Gregory Sims, senior general manager of Southwest Plaza, is seriously excited about what he calls the most all-consuming remodel of a mall he’s seen in his 20 years in the business.
“This, by far, is the most positive and exciting development to the property probably since the development itself was built,” he said during a tour of the project on April 25.
General Growth Properties has not released how much it’s spending on the project, just calling it a multimillion-dollar venture. Sims confirmed it is purely a private undertaking, while acknowledging what sources told Colorado Community Media in January about a possible public/private partnership.
“They have had conversations with Littleton and other interested parties,” said Sims. “Those talks are ongoing. They’ve had conversations, so we’ll see.”
Southwest Plaza is located in unincorporated south Jefferson County.
Although almost every nook and cranny of the mall will undergo some type of change, many of the stores remain open, including all five anchors: Dillard’s, JCPenney, Macy’s, Sears and Dick’s Sporting Goods. Perhaps the most noticeable change will be a more open feel, with sight lines widened down the main corridor and airier treatment of the ceilings.
“We’re taking out corners and hard lines that are restricting to traffic flow on both levels,” said Sims.
The food court, renamed Mountain Terrace, will, of course, have views of the mountains. There will be two fire features, a wi-fi zone and a variety of seating choices, giving it the flavor of an outdoor dining patio. The restaurants themselves will be floor-to-ceiling glass instead of the isolated little boxes they are now, contributing to the outdoor bar feel.
“It will really be Colorado modern, embracing the Colorado lifestyle, the openness, the air, the lifestyle, the natural products,” he said. “We didn’t want to replicate Park Meadows, our sister mall. It will be a different look.”
However, Sims stresses that while some of the spaces will have an outdoor presence, as Panera Bread does now, the entire mall is staying an indoor mall.
“We are staying an enclosed shopping center,” he said. “But we want to bring the outdoors in and the indoors out. I think our clientele will appreciate that. … People still like to go out and shop. There’s a healthy balance between online and bricks-and-mortar. We like to be around other people, we’re social beings.”
There will be some boutique-type shops facing outward along a “terrace” next to the southeast entrance, where Tokyo Joe’s is.
“They will be those things where you’re just going in for that,” he said, like perhaps a salon or deli.
The square footage and number of stores will stay about the same, said Sims, while still declining to confirm what new ones will appear. The footprint of the building is not changing at all, he said, other than the return of a main entrance on the northwest side where Borders used to be – it went out of business in 2011.
“We really wanted to reactivate that northeast side,” he said.
A grand opening of all the stores is planned for fall 2015, though Sims again stresses that many of the stores will remain open throughout.
“We want to open all at once,” he said. “Where’s the excitement if you stagger them?”
Sims expects the total number of employees with the mall’s walls to increase after the project, along with the amount of sales tax it contributes to Jefferson County’s economy.
“We’re repositioning ourselves to be the anchor of the southwest Denver market,” he said.