 units are planned for residential living in the town square, primarily one- and two-bedroom studios for rent.
“We really took our time to put in place what the city and community of Capitola would benefit from and we’ve received great community feedback from everyone,” said Logan. “We did not have any opposition on anything we presented and that was very refreshing.”
According to the city of Capitola website there are approximately 9,918 residents in it’s 2 square miles. It is California’s oldest seaside resort, which features a charming village area between two bluffs.
In five years, residents and tourists who are drawn to the county each year for breathtaking views and miles of beaches, could be enjoying a whole new shopping center designed with the idea of “creating a new tomorrow” according to the plan.
David Geiser, Merlone Geier’s managing director of design and construction, said that Architects Orange will design the mall space. Kimley-Horn planning and design engineering consultants will also work on the project.
“We build what the community wants to build for us financially and at the end of the day it’s not going to be just a mall but a “3rd space” or destination outside of home or work where people can go and enjoy themselves,” Logan said. The project is far reaching and could take up to 5 years before ground is broken. Logan said it’s too early to comment on cost or retailers at this point in time.
Capitola Mall opened in 1977, and was renovated and expanded in 1988-89. It is the only enclosed regional shopping center in Santa Cruz County.
Capitola city manager Jami Goldstein was originally introduced in 2016 to Merlone Geier Partners and worked extensively with them in the acquisition. “They sat down with me even before escrow and talked about long term goals for the plan and how the vision will actually integrate with Capitola as a regional shopping destination.
Goldstein said he looks forward to the process even with possible hurdles like traffic, water supply to the sight, and how the overall vision will play out for residents in time.
“It’s a complex project that we are at the beginning of, and we are all hungry for this information,” said Vice Mayor Kristen Petersen who is standing in for Mayor Jacques Bertrand. “We are very excited there is a big interest throughout the county in the development plans. This concept is a lot different from the traditional mall model that we have seen.
Those surveyed said they were tired of malls and that they didn’t want an enclosed mall and the owners really heard that-they did a lot of community outreach.” Peterson said she thinks it will be great for economic revitalization, infrastructure and housing needs in Capitola.
Petersen also pointed out that it is important to create a space that’s in line with what the community wants but, also respectful of the business owners and where they are now as well.
“The city of Capitola is eager to see the project move forward, and we are encouraged by the first steps that have been taken,” said Goldstein. “It’s going to be a long ride but we are up for it and ready”
Merlone Geier estimates the town square will most likely be completed by 2024-2025.