To Jose Legaspi, Oklahoma City's Crossroads Mall is just another diamond in the rough.
The south Oklahoma City mall fell into the hands of the federal government in 2008, limped through the recession years with a handful of tenants while somehow managing to keep its doors open.
But Legaspi, who owns The Legaspi Co., a California firm known for turning ailing shopping malls into thriving, Hispanic centers, has a plan.
On Wednesday afternoon, he announced details of the project, including the mall's new name: Plaza Mayor at the Crossroads, a name that translates to “the main square” at the crossroads. It includes space for a grocery store, nightclub and a rodeo arena seating 3,500 spectators.
Already, Legaspi has worked on a dozen ailing malls across the country.
“We have had great success polishing these diamonds,” he said. He's been hired to lead the redevelopment of Crossroads.
Restaurant owner Francisco Ramirez experienced the turnaround at La Gran Plaza in Fort Worth, Texas, another of Legaspi's projects, and was quick to sign a lease in Oklahoma City. His two eateries will serve authentic Mexican food and snacks and are expected to open July 1.
This month, 20 new leases have been signed with local tenants, including restaurants, gift shops and beauty salons. Negotiations are continuing to secure major tenants such as a department store, grocery retailer, entertainment venue and clinical services, said Robert Ruiz, a spokesman for Raptor Properties, which owns the mall.
About 200 people attended the event on Wednesday, held in the mall's center court. Speakers included Lt. Gov. Todd Lamb, David Castillo, president of the Greater Oklahoma City Hispanic Chamber of Commerce, and Jessica Herrera with the Greater Oklahoma City Chamber.
Bazaar, stage planned
The 3-story anchor formerly occupied by Dillard's will be converted to a bazaar, similar to a flea market, with booths for local vendors. Mall owners say the bazaar, with more than 200 booths, will act as an incubator for startup businesses.
The mall's entrances and bathrooms will be remodeled. In the center court, the carousel will be moved to make way for a new stage and entertainment area, complete with $100,000 worth of new sound and lighting equipment, Ruiz said.
Plans also include turning the former Montgomery Ward into an entertainment venue like a nightclub. Adjacent to it, mall owners want to build a rodeo arena capable of hosting national competitions that can also be used as a concert venue; that project is expected to be built over three to five years, Ruiz said.
Entertainment and cultural activities at the mall have already begun and will play a critical role in the mall's revitalization, Legaspi said.
A circus opens this weekend and there are plans to celebrate upcoming holidays such as El Dia de los Ninos, Cinco de Mayo and Mother's Day. A mariachi band plays every Sunday.