PUENTE HILLS MALL
South Azusa Avenue and Colima Road
City of Industry, California

Plans for an eastern San Gabriel Valley shopping hub were announced in August 1972. A fully-enclosed venue was to be built by a joint venture of El Segundo, California's Ernest W. Hahn Incorporated and Western Harness Racing, Incorporated.

The 40 million dollar PUENTE HILLS MALL was to encompass 2 levels and 1,180,200  leasable square feet. The center was to occupy a 94 acre tract, located 21.7 miles east of center city Los Angeles. The site was adjacent to the recently-opened Pomona Freeway.

The first of four major department stores, a 3-level (160,000 square foot), Los Angeles-based The Broadway, was dedicated February 18, 1974. A 2-level (129,000 square foot) Sears opened April 17, 1974. At around the same time, a 2-level (150,000 square foot) J.C. Penney and 2-level (158,000 square foot), Los Angeles-based J.W. Robinson's began business.

The completed PUENTE HILLS MALL housed one hundred and twenty-five stores and services. Charter tenants included Harris & Frank men's wear, Florsheim Shoes, Rebel Shops men's wear, Richman Brothers men's wear, The Gap, Security Pacific Bank, and Pasadena Federal Savings. There were also several outparcel businesses, such as a Sears Auto Center, Broadway Tire Center, Penney's Auto Center and a Bank Of America branch.

The freestanding American Multi-Cinema Puente Mall 6 opened December 22, 1974. This multiplex was joined by a second venue, the AMC Puente Mall 4, which was completed in the late 1970s.

In 1984, PUENTE HILLS MALL was used during on-location filming for "Back To The Future". For the film, it became the "TWIN PINES MALL".

The primary retail rivals of PUENTE HILLS MALL were WHITTWOOD CENTER / MALL (1956) {4.8 miles southwest, in Whittier}, WEST COVINA FASHION PLAZA / WESTFIELD WEST COVINA (1962) {5 miles north, in West Covina} and BREA MALL (1975) {5.5 miles southeast, in Orange County}. The opening of MONTEBELLO TOWNE CENTER (1988) {9 miles northwest, in Montebello} substantially hurt business at the PUENTE HILLS complex...starting a long cycle of decline.

Meanwhile, the mall's first anchor store nameplate change transpired. May Company California absorbed J.W. Robinson's stores, with May and Robinson's locations rebranded as Robinsons-May on January 31, 1993. In 1996, Federated Department Stores of Cincinnati bought Los Angeles' The Broadway chain, with the PUENTE HILLS location being shuttered. The mall's slow downward spiral was hastened.

South San Francisco's Krausz Company acquired the shopping hub, now 50 percent vacant, in August 1996. A 35 million dollar renovation started, which included demolition of the vacant The Broadway store. It was replaced with a new Entertainment Wing, anchored by the American Multi-Cinema Puente Hills 20 and 8-bay Food Court. The state-of-the-art movie megaplex showed its first features April 18, 1997.

J.C. Penney's closing, in the fall of 1996, had caused the Southeast Wing of the mall to die. The vacant store was gutted and refashioned into a Power Center Wing, with tenants such as Burlington Coat Factory, Linens 'N Things and the Spectrum Club fitness center. These were in business by early 1999.

The mall's Center Court, originally featuring a polished granite fountain and octagonal skylight as its focal point, had been remodeled with an 84-year-old carousel in early 1991. This was removed during the 1996-1999 renovation and replaced by a dramatic solar spectrum apparatus. Known as Sundance, it redirected a ray of sunlight into Center Court, where there was now an aquatic feature with a stream, waterfall and koi pond.

Unfortunately, PUENTE HILLS MALL was soon in a second decline cycle. The property was sold, in May 2003, to a joint venture headed by Santa Ana, California's Passco Real Estate Enterprises. The retail hub changed hands again in November 2005, with ownership being established by Columbus, Ohio's Glimcher Realty Trust.

The September 2006 debut of a new Macy's, in the Robinsons-May location, did not help to improve the fortunes of the struggling shopping center. Glimcher Realty Trust embarked on a 16 million dollar renovation.

This consisted of the installation of new hardwood floors and carpeting, interior landscaping, updated soft seating, a family lounge and remodeled Food Court. The solar and water features in Center Court were also removed.

This renovation catered to the region's large Asian population. Certain aspects of the mall were redesigned to comply with "feng shui" ["fang-shway"], the ancient Chinese practice of building cities and structures to better integrate humans within their environment. The renovation and remarketing proved successful, as nearly all of the mall's one hundred and fifty-five store spaces were soon leased.

Over the years, Power Center Wing tenants have come and gone. Linens 'N Things gave way to Warehouse Furniture Outlet and then Round One Bowling & Amusement. The Spectrum Club re-opened as a 24 Hour Fitness. A Venetian Furniture Gallery became a Toys "R" Us.

In May 2014, the Simon Property Group created a spin-off Real Estate Investment Trust. Known as the Washington Prime Group, it merged with the Glimcher Realty Trust in early 2015. PUENTE HILLS MALL was sold to Arcadia, California's Kam Sang Company in May of the same year.

Sources:

"Puente Hills Mall" article on Wikipedia
Memories of Jeff Arellano
Los Angeles County, California property tax assessor website
www.glimcher.com (Glimcher Realty Trust)
www.retailtraffic.com
www.cinematreasures.org