Center and Jackson Drives
La Mesa, California

San Diego's first mall-type retail hub, COLLEGE GROVER CENTER, opened for business in July 1960. The region's second and third shopping malls opened during 1961. The first stores in MISSION VALLEY CENTER debuted February 2. The first in GROSSMONT CENTER opened their doors October 5.

GROSSMONT CENTER, designed by Los Angeles' Welton Becket & Associates, was developed by the Phoenix-based Del E. Webb Construction Company and San Diego-based Marston's department stores. It was built on land leased from the Elliot Cushman family.

The 110 acre site, situated 9 miles northeast of Centre City San Diego, was annexed into the city limits of suburban La Mesa in January 1960. Groundbreaking for a 20 million dollar, open-air shopping venue took place in May. The single-level center would be adjacent to the Mission Valley Freeway (Interstate 8), that had opened to traffic in 1958.

When completed, the mall encompassed 604,000 leasable square feet. At its October 1961 dedication, a 2-level (122,000 square foot) Montgomery Ward opened for business, along with sixteen inline stores. The grand opening of a 2-level (156,000 square foot) Marston's followed, on November 6, 1961. Nine additional stores were also dedicated. By January 1962, there was a total of fifty-four stores in operation.

A list of charter tenants would include Longs Drugs, Coffee Dan's, Harris & Frank men's wear, Anita Shops ladies' wear, Buddy's Barber Shop, Flagg Brothers Shoes, Gallenkamp Shoes, Holiday Shoes, a Food Basket supermarket and S.H. Kress and F.W. Woolworth 5 & 10s.

Commercial competitors of GROSSMONT CENTER were the aforementioned COLLEGE GROVE CENTER {3.3 miles southwest, in San Diego} and MISSION VALLEY CENTER {7.5 miles west, also in San Diego}, as well as PARKWAY PLAZA (1972) {1.7 miles northeast, in El Cajon}.

Anchor rebrandings at GROSSMONT CENTER commenced in 1964, when Marston's was converted to a Los Angeles-based The Broadway. In the following year, the Statewide Theatres Cinema Grossmont was dedicated. It showed its first feature June 29, 1965.

The first addition to GROSSMONT CENTER was completed in November 1978, with the dedication of a fifteen-store South Wing. This included a 2-level (80,000 square foot), Long Beach-based Buffums'.

A second expansion added a 2-level (150,300 square foot), Los Angeles-based Bullock's and multilevel parking garage to the west side of the complex. Bullock's Grossmont opened its doors September 15, 1983. The Pacific Theatres Grossmont Mall Theatres, a 3-screen venue, was dedicated December 9, 1983.

GROSSMONT CENTER became rail transit-accessible on June 23, 1989, when revenue service commenced on the Spring Street-to-El Cajon San Diego Trolley extension. The Grossmont Transit Center station was situated north of the mall site.

Work commenced on a 5 million dollar face lift renovation of the shopping facility in September 1990, which included an enlargement of an existing food court. The tri-plex cinema was expanded into the Pacific Theatres Grossmont Center 8, which made its debut on May 26, 1995. The movie house was expanded into a 10-plex in 1999.

Meanwhile, Buffums' went dark in May 1991, with Oshman's SuperSports USA assuming the space in 1992. Bullock's was shuttered on April 19, 1993. Target opened in the store space in July 1995. Macy's rebranded the GROSSMONT CENTER The Broadway in 1996

A comprehensive remodeling of GROSSMONT CENTER was undertaken in 1997. During this project, center court and concourses were updated. Sections of the circa-'61 mall were also demolished, with new retail spaces constructed. The revitalized -and still open-air- shopping mall was re-dedicated in 1998.

Montgomery Ward closed, along with the entire chain, in March 2001. Wal-Mart renovated the building and opened on May 19, 2004.

GROSSMONT CENTER was owned by the California-based Grossmont Shopping Center Company (the Cushman Family) and leased to the Illinois-based Denele Company. Management was entrusted to Los Angeles-based CB Richard Ellis in 1997. The retail hub now encompassed 939,000 leasable square feet and contained one hundred stores and services.

The mall commemorated its fiftieth year in business on September 24th and 25th, 2011. A 1960s-themed celebration included vintage music, classic cars, an appearance by a Marilyn Monroe lookalike and a "then & now" fashion show.

The Oshman's SuperSports USA store was rebranded by Englewood, Colorado's Sports Authority in November 2005. This store went dark in July 2016 and was proceeded by a Corte Madera, California-based Restoration Hardware Outlet on September 15, 2016.

Mitch Glaser / "Paradox Unbound"
Metropolitan Transit Development Board (C.B. Richard Ellis)


The photographs from the Del E. Webb Corporation "Webb Spinner" / Sun City, Arizona Museum illustrate a key moment in the mall's history that is described in the article. The images are of  lower resolution than the originals (copies made would be of inferior quality). The images are not replaceable with free-use or public-domain images. The use of the images does not limit the copyright owners' rights to distribute them in any way. The images are being used for non-profit, informational purposes only and their use is not believed to detract from the original images in any way.