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Mall closure inevitable, property to see change

Shoppers+travel+to+and+from+Wal-Mart+on+Monday.+Hilltop+Mall+slipped+into+foreclosure+in+June+2013+after+the+former+owner%2C+Simon+Property+Group%2C+Inc.+failed+to+repay+a+loan+that+used+the+mall+as+collateral.+
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Mall closure inevitable, property to see change

Shoppers travel to and from Wal-Mart on Monday. Hilltop Mall slipped into foreclosure in June 2013 after the former owner, Simon Property Group, Inc. failed to repay a loan that used the mall as collateral.

Shoppers travel to and from Wal-Mart on Monday. Hilltop Mall slipped into foreclosure in June 2013 after the former owner, Simon Property Group, Inc. failed to repay a loan that used the mall as collateral.

Christian Urrutia / The Advocate

Shoppers travel to and from Wal-Mart on Monday. Hilltop Mall slipped into foreclosure in June 2013 after the former owner, Simon Property Group, Inc. failed to repay a loan that used the mall as collateral.

Christian Urrutia / The Advocate

Christian Urrutia / The Advocate

Shoppers travel to and from Wal-Mart on Monday. Hilltop Mall slipped into foreclosure in June 2013 after the former owner, Simon Property Group, Inc. failed to repay a loan that used the mall as collateral.

By Salvador Godoy, Staff Writer

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Hilltop Mall was once a flourishing collection of businesses supporting an expanding residential community during the 1970s and 80s. This year the outdated property will be sold and re-configured to better meet the standards of local consumers.

The property, placed on the market in March 2016 via real estate brokerage firm C-III Realty Services, is waiting for the next successor to transform the mall into the bustling center of economic viability that it once was.

Richmond Mayor Tom Butt said the bidding period for developers who wish to acquire the property ends in late spring.

“Sometime in the first week of May, we should have a sense, when offers will be cut off,” Butt said.

City of Richmond officials envision the area becoming a mixed-use town center development with outdoor retail, entertainment and incorporated housing.

President of the Hilltop District Homeowners Association Cesar Zepeda said that he has met with several developers and has given weekday tours around the property.

“We have a lot of interested buyers from firms in the Bay Area and out of the state,” Zepeda said.

The mall slipped into foreclosure in June 2013, after the former owner Simon Property Group, Inc. failed to repay a loan that used the mall as collateral.

Contra Costa County Superior Court officials assigned real estate firm Jones Lang LaSalle as the management group for the property.

Residents throughout Richmond have mixed feelings of what might take place on the property.

Some local shoppers question what will happen to the department stores that are operating in the mall.

Carol Jennifer, a Richmond resident who has been shopping at Hilltop Mall for 23 years, said, “I shop here often, but mainly at Macy’s and JCPenney. If these department stores are gone (from the mall), I will be deeply saddened.”

Anchor tenants Macy’s, JCPenney, Sears and 24-Hour Fitness own their own property on the site and will need to be consulted before a major face-lift can occur.

Wal-Mart has a lease that extends until 2020. It will need to make a decision on whether to remain on the property or not.

“The department stores want to stay there, but they would like to have the structures demolished and rebuilt into a different configuration,” Butt said.

Not only are there department stores occupying the mall, but all of the tenants that are located within the property are also in limbo.

“What I’m hoping to do with the smaller businesses is to be able to place them on the redeveloped outskirts of the mall or relocate them to another area in Richmond, such as downtown so we can maintain that tax money in the city,” Zepeda said.

Indoor shopping malls across America have been struggling to survive due to economic and safety issues.

“Malls were successful at one time, now the majority of them are on the decline and end up being demolished,” Butt said.

The next phase of Hilltop Mall has been discussed briefly by city officials.

Nearby Bay Street Emeryville is a similar shopping center that is seen favorably by the city and the community based on the structure and concept. It has retail shops on the first floor with residential spaces on the top of the buildings.

“Some of the potential buyers are checking in with the planning commission and asking questions about what they might do there (Hilltop Mall),” Butt said.

A new plan has begun to replace the existing  Hilltop sign that is located near the I-80 corridor.

“We are proposing what type of signage will be placed on the I-80 corridor,” Zepeda said.

“We are looking through several other projects within the Hilltop District, adding additional traffic lights on Hilltop Mall Road is one of them.”

Michael Piazzola, general manager of real estate firm Jones Lang LaSalle, management surrogate for the mall, declined to name the potential developers who are interested in buying the property.

“The special servicer for the foreclosing Trust, C-III Asset Management, does not want to issue any statements at this time,” Piazzola said.

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15 Comments

15 Responses to “Mall closure inevitable, property to see change”

  1. Joshua on August 23rd, 2016 10:34 pm

    I hope they get a big remodel with a few things adding on To make it the mall it use to be but even better hilltop once was the mall everybody came to and as a child it was like a home

  2. Michelle on August 24th, 2016 12:33 pm

    I used to go there as a teenager back in 79-80. That mall was beautiful!! All the nice stores and it was just the place to go. I recently visited home after being gone for years and went to the mall?!! My heart just sunk. I was asking “What happened to it?” It look like a flea market. The class of the Hilltop Mall and what it stood for is gone.

  3. Ms. TeiJae Taylor on August 24th, 2016 5:47 pm

    It has and always had the potential to be one of the largest, influential malls in California. What is needed is a developer with vision. A developer who will listen to the people and not just the officials.

    This visionary needs to consider the access in avoiding traffic congestion. Enlarging the shopping area with open parking garages that incorporate the style and cultures of Richmond so as to not look out of place. Make multi-level buildings that do not cause nearby residents to feel blocked in. Make the project a work of art. Having some outdoor areas for those who want to sit and rest before or after shopping (park like view). A safe place for parents to rest with their children & babies. Redesign how we shop by locating clothing in one area or on one floor, restaurants/eateries on another floor, inside resting areas on a floor with an outside view and near restrooms. Let entertainment (music, crafts, arcades) be in their own area. Give areas names to make it easier for shoppers or those who forget their locations. Make bathrooms comfortable for all people. Don’t force a group to be uncomfortable because someone else wants to be comfortable. Incorporate single or family type bathrooms to avoid conflicts. Hire local skilled workers to help with construction (more than 15%) and hire local residents to work there. Pay decent salaries so they will take pride in their job site and commit to doing their best. Make the mall an Eco-friendly one. Use plants that consume less water on the outside. Use recycled materials in your park settings. Invest in a security system that use top surveillance cameras in your open spaces that are camouflaged to blend in with the decor. Have conference rooms, ballrooms that can be rented by businesses or private parties for special occasions.

    Put a nice restaurant with an all around view on the top floor. Make sure the kids area is large and has a variety of stores, restaurants, entertainment geared specifically for children. Make it special enough to know that they will continue to return and bring others.

    Put safety first and let your vision become your legacy.

    Thanks

  4. Jacqueline Dean on August 24th, 2016 10:50 pm

    I so agree with this… Let the surrounding communities have a say in what goes there because we will be the ones shopping there…

  5. Gail Mckeever on August 24th, 2016 6:28 pm

    It’s about time! I quit shopping up there because it’s not safe. I do all my shopping on-line. What ever they build up there, they need security camera’s and more security patrols. The only store I shop at, is JCPenney, on-line.

  6. Michelle on August 24th, 2016 8:19 pm

    Would love to see the mall stay but would like it to be a thriving mall like it used to be

  7. Vickie on August 26th, 2016 9:33 am

    It is interesting that this whole area could also provide housing the city of Richmond says is so important to have. Instead of the fight over what may be built at Brickyard Cove, couldn’t they make the mall area their priority?

  8. Cheryl Stewart on August 26th, 2016 10:36 am

    My husband helped build portions of Hilltop Mall. It was a busy and thriving place to shop. We moved out if the area 12 years ago and have been back once around 10 years ago and could not believe the change not only in the area, but in the mall. So sad to see such a wonderful shopping area in the community change so much and not good changes. I hope someone (or group) can take possession of this property and make it a terrific place again.

  9. Dianne Liebert on August 28th, 2016 3:53 pm

    I bought my infant daughter’s first dress in August 1976 at the newly opened Penneys store. The rest of the mall wasn’t even open yet. I’ve watched a lot of change and a great deal of decline. Who needs the crowds, traffic problems and uninformed clerks? Online shopping is so much easier.

  10. Ken on August 29th, 2016 1:16 am

    Two things: San Pablo and Richmond have significant low income communities around that mall. They weren’t able to support the mall. Also, this possible new setup that planners are talking about, something like Emeryville, is going to lead to gentrification. Housing atop shopping centers is always expensive premium stuff, and Bay Street housing prices are not going to be affordable to the average Richmond or San Pablo resident. Gentrification is coming, folks!

  11. Sherry Post on October 30th, 2016 2:06 am

    I’ve been in this area all of my life. Hilltop Mall was built on “tank farm hill” where massive oil tanks dotted the landscape and chemicals permeated the grounds. Its really not fit for cohabitation. Then in the mid 1970s all of those chemical/oil tanks were removed and ground broke for the mall. My future husband was a security guard there while it was being built. After the mall opened with a successful start, medical and dental offices were starting to be built and we lost the Hilltop drive-in. Then came the housing and the overcrowding. Our small “bedroom” communities began being turned into ghettos. Then the mall began to fail because those who could afford to shop at the mall were moving away. Murders, robberies, car theft and assorted violence took place. Making it bigger does not mean making it better. I wished they would just leave it the hell alone. I am grateful for the fact that more jobs and more revenue will be created but the revenue usually winds up in the pockets of local politicians and developers while the communities continue to suffer and the jobs are usually going to illegals who aren’t paying taxes or sending their monies to family in other countries rather than putting it back into our communities. It just doesn’t work well. I’ve been around long enough to see it. Just leave it alone! Let it die a natural death and turn it back into the horse and cow fields it once was. It may not garner pocket lining for the elites but it will make for a lovely view. If everyone could just have seen what it once was they would whole- heartedly agree.

  12. Toni on January 9th, 2017 11:21 am

    I lived on ElCentro off Hilltop. When I left in ’65 it was just as described above. All the “good” stores lined MacDonald from 23rd on down both sides. Imagine my surprise on my visit a couple of years ago. Stayed at the Marriott not far from my childhood home. Everything old will be new again. Hope to see it again in 10 years!

  13. Steve Lum on February 23rd, 2017 8:22 am

    If the new owners of Hilltop Mall really want a model to look to, they should go and check out Stanford Shopping Mall. Although the social, and economic demographics are vastly different, Stanford Mall is inviting and has a relaxing atmosphere. Regardless of the community, people want a safe and vibrant shopping experience.

  14. Victor on February 26th, 2017 10:15 pm

    There is too much competition from the Pinole Target/BestBuy/Lucky shopping plaza area. People want to go to one specific store and then drive home. An indoor mall means the distance from your car to the inside store is a greater distance. A shopping plaza is all about convenience.

    The solution is: Build small retail stores near the outer perimeter of the parking lot similar to a plaza. Remove part of the mall and make it into a parking lot or a recreational area but keep the Macy’s, JC Penney, Sears, 24 hour fitness as separate buildings since they own the property. They need to hire a design consultant who can develop a conceptional plan and present it to the City of Richmond and the lenders/investors.

  15. Shopping mall center on March 2nd, 2017 2:33 am

    Shopping mall center is the best place to buy needs items. It is the best way to get needs items from one place.
    Now it is my favorite site. Sometimes I go to the place and buy everything from here. Lastly it is more helpful for me.

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Mall closure inevitable, property to see change