Blue Mountain Mall property sale in process

A Los Angeles firm seeking to buy it plans to renovate the vacant site.

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WALLA WALLA — A new retail development may finally be in store for the city’s long-embattled former Blue Mountain Mall property.

City Manager Nabiel Shawa said Tuesday a Los Angeles-based redevelopment firm plans to buy the property and begin the renovation process.

Financial terms of the acquisition weren’t immediately available.

Shawa said the ownership change is set to close Aug. 12.

Though the property’s recent history has been marked by a series of foreclosures, partial demolition, bankruptcy filings and sale processes, Shawa was optimistic Tuesday the purchase by Zelman Development Co. is finally a step toward legitimate redevelopment of the once-thriving retail hub.

He said he’s received notification from the title company about the pending ownership change. He’s also met with representatives from the firm twice — once as recently as last week.

“We’re hopeful, but until it closes, the deal is not done,” Shawa said.

He said Zelman has revealed it already has some nationally known retailers on board for the property. Tenants could be set up in the former Sears and Gottschalks buildings as early as next spring.

Economic development officials, including Shawa, have said Walla Walla’s stagnant population growth is a major reason recruiting major retailers is such a challenge.

But Shawa also acknowledged Tuesday this remains a market underserved by certain types of retail.

In 2012, the city contracted with a Texas firm named Buxton Company to study analytics of Walla Walla consumer spending.

The results were taken that May to the International Council of Shopping Centers convention in Las Vegas, where Shawa said he was first introduced to Zelman.

“We were examining the portion of the report that looks to leakage,” he said, referring to factors that prompt people to shop out of town. “Clothing. We’re short on electronics. There are a few other categories. The local retailers can’t meet the existing demand here today.”

He said a grand opening of the redeveloped property that borders Poplar Street, Rose Street and Myra Road could come August 2014.

“We’re hopeful,” he said. “We’re keeping our fingers crossed, and we’re trying to do everything we can do to help.”

Vicki Hillhouse can be reached at vickihillhouse@wwub.com or 526-8321.

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Comments

VinoTinto says...

There's still nothing liking shopping downtown.

Posted 24 July 2013, 3:16 p.m. Suggest removal

Hersey says...

But downtown is for the tourists (expensive), whereas the mall would be for locals and those in the surrounding areas.

Posted 24 July 2013, 3:38 p.m. Suggest removal

VinoTinto says...

You're right about that. I really hope they put a good mix of shops there.

Posted 25 July 2013, 5:59 a.m. Suggest removal

RetiredinWW says...

The "once-thriving retail hub"? Did I miss that part or something because I sure did not see it out there! Sears and Shopko were the only thing that held it together, and you still had to go to the tricities to buy anything even slightly special or out of the ordinary.

I do however, wish the new owners the best in their redevolopment endeavors. I hope that the new facility can maintain better than the fifty percent occupancy rates of the old Blue Mountain Mall, and look forward to seeing our urban "bomb crater" cleaned up as soon as possible!

Posted 24 July 2013, 6:03 p.m. Suggest removal

ImJustSayin says...

Now we need for the city to get out of the way and allow this company to build as they see fit. The permit process needs to be expedited and I would allow this company and future tenants to have a short term tax holiday.

And.............. residents need to support the tenants with their pocket books!

Posted 25 July 2013, 6:24 a.m. Suggest removal

Mochadelicious says...

I will definitely support, especially if they put in more clothing stores. I can't wait to see the list of stores they have planned to come in.

It would be nice if some more stores were put on the East side of town as well, but for now I'll settle for the mall location.

Posted 25 July 2013, 11:25 a.m. Suggest removal

Kevconpat says...

All for cleaning up the mess of that Skeleton of Blue Mnt Mall!
Are there really enough people with an appetite to support a mall? Our population is stagnant; some have's with deep pockets and a lot of lesser have's or have not's citizens. Will this siphon off from existing stores? People who shop on a regular basis; the likes of Shopko and Wal-Mart......I doubt will tread on over to a new mall with which I suppose will be better anchor stores and more costly.
Let's see if this really closes and the developers follow through on their dreams for the rest of us. I hope it this really does come to fruition. I'll support both a new mall and the existing downtown stores.

Posted 25 July 2013, 7:51 p.m. Suggest removal

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