Contradictory Signs Abound For Elk Grove's Outlet Mall, Sacramento's Delta Shores; Video

April 6, 2017 |

Call it the tale of two cities. Or at least the tale of two cities and their respective development of competing shopping centers.

On one side are Elk Grove and its languishing shopping center, now on its third name and incarnation, the Outlet Collection at Elk Grove. Originally conceived of over 20 years ago and approved for construction over 10 years ago, work on the structure came to an abrupt halt nine years ago this July.

Since that day in late July 2008, the dormant structure now somewhat affectionately known as the "Ghost Mall," had laid void of life like an ashen Phoenix awaiting its resurrection. Unfortunately, the only sign, literally, of the dead mall showing any signal of rebirth was when the owners, the Howard Hughes Company, planted some signs on the graveyard last year promising it will open in 2017.

With over one-quarter of 2017 behind us, it is improbable that dead bird will rise from the ashes anytime before the end of the year. Those signs which looked to be an announcement for a debutante ball are now more like tombstones. 

As many readers are keenly aware, the world of retailing has changed substantially since the Outlet Collection at Elk Grove was conceived. In its first incarnation, it was to be a traditional indoor mall and we all know what is happening to those dinosaurs.  

When ground finally broke on the shopping center that was first named the Lent Ranch Mall, the format had changed and so did its name. The new shopping center was going to be an outdoor mall called the Elk Grove Promenade.

After that failure, the new owners, The Howard Hughes Company rechristened the dead structure into its latest version, the Outlet Collection at Elk Grove. Obviously, something more than just changing names and shopping formats is needed to bring those skeletal remains back to life. 

Of course, elected officials point to the new $400 million resort casino being built by Las Vegas-based Boyd Gaming on behalf of the Wilton Rancheria to show things are back on track. If that were the case, why has there not been any announcements from Howard Hughes about new leases, much less resumption of construction of the shopping center, which by the way is now about one-third smaller than originally planned after selling land to the Wilton Rancheria for their gambling hall.  

Former Elk Grove Mayor Gary Davis praises the proposed 
$400 million Wilton Rancheria casino at the February 14, 
2017 announcement regarding the the tribes purchase 
of property at the Outlet Collection at Elk Grove. 
Howard Hughes is a very smart, profitable company who obviously is well aware of the rapidly changing retail sector. Having been in possession of the Ghost Mall for several years, at some point one must question what have been their real intentions all along.  

Was Hughes and a few select city leaders, past and present, ever serious about the development of the shopping center once construction stopped, or were they lying in wait scheming for some alternative use for the site, say like a casino, several years ago and were simply getting the details worked out in advance?

These are questions we regular folk will never have answered. It is nonetheless noteworthy the timing of former Elk Grove Mayor Gary Davis' exit from elected office and the keen interest he has taken in the casino. 

Meanwhile, in Sacramento, their long-planned shopping center and 800-acre master planned community on the southwest side of town just outside the Pocket neighborhood and within easy reach of Elk Grove's west side, is the Delta Shores development. As commuters plying I-5 will note, construction on the site is steadily progressing, and it appears this shopping center, unlike the Ghost Mall, has a chance to open by the end of 2017.

What is more surprising is that this facility looks to be filled with a mix of retailers that have avoided the wrath of the online shopping behemoth, Amazon. Among its several tenants are Berkshire Hathaway's RC Wiley; a Walmart Superstore, and one of only a few national retailers who has flourished and is somewhat inoculated to online shopping, Ross Dress For Less

In a related note, as a sign of its continued growth and confidence in their business model, Amazon said it would hire 5,000 employees next year as part of their ongoing assault of brick and mortar retailers. Interestingly, these new part-time employees will not be working in so-called fulfillment centers; rather they will be home-based telephone call center employees.  

Call it bad luck or kismet, whatever the case Elk Grove’s shopping center by any name hung around its neck appears to be a snake-bitten enterprise. From the start and all along its lifetime, it was the wrong developer with the wrong concept in the wrong place at the wrong time, and its only savior could be the truck load of out-of-town cash from Las Vegas.

Conversely, Sacramento’s Delta Shores shopping center seems to be the right mix of retailers, at the right time and in the right place. It is hitting all the right notes at just the precise moment.  

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D.J. Blutarsky said...

Like firework duds that just sit there and fizzle, the Great Economic Development Machine of the city just can't seem to get off the launch pad. Besides lining the pockets of has-been ranchers who wanted to throw in the towel and get rich quick, the Great Mall and its surrounding development was one of the the justifications for city incorporation.

The County had no interest in urbanizing the outlying ag land and proposed a rational urban service boundary that made sense for many years to come. So far, all that has been built in Elk Grove would have happened under County rule as well. But no, the ag land owners wanted to hit the lottery and sell their dirt to rooftop and retail developers. The Ghost Mall is proof that greed does not trump the market reality however. The Wilton Indian tribe and its one-armed bandits are the only remaining game in town for that area.

So, we now have another layer of government that lies in wait to spring a sales tax increase on us because they over-extended themselves. While the developers have asked for another round of fee reductions, the compliant city council is tapping into future Mello-Roos supplemental tax assessments to pay for a soccer stadium, animal shelter, aquatic center, vets hall, and more projects to come I'm sure.

Delta Shores may very well be the last traditional brick and mortar 'retail mecca' to locate in south Sacramento County. If Chuckie can't deliver on the one-armed bandits, I'm not sure what we will do. The casino will already be exempt from paying sales and property taxes. Where's the future money going to come from for making up for the past incentives, looming auto mall bubble burst, and rock-bottom developer fees? Oh well, a super buffet is not all that bad I guess.

Connie said...

We will never know how the Outlet Collection will do until HHC builds it, if they ever do. Outlet malls still serve a purpose and will always appeal to the bargain shopper – usually leaving a mess after rummaging through the merchandise. Manufacturers will need outlet malls to dispose of unsold goods and this one would serve our area of the region. And let’s face it, the high-end buyers will continue to shop at Nordstrom, piano and all.

The casino is years away. Will HHC wait it out as well until the casino breaks ground? For or against the casino, what it will bring to the Outlet Collection is “shoppertainment” which is the current trend. Will it be the trend in five years when the casino could break ground? Only Nostradamus might know, and he is long gone!

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