El Camino Real and Marron Road
Carlsbad and Oceanside, California

San Diego County's sixth shopping mall was the first fully-enclosed, regional-class shopping center in the metro area. At its official dedication in 1969, PLAZA CAMINO REAL encompassed 548,000 leasable square feet; making it nearly three times the size of the region's first enclosed shopping complex, ESCONDIDO VILLAGE MALL (1964).

The 90 acre PLAZA CAMINO REAL site was located 32 miles north of San Diego's urban core. It extended along the southern side of the Vista Way / California Route 78 expressway, which had been dedicated in April 1962. Predominantly within the city of Carlsbad, the mall's parking area eventually included a small section in the city limits of Oceanside.

PLAZA CAMINO REAL, the "downtown undercover" of the North County suburbs, was the second San Diego mall developed by May Centers. It was constructed in two phases, over a 10 year period. The first, featuring sixty-three stores and services, was officially dedicated in March 1969.

The original anchors were a 2-level (148,200 square foot) May Company California and 2-level (154,000 square foot) J.C. Penney; the latter opening for business April 8, 1970.

PLAZA CAMINO REAL consisted of 2 levels of retail and included Doctor Pet Center, Finell's Jewelers, Central Federal Savings and an F.W. Woolworth 5 & 10. Across Marron Road from the mall was Cinema Plaza, a freestanding movie house. It opened for business, in August 1969, as the first twinplex in San Diego County. The theater was eventually expanded into a 5-screen venue known as Plaza Camino Real 5.

A second phase expansion was added to the west end of the mall. It consisted of 500,000 leasable square feet and was anchored by a 3-level (152,000 square foot), Los Angeles-based The Broadway and 2-level (148,900 square foot) Sears. An official dedication was held October 24, 1979.

The third anchor of the addition, a 2-level (115,000 square foot), Los Angeles-based Bullock's, opened its doors October 2, 1980. With the enlargement, PLAZA CAMINO REAL encompassed 1,148,400 leasable square feet and assumed the position of largest shopping center in San Diego County. It held this distinction until FASHION VALLEY MALL was enlarged, to 1,305,000 leasable square feet, in 1981.

North County shopping venues included the aforementioned ESCONDIDO VILLAGE MALL (1964) {15.6 miles southeast, in Escondido} and NORTH COUNTY FAIR (1986) {16.7 miles southeast, also in Escondido}. Eventually, CARLSBAD COMPANY STORES-CARLSBAD PREMIUM OUTLETS (1997) {2.9 miles south, in Carlsbad} and FORUM CARLSBAD (2004) {8.1 miles southeast, also in Carlsbad} joined the fold.

In the meantime, PLAZA CAMINO REAL was given a large-scale makeover during 1989, which included new tile flooring and escalators. A glass elevator was installed in the Penney's Court, along with innovative water fountains in front of the May Company and Sears mall entrances. The Broadway Court was refitted with a unique mechanical clock.

Anchor rebrandings at PLAZA CAMINO REAL commenced with the conversion of May Company, to Robinsons-May, on January 31, 1993. The Broadway and Bullock's stores were "Macy-ated" May 31, 1996. The Broadway became a Women's Store, with Bullock's being refashioned into a Macy's Men's & Home Store.

Meanwhile, in 1994, Australia-based Westfield Holdings had acquired the mall. They rebranded it WESTFIELD SHOPPINGTOWN PLAZA CAMINO REAL in late 1998, dropping the "SHOPPINGTOWN" reference in June 2005.

Robinsons-May was shuttered in March 2006. The building would sit vacant for 7 years. Meanwhile, Steve & Barry's University Sportswear opened in a West Wing space (adjacent to Sears) in September 2006. This store closed in late 2008, being replaced by Comics 'N Stuff.

At this time, WESTFIELD PLAZA CAMINO REAL housed one hundred and forty-eight stores and services. The proprietors "down under" announced a plan for its revitalization in 2009, which ended up being delayed by The Great Recession.

This project would have converted the vacant Robinsons-May into a megaplex cinema. A "Dining Terrace", new specialty shops and three freestanding restaurants would also have been built. Moreover, the circa-1980s interior and exterior would have been given a much-needed upgrade. Work was scheduled to get underway in early 2011.

However, Westfield delayed remodeling its PLAZA CAMINO REAL property and invested heavily in the renovation of two other Greater San Diego shopping hubs, namely WESTFIELD UTC (University Towne Centre) and WESTFIELD NORTH COUNTRY.

In June 2013, Westfield announced plans for the long-delayed renovation of its PLAZA property. The first phase would entail repurposing the vacant May Company structure, which would be slightly expanded and divided into five tenant spaces.

The first would be devoted to a San Ramon, California-based 24 Hour Fitness, utilizing 40,000 square feet as a SuperSport-format club. This would include a basketball court, state-of-the-art training area, lap pool and exterior aquatic area. Work commenced in late 2013, with the facility opening to the public on October 25, 2014.

The second large section of the old May Company structure became the Regal Carlsbad 12. It replaced the Plaza Camino Real 5, which was shuttered in November 2014. The new Regal megaplex showed its first features December 11, 2014. It was joined by an adjacent restaurant Streetscape, which featured Pizza Press, Panera Bread, Luna Grill and Peet's Coffee & Tea.

A subsequent renovation of the remainder of the mall was announced in April 2014. This 200 million dollar project would entail tearing the roof off of the entire mallway and creating an upscale  "coastal beach chic" shopping and entertainment hub.

The revitalized complex, completely open-air, would be divided into five "zones"; Ocean, Sandbar, Wave, Lagoon and Bluff & Flats. Amenities such as a Restaurant Row and Dining Terrace, microbrewery, bowling alley, "virtual reality attraction", gourmet grocer and pharmacy were mentioned as possible tenants.

Government approval was granted for the second phase renovation, with construction scheduled to begin in early 2015. However, the start of the project was delayed. In the meantime, a new mall moniker was bestowed, WESTFIELD CARLSBAD.

In a total turn of events, Westfield sold "Carlsbad Mall" in November 2015, with New York City-based Rouse Properties taking the helm. They changed the name of the mall again; its second official name change since 2014. The complex would be known, henceforth, as SHOPPES AT CARLSBAD.

Rouse revised the mall renovation plan. The roof over the mallway would be retained. Interior and exterior spaces would be given "comprehensive cosmetic upgrades" and new stores and services would be added. The first of these, Dave & Buster's Grand Sports Cafe, held its grand opening in January 2017. New Cheesecake Factory, Yard House restaurant and Zara stores followed.


Comment posts by "Unkown", Randy, Paul B. and "Sandman619" (The Westfield Group)
The Los Angeles Times
San Diego Union Tribune