Economic Director William Jabjiniak

Reflecting a national trend of dying malls, the Fiesta Mall has been empty for years, but Economic Director William Jabjiniak is hopeful it will be developed.

In north Phoenix, the beloved-by-locals Paradise Valley Mall closed down earlier this month.

It is making way for “an exciting mix of retail shops, grocery store, restaurants, multi-family residential units, entertainment, office, self-storage and other uses coming soon,” according to the developer.

This reflects a national trend as shopping malls and centers continue to struggle.

“America’s malls have reached the end of their useful life,” Mark Toro, of real estate developer North American Properties, said in a CNBC story. “Communities across the U.S. have turned their backs on what was once their center.

“These properties often occupy real estate that would best be repurposed to better serve the community,” he said.

Mesa is hardly immune from the mall demise.

“The days of the old mall have come and gone,” said Economic Director William Jabjiniak. 

“But that’s just Bill’s opinion,” he footnoted.

“We have a couple shopping centers that are underutilized ... We have not done a full, holistic approach to shopping centers,” Jabjiniak said.

While some centers around Mesa are looking for ways to survive, others are “being bladed because land is becoming valuable for other uses.

“We’re in a booming market. Residential is white hot, so is industrial,” Jabjiniak stressed.

Perhaps the biggest question in this area is “What’s going on with Fiesta Mall?”

Along with its anchor Sears, the mall at Alma School Road and Highway 60 thrived for several decades but has been a “ghost mall” since it shuttered in 2017.

“The big one everybody asks me about is Fiesta Mall,” Jabjiniak said, with a cross between a chuckle and a grimace. He said a former glut of five owners has been reduced to two. “They are working on a master plan for the site.”

 Jabjiniak said a developer pitched his department about turning the dead mall into a transportation hub. “We said, ‘No, that’s not the place for a logistics center,’” he said.

Then there is what Jabjiniak and others call “a Mesa icon”: Buckhorn Baths Motel, where baseball’s Cactus League is said to have been born. Closed since 1999, the 15-acre property on Main Street and Recker Road was sold three years ago for $2.15 million to The Avenue Shops.

“The private sector has been all over that, figuring out how can they repurpose that site,” Jabjiniak said. “Hopefully it will be more of a mixed-use (site), while still preserving the historic features.”

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