FASHION VALLEY CENTER
Friars and Fashion Valley Roads
San Diego, California

San Diego County's seventh -and final- 1960s shopping mall was developed on 78 acres, located 3 miles north of the Centre City. The plot was located west of the original northern terminus of the 7.1 mile Cabrillo Parkway. This highway had been dedicated in February 1948, as the first motor expressway in Greater San Diego.

The land on which FASHION VALLEY CENTER was eventually constructed was the site of Westgate Park, which occupied the northeast corner of the site. Opened April 28, 1958, the stadium served as the home field for the Pacific Coast League San Diego Padres. The team moved to larger quarters, at the newly-constructed San Diego Stadium, in 1968.

Plans for FASHION VALLEY CENTER were announced in December 1967, with an official groundbreaking held in the following year. The 50 million dollar, open-air complex was the second retail center developed by Ernest W. Hahn, Incorporated (the first being LA CUMBRE PLAZA in Santa Barbara).

FASHION VALLEY was officially dedicated October 13, 1969. Three of its department stores had held soft openings on September 8 of the same year. These were a 3-level (169,100 square foot), Los Angeles-based The Broadway, 3-level (171,600 square foot), Los Angeles-based J.W. Robinson's and 2-level (80,000 square foot), Long Beach-based Buffums'. A 2-level (253,200 square foot) J.C. Penney opened its doors November 18, 1970.

Inline stores included Joseph Magnin, Grodin's, John Hogan, See's Candies and Finell's Jewelers. An outparcel strip plaza, WEST VILLAGE SHOPS, was added to the northwest corner of the site. It included the American Multi-Cinema Fashion Valley 4.

Noteworthy as the first quadraplex in San Diego County, it showed its first features June 3, 1970. A second outparcel strip plaza, EAST VILLAGE SHOPS, was added, at the northeast corner of the site, later in the decade.

In August 1981, the first expansion of the mall proper was dedicated. Anchored by a 3-level (150,400 square foot) Nordstrom and 3-level (105,100 square foot) Neiman Marcus, the 15 million dollar addition consisted of 2 retail levels. Three parking garages were included in the renovation project.

FASHION VALLEY now encompassed 1,305,000 leasable square feet and one hundred and thirteen stores and services. It trumped Carlsbad's PLAZA CAMINO REAL as the largest shopping center in Greater San Diego. This title was held until 1983, when MISSION VALLEY CENTER was enlarged to 1,572,800 leasable square feet.

Competitors of FASHION VALLEY were the aforementioned MISSION VALLEY CENTER (1961) {less than a mile east}, as well as UNIVERSITY TOWNE CENTRE (1977) {7.3 miles northwest} and HORTON PLAZA (1985) {3.6 miles southwest}, all in San Diego.

Ernest W. Hahn sold all interest in FASHION VALLEY CENTER to the London, England-based Imperial Tobacco Corporation in 1985. In turn, a 50 percent share was sold to the New York City-based Equitable Life Assurance Society of the United States in 1986. They established a 100 percent stake in the complex in May 1995 and sold a fifty percent share to the Indianapolis-based Simon Property Group in October 2001.

Meanwhile, the first anchor store alteration had taken place in the early 1990s. Buffums' closed for good in May 1991. After substantial reconstruction, the store re-opened, as an I. Magnin, on September 27, 1992. This operation lasted until January 1994.

On March 31, 1995, Saks Fifth Avenue opened in the space, replacing a MISSION VALLEY CENTER store shuttered in July 1994. Meanwhile, J.W. Robinson's had been converted to a Robinsons-May on January 31, 1993. The Broadway was "Macyated" on May 1, 1996.

FASHION VALLEY, the preeminent style conscious shopping venue in San Diego, was in need of a makeover in order to remain competitive. A renovation plan was conceptualized in 1992 and submitted for city approval early in 1993.

Official sanction of the renovation was granted in November 1994, with construction commencing in January 1996. Considered the largest build-over remodel in United States history, the stores in the existing structure were to remain open during the 220 million dollar reconstruction process.

First off, The Broadway / Macy's was expanded to 199,100 square feet, Robinsons-May to 211,600 square feet and Nordstrom to 220,400 square feet (taking out a section of the adjacent, west parking garage in the process).

Secondly, the circa-1969 mall structure had a 280,000 square foot, Second Level added, bringing it inline with the 2-level (circa-1981) Nordstrom-Neiman Marcus wing. The new upper floor would add ninety-seven stores and services to the retail roster. It would include the 8-bay Cafe Terrace, a cosmopolitan version of the traditional shopping mall food court, as well as an 18-screen megaplex theater.

During the massive mall renovation, Riverwalk Drive, running along the south side of the mall site, was rerouted. The street was moved southward, with an expanded sewer line installed under an elevated guideway for the 6.1 route mile Mission Valley West extension of the San Diego Trolley.

A So-Cal style, Mission-Mediterranean motif was used for the reconstruction of FASHION VALLEY. Valet parking areas were installed at the main entrances off Friars Road and Riverwalk Drive. The mall structure was graced with columns, towers, curving stairways, ramps and new landscaping. Moreover, five new parking garages were built on the south side of the complex.

When the construction dust finally settled, FASHION VALLEY comprised 1,735,900 leasable square feet and housed two hundred and ten stores and services. The shopping center surpassed its nearby retail rival, MISSION VALLEY CENTER, and recaptured its status as the largest shopping center in -or around- San Diego.

A 50-dollar-per-plate re-opening celebration was held October 9, 1997. It featured entertainment from Bruce Hornsby and the Range. The San Diego Trolley's Fashion Valley Transit Center station, connected via skywalk to the mall's southwest parking garage, was dedicated November 23, 1997. The American Multi-Cinema Fashion Valley 18 showed its first features May 23, 1998.

Robinsons-May was shuttered in March 2006. The store re-opened, as San Diego's first Bloomingdale's, November 18 of the same year. The most recent anchor alteration at FASHION VALLEY involved Saks Fifth Avenue, which was shuttered July 17, 2010.

The building was divided. Half of the first level was sectioned into inline stores such as Burberry, Salvatore Ferragamo, Emporio Armani and Ted Baker. The remainder of the first level, and all of the second, became a (62,800 square foot), Los Angeles-based Forever 21. This store began business December 17, 2011.

These store openings were accompanied by a 15 million dollar, mall-wide face lift that added fountains to the Macy's and Bloomingdale's courts, as well as new soft seating areas, lighting, flooring and landscaping. The Cafe Terrace Food Court was also spruced-up. The renovation project got underway in July 2010 and was completed in September 2011.

Sources:

The San Diego Union-Tribune
www.retailtraffic.com
www.floodgap.com
http://www.cahighways.com
Comment posts from "Hushpuppy212" and Randy
www.cinematreasures.org
www.sandiegomagazine.com
www.sandiegometro.com
www.simon.com (Simon Property Group)
"Fashion Valley Mall" article on Wikipedia