Fiesta Mall enjoyed virtually no competition when it opened in Mesa in 1979 and drew customers from around the East Valley.
Today, the mall’s customer base has shrunk to about 5 square miles, sales have dropped, median prices for homes to the north and east are the lowest in the city, nearby areas suffer from poor housing and crime, and Mesa has lost the chance to attract top-tier retailers to the area.
To turn things around, a consulting team is telling Mesa to launch an allout urban renewal effort for the mall and roughly 4.5 square miles surrounding it, and stop focusing exclusively on downtown.
The team’s recommendation is outlined in a report by the International Economic Development Council and the International Council of Shopping Centers. The City Council, which commissioned the $29,000 report last June, will hear the findings Monday.
The report calls for establishing a "Fiesta Mall superretail district," bounded by U.S. 60 on the south, the Tempe border on the west, Extension Road to the east and Broadway Road on the north.
Suggestions for the area include:
• Beef up code enforcement in the square mile north of the mall. The area is the densest in Mesa, has a high rate of auto theft and frequented by the homeless. Build upscale housing in the area.
• The city should create a business improvement district, where businesses agree to tax themselves to pay for litter control, advertising and special events. The city also should rezone land along Southern Avenue for housing and offices.
• Link the mall with nearby Mesa Community College and Banner Desert Medical Center by a shuttle bus. Build bridges or tunnels for pedestrians.
• Create and market one name for the area, such as "Fiesta Town Center."
• Make the mall more inviting. The mall’s design is dated and lacks the amenities of new malls, including visual appeal, restaurant and entertainment venues.
• Make plans to "re-invent" the mall if one or more department stores leave. Rather than competing with newer, upscale malls, Fiesta Mall could use vacant department store space for "big-box" retailers, value stores or retailers that cater to different demographics, such as the Hispanic community, the report states. Approximately 22 percent of the mall’s shoppers are Hispanic, according to the report.
Nearly 2,000 people are employed at 135 retail stores in Fiesta Mall.
Sales were $459 per square foot in 2001 but fell to $360 in 2003.
The opening of Chandler Fashion Center in 2002 is to blame, the report states.
Mall strengths include four anchor department stores, few vacancies, high customer approval ratings, easy access to U.S. 60, and close proximity to Mesa Community College, Pearson Digital Learning and Banner Desert Medical Center.