A plan to transform the near-abandoned Crossroads Mall into a thriving hub for the Hispanic community has begun.
Mall owners are looking to revive Crossroads Mall, at Interstate 240 and Interstate 35, much like La Gran Plaza in Fort Worth, Texas, a now-thriving shopping center that nine years ago was just 10 percent leased.
A key part of that plan includes the mall owners hiring Jose Legaspi, who developed La Gran Plaza and runs a California commercial real estate company that specializes in transforming ailing malls into Hispanic community centers.
It took three to four years to turn Le Gran Plaza around, but Legaspi said other malls have been revitalized in just six to 18 months. Eighty to 90 percent of shoppers there are Hispanic.
He said the demographics are there for the Oklahoma City project to succeed. Legaspi looks for malls that have 120,000 to 150,000 Hispanic residents in the surrounding market and, in many cases, the mall attracts shoppers from 30 miles or more.
“The Hispanic community tends to feel loved and invited when they are approached by a shopping center, so people will drive very far to get there,” he said.
Raptor Properties LLC, a group of investors that purchased Crossroads Mall from the federal government in September 2011, on Wednesday announced the purchase of the former Dillard's department store and hinted at the new vision for the mall.
Robert Ruiz, marketing director for Raptor Properties, said Legaspi “will be implementing a mode similar to La Gran Plaza.”
The South Oklahoma City Chamber of Commerce is hosting a trip to Fort Worth on Thursday for businesses involved in the Envision 240 project, said Elaine Lyons, chamber president. They plan to stop at La Gran Plaza, as well as meet with people involved in the redevelopment of the Camp Bowie District and Magnolia Avenue. La Gran Plaza is the former Seminary South Shopping Center.
Lyons said chamber officials are excited about the plans for Crossroads Mall and would like it to be an anchor for the I-240 corridor.
“We hope it will become a destination for not just our community, but the state,” she said.
The new name of the Oklahoma City mall, its tenants, detailed plans for the property and architectural renderings will be unveiled April 24, Ruiz said.
In a statement, Roddy Bates, co-owner of Raptor Properties, said he and his business partner Mike Dillard are confident about the new direction being planned for Crossroads Mall. “After garnering much support from our local and state leaders, we look forward to revealing our new partner and the redevelopment plan we have implemented,” he said.
Raptor Properties on Tuesday purchased the former Dillard's property, a three-level, 194,538-square-foot anchor on the south side of the main mall. Crews expect to begin demolishing the interior of the store next week.
Fort Worth mall takes a ‘holistic approach'
La Gran Plaza features national chain retailers such as Burlington Coat Factory, Ross Dress for Less, Sonic and Foot Locker. But most of the mall's eateries and shops are Hispanic merchants. It has gone from 10 percent occupied to 93 percent leased, said Legaspi, president and owner of The Legaspi Co. The company purchased the Fort Worth mall in 2004 after studying the demographics of the surrounding community and determining Hispanic consumers were underserved.
Like a traditional mall, there are shops and restaurants, but also medical and dental service providers and an incubator space available for Hispanic entrepreneurs. Perhaps more important, Legaspi said, is the focus on community, with free music on the weekends, children's activities and holiday celebrations.
“I think it's a recognition of a consumer base that is untapped,” he said. “We take a very holistic approach.”
Crossroads Mall already has begun marketing to the Hispanic community, with Hispanic-themed events at Christmas and one planned for Easter this Sunday. There are more than 30 tenants at Crossroads Mall, including national retailers Victoria's Secret, Journeys, Frederick's of Hollywood and Rue 21.