Tuesday, August 24, 2004

Westfield Corp. unveiled an elaborate plan to build space for three big box stores, a restaurant and more shops at its mall in Fairfield.

August 18, 2004

Westfield submits plans to expand mall

By Matthew Bunk

FAIRFIELD -- Solano County's largest mall could get bigger.

After months of expansion talk, mall owner Westfield Corp. unveiled an elaborate plan to build space for three big box stores, a restaurant and more shops at its mall in Fairfield.

A two-story addition would replace the parking lot and some shop space between Sears and Macy's, according to project drawings submitted to the city. The new stores would be connected to the main mall building.

Westfield Shoppingtown Solano, the only regional mall in the county, would have 10 percent more leasable area if the company sticks to the plan. It would grow to 1.14 million square feet of store space from 1.04 million square feet.

Westfield said it doesn't know yet what stores would fill the space. But the company is one of a growing number of mall operators trying to lure more one-stop discount stores that appeal to adult shoppers.

Having lost loyalty among shoppers who see malls as a teen hangout, more malls are now recruiting retailers like Home Depot and Bed, Bath and Beyond rather than traditional department stores. Westfield executives have indicated that they are taking similar steps as department store revenue has gone down in recent years.

The company first announced the expansion at a meeting with business leaders in July and recently made it official by submitting the first set of project drawings to the city. The review process could take a year or more, and Westfield doesn't expect to start construction until next summer.

Although plans call for the removal of 26,000 square feet of store space, it's not clear what, if any, existing stores might be affected by the project.

"If they are (affected), they'll be included in the expansion plan," Westfield spokeswoman Catharine Dickey said.

To make up for lost parking, Westfield is proposing to build a two-level parking deck between J.C. Penneys and Travis Boulevard. It could be connected to the main mall building by a walking bridge, according to plans.

If all goes quickly, it could be ready for shoppers by fall of 2006, Dickey said.

The three box stores would range in size up to 40,000 square feet, the restaurant would be 7,000 square feet and shops would fill 80,000 square-feet of added retail space.

Fairfield officials started talking to Westfield about expansion after the company bought the property from Trizec-Hahn in 1998, said Sean Quinn, city planning and development director. But Westfield wanted to fix up the existing mall building before expanding, Quinn said.

"Now they've done those things and are moving ahead," he said.

Quinn said the next steps will include an environmental review, but he said Westfield's time frame for completion seems possible.

"It's a reasonable time frame, but it will be determined by issues that will come up in the process," he said.

Reach Matthew Bunk at 425-4646 Ext. 267 or mbunk@dailyrepublic.net.

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