With 'Sweet 16' Anniversary Upon Us, Elk Grove's 'Ghost Mall' Still a Haunting Reminder of Hubris

June 19, 2016 |

In a little less than two weeks from now, Elk Grove will celebrate its Sweet 16 anniversary of cityhood. In those years, residents have seen many things - good and bad - happen.

In mathematical terms, there is one activity, or maybe more accurately the lack of activity, which has besieged Elk Grove for half of its time as a city. Of course, we are referring to the halting of construction of Elk Grove's now infamous ghost mall.

Construction of the structure first dubbed the Lent Ranch Mall, then formally named the Elk Grove Promenade, then rechristened the Outlet Collection at Elk Grove, stopped eight years ago on roughly July 28. For the last eight years - half of the Elk Grove's life as a general law city in California, the unfinished mall has become an albatross hanging around the necks of residents.

Notwithstanding the sign erected several weeks ago by the mall's current owner, the Howard Hughes Corporation (HHC), claiming it will be open sometime in the next 17 months and 41 days, construction at the site, or even the planned and approved demolition of the northern third of the structure is a phantom.

Undoubtedly development will resume at some point, but we do not have any idea when that will happen. We suspect if our Mayor and City Council were honest, they would say they have no idea either.

As much as the city claims to be applying pressure to HHC, they are a public traded company, and they are under no legal obligation to listen, much less care what the Mayor and City Council have to say. They are only interested in maximizing shareholder returns, and as such they will make the decision to restart when it is in their best economic interest.

With the recent announcement that the Wilton Rancheria has selected the HHC site as their preferred location for their planned casino, things could happen quickly. There is even a chance before the Teens decade ends Elk Grove shopaholics will have their long sought mall and the Wilton Rancheria will have their casino where they will be minting money off the endless rows of slot machines and card tables.

If the Wilton Rancheria is successful in getting approval for their casino, HHC or some other developer will do something with the rest of the shopping mall site. It may not be the mall originally envisioned or even an outlet mall, but something will be built there.

So as the Mayor and his fellow City Councilmen start contemplating their soccer field of dreams, we can only hope they refrain from the hubris that enveloped our city leaders over a decade ago and use the last eight years of the phantom mall experience as a cautionary tale. Take heed men, as Bruce Springsteen wrote "...there's things that'll knock you down you don't even see coming, And send you crawling like a baby back home." 

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