Monday, June 27, 2011

Solano Mall Gets Sassier Before It's Sold

Westfield Solano Mall recently celebrated the grand opening of a food court near JC Penney on the upper level. Westfield has been gradually renovating the 30-year old shopping center. Over the past few years, new flooring has been installed, railings were replaced, and new sky bridges were added. Finally, the mall seems comparable to other Westfield malls in the region.

Boasting 169 retailers, Solano Mall opened in 1981. The mall was attached to an existing JC Penney that opened 9 years earlier. Emporium-Capwell joined the mall in 1983 and Macy's in 1985. When Emporium-Capwell closed in 1996, Sears moved from its original location to the old Emporium-Capwell building. The old Sears building was renovated into Edwards Cinema and Best Buy.

An interesting feature in Solano Mall is the skylights. Similar to Taubman malls, artificial lighting in Solano Mall emanates from lighting groups set in skylights. Shoppers are given the impression that it's daylight outside, even though the sun has long gone. Originally, these triangular lighting groups had colored panels in them.

Although Westfield has been upgrading the mall for years, it recently decided to put Solano Mall, as well as Sacramento's Downtown Plaza, on the market.

Read my review of Westfield Solano Mall.

Sunday, June 19, 2011

Top 10 Largest Macy's Stores in Northern California and Reno

Find the top 10 largest Macy's stores, by square footage, in Northern California and Reno. Locations with two stores in a single mall are combined as one.

1. 1,173,000 sq. ft. - Union Square, San Francisco (2 locations: 925,000 & 248,000 sq. ft.)
2. 712,000 sq. ft. - Westfield Valley Fair, San Jose (2 locations: 396,000 & 316,000 sq. ft.)
3. 544,000 sq. ft. - Westfield Downtown Plaza, Sacramento (2 locations: 343,000 & 201,000 sq. ft.)
4. 389,000 sq. ft. - Sunvalley Shopping Center, Concord (2 locations, 206,000 & 183,000 sq. ft.)
5. 371,000 sq. ft. - Stoneridge Shopping Center, Pleasanton (2 locations, 197,000 & 174,000 sq. ft.)
6. 338,000 sq. ft. - Sunrise Mall, Citrus Heights (2 locations: 178,000 & 160,000 sq. ft.)
7. 319,000 sq. ft. - Stanford Shopping Center, Palo Alto (2 locations: 223,000 & 96,000 sq. ft.)
8. 289,000 sq. ft. - Meadowood Mall, Reno (2 locations: 167,000 & 102,000 sq. ft.)
9. 280,000 sq. ft. - Stonestown Galleria, San Francisco
10. 266,000 sq. ft. - Northgate Mall, San Rafael


Source: Macy's Inc. Fact Book 2011.
Note: When comparing Macy's-published square footage to mall-published square footage, discrepancies occurred in every instance.

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Grand Opening of Capwell's - Fremont Fashion Center - 1968

Capwell's celebrated its grand opening on February 22, 1968 at the Fremont Fashion Center.

Part of the sprawling Fremont Meadows development, Fremont Fashion Center was a small mall just a few blocks down Mowry Avenue from the larger Fremont Hub shopping center.

This Capwell's building was designed by Welton Becket & Associates. A sister store exists at the Almaden Fashion Plaza in San Jose, which opened as the Emporium about the same time.

After Capwell's opened a new store at NewPark Mall in Newark, it converted this store to a clearance center. In 1992, the building was sold to Washington Hospital for an expansion project. Currently, it operates as Washington Hospital.



Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Park Lane Mall - Reno - 1967

Park Lane Mall, formerly Park Lane Centre, in Reno Nevada celebrated its Phase II grand opening in March 1967 (Nevada State Journal, 1967). Phase I was the opening of the Sears department store in September 1965 (Nevada State Journal, 1967). Two more phases, including the addition of the Weinstocks-Hale department store had yet to be completed (Nevada State Journal, 1967).

This mall map from the Nevada State Journal newpaper on March 9, 1967, displays the original layout and stores. The caption under the mall map reads “Parking for 3000 cars. When completed Park Lane will have over 50 fine stores to serve you.”

Park Lane Centre was Reno’s first regional shopping mall, luring Sears from its original downtown Reno location.

Sadly, Park Lane is no more. Changing consumer patterns, loss of anchor stores, and the rising popularity of Meadowood Mall down the street took its toll.



Nevada State Journal. (1967, March 9). Interesting Facts About Park Lane. Nevada State Journal, p. 11A. Retrieved June 14, 2011, from Web site:

Friday, June 10, 2011

The Capwell's Story - H. C. Capwell Department Stores

The story of the H. C. Capwell Company is told in this interesting newspaper article from 1968. The article was part of a multi-page spread in the Fremont Argus newspaper commemorating the opening of the Capwell's in the Fremont Fashion Center.

The Capwell's name was used exclusively for stores located in the San Francisco East Bay until 1980 when Capwell's parent corporation, Carter Hawley Hale Stores, opened an "Emporium-Capwell" at Pleasanton's Stoneridge Mall. West Bay residents continued to call it "The Emporium" while East Bay residents called it "Capwell's."


Tuesday, June 07, 2011

Bay Fair Shopping Center Grand Opening Phase II - 1957

November 6, 1957 marked the grand opening of phase II of the Bay Fair Regional Shopping Center (aka, Bayfair Mall or Bayfair Center). Phase I was the opening of Macy's on August 8, 1957.

Designed by Victor Gruen & Associates, Phase II was a two-story building that was accessible from the parking lots without requiring shoppers to change levels. Level 1, called the "Mall Level," was accessible from the lower parking lots in the front. Level 2, called the "Terrace Level," was accessible from the upper level parking lots in the back. It was a unique concept at the time to grant shoppers access to multiple levels through parking lots situated at different planes.

The picture at the top of the newspaper page shows the Phase II building, which contained 22 inline shops. Looking at Bayfair Center now, it's difficult to imagine what it was like. Although, it does explain the unusual layout of the current second level of the mall, which was the result of a later enclosure and addition of Montgomery Ward. Prior to demolition, Montgomery Ward's mall access was exclusively from the second level. When the site was rebuilt for Target, the developer choose a lower footprint for the store and mall access to the first level, only (albeit, poorly thought-out access). The Mall Level shops were later replaced by a secluded food court, now renovated and open to the rest of the mall.

Read through the entire newspaper page; it's devoted entirely to the Bay Fair grand opening.


Thursday, June 02, 2011

MacArthur/Broadway Shopping Center - Oakland - 1965

One of three enclosed shopping malls in Oakland, California, this advertisement from the Oakland Tribune announces the grand opening of the MacArthur/Broadway Shopping Center on September 9, 1965.

"A whole century ahead of its time... The most fantastic one-stop shopping and dining extravaganza in the entire universe!" proclaims the advertisement. The center is billed as "completely space-age in concept and philosophy."

Features included the following:
* A space ramp, an escalator for shopping carts. A concept employed today by multi-level Target stores and the IKEA in East Palo Alto.
* An Astro-Bus, a taxi service to shuttle shoppers from the mall entrance to their cars.
* Space-Port Parking... 1,100 cars fitting comfortably on the roof of the center.

MacArthur/Broadway Shopping Center, commonly called M/B Center, was a mall without a conventional department store anchor (although Woolworth's anchored the mall). After years of decline, the center was demolished in 2009. A new Kaiser Permanente hospital is rising in its place.

Visitors may fondly remember The Hamlet, essentially an early food court concept.


Current aerial

View Larger Map
The Google Street View still shows the center pre-demolition. Mall entrances had been sealed by then.