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Our Opinion: Mulling a mall

March 10, 2002

A shopping mall project is in the works, one in which a developer would come to El Centro with plans to build a million-square foot indoor regional mall complete with anchor stores and movie theaters.

The mall would be built near Danenberg and Dogwood roads and the target date for opening this facility is 2004.

We support the city's effort in dealing with the developer and it would be nice to have a modern indoor mall here, particularly during the summers, but we urge the city to think the project through carefully. A mall will have a major impact on the city, one that could prove devastating to Imperial Avenue. It's no great secret that if a mall opens, stores such as Sears, JCPenney and possibly Mervyn's would want to relocate there. If they do that, it would leave more vacant "boxes" along Imperial Avenue, the hub of economic activity in the area for years.

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Still, it says a lot about the Valley that a developer is interested in coming here to partake in such a major project, one that would require millions and millions of dollars in investment. We were disappointed a few years back when another mall project failed due in large part to the developer being put off by infighting between local officials.

This time is different. The developer has a plan and a specific area in mind to build the project — an area that is in the city's sphere of influence and would have to be annexed into the city's border. The project will be built in the city of El Centro and would draw retailers away from another part of El Centro. The earlier project would have been built in the county. With the current project the only infighting that might get in the way will occur within the city itself.

Still, much more has to be done to market big boxes that are vacant in the city, including the Builders Emporium, Heilig-Meyers and Office Depot buildings, all on Imperial Avenue. The city and the property owners have not been successful in attracting business into such facilities. Along with the big box vacancies there is Valley Plaza — a shopping center that seems to have been almost forgotten.

We would hate to see Imperial Avenue become a ghost road because of a mall. It is up to the city to prevent that from happening.

We are excited about a mall. We just want to make sure the growth in the Valley is well thought out and truly serves the best interests of the Imperial Valley.

We would urge the developer to try to attract anchors beyond the large retailers we already have in the Valley. Let's bring in new stores with different clienteles than those already available in the Valley.

We urge all that are interested or who would be affected to work together on how to make sure a mall can succeed and how the city can market itself to prevent Imperial Avenue from becoming an eyesore.

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