THE ESPLANADE
East Vineyard Avenue and North Oxnard Boulevard
Oxnard, California

Ventura County's first fully-enclosed shopping center was built on a 56 acre plot, situated 2.3 miles north of center city Oxnard. The site was adjacent to the Ventura Freeway / US 101, whose final sections between Oxnard and downtown Los Angeles were opened to traffic in 1962.

Construction of THE ESPLANADE mall got underway with the groundbreaking for its south anchor store, which took place September 16, 1968. The 3-level (249,300 square foot) Sears was designed by the firm of Burke, Kober, Nicolais & Archuleta. The store welcomed its first shoppers on February 1, 1970.

A single-level mall extended northwest of Sears. It was built by Chicago-based Homart Development and Buena Park's John S. Griffin. The shopping center, also designed by Burke, Kober, Nicolais & Archuleta, opened, with thirty-six initial stores, March 19, 1970.

Charter ESPLANADE tenants included Harris & Frank gentlemen's and ladies' apparel, Silverwoods men's wear, Loops Cafeteria, Pet World, Nobby Shops ladies' wear, Anita Shops ladies' wear, Raj of India Imports and an S.H. Kress 5 & 10.

A 2-level (150,000 square foot) May Company California was designed by Pasadena's Ladd & Kelsey Architects. The store began business November 2, 1970. Eighteenth in the Los Angeles-based May Stores division, its exterior featured windowless walls which swept in wide S curves. The interior featured "warm and personal" lighting, "unusual" carpeting and "exciting" wallpaper.

The store's dedication was officiated by Geoffrey Swaebe (May Company California Chairman of the Board) and Howard Goldfeder (President and General Manager of the chain). The grand opening celebration concluded with the release of a flock of white doves, which was customary at May Company of California store openings.

On the Mall Level of the store, surrounding its 32 foot-high Rotunda area, were men's, women's and children's apparel and a Budget Shop. The Upper Level included departments devoted to furniture, floor coverings, window accessories, garden and patio furniture and flowers, with a country style cook shop, wine cellar, bath shop and toyland. There was also the "quaint" Danish-style Maykro Restaurant.

THE ESPLANADE mall enveloped 650,000 leasable square feet and seventy stores and services. The Mann Theatres 1-2-3 showed its first features December 25, 1974. This incarnation of the theater was in operation until October 17, 1991.

During a minor mall renovation in early 1984, the shuttered Loops Cafeteria on Center Court was sectioned into a 5-bay Food Court. A subsequent interior facelift of the mall was completed in 1990.

May Company became the only anchor store in the history of the mall to be rebranded. On January 31, 1993, it received a Robinsons-May nameplate. Meanwhile, the vacant movie house was being renovated. It re-opened, as the American Family Theatres Esplanade Cinema 3, on May 21, 1993. The venue was acquired -and rebranded- by Regency Theatres in April 1999. It showed its final features in February of the year 2000.

Ventura County contained two shopping malls other than THE ESPLANADE; BUENAVENTURA CENTER (1964) {4.3 miles northwest, in Ventura} and OXNARD (TWIN CENTERS) MALL (1966) {3.7 miles south, in Oxnard}. The latter was a secondary shopping complex which provided little competition for THE ESPLANADE. Such was not the case with BUENAVENTURA CENTER.

The two primary Ventura County malls coexisted peacably until the mid-1990s, when it was revealed that the BUENAVENTURA property was poised to begin a major expansion which, in essence, would snatch the two anchor stores from THE ESPLANADE.

Contentious litigation between Oxnard / THE ESPLANADE and Ventura / BUENAVENTURA CENTER erupted in May 1995. The slew of lawsuits continued until their resolution in August 1998. In the end, the mall in Ventura prevailed. Sears and Robinsons-May would move from THE ESPLANADE to a newly-remodeled (and renamed) PACIFIC VIEW MALL.

Homart Development had established majority interest in THE ESPLANADE in early 1995, and sold the property to San Francisco's Scheidt Family. In December 1999, it was resold to San Francisco-based M & H Realty Partners.

A renovation scenario, proposing the addition of two anchors, a second level of retail and complete refurbishment of the existing mall, was nixed. It was decided to demolish the shopping center in its entirety and start from scratch. The wrecking ball was brought in in August of 2000.

The "blighted" shopping center was replaced by an entirely open-air power plaza, known as ESPLANADE CENTER. The first group of stores opened in September 2001. These included Cost Plus World Market and Bed, Bath & Beyond. Phase Two stores, including a 1-level (136,000 square foot) Home Depot, were dedicated in February 2002.

The 492,800 square foot complex, completed in the spring of 2003, housed thirty-eight tenants. In addition to Cost Plus World Market, Bed, Bath & Beyond and Home Depot, there were Staples, Nordstrom Rack, Borders Books and T.J. Maxx.

In October 2003, ESPLANADE CENTER was sold to a joint venture of the Australia-based Centro Property Group and Watt Commercial Properties of Santa Monica. New York City's Blackstone Real Estate Partners acquired the American portfolio of Centro in June 2011. In the following September, they formed a new retail management entity known as the Brixmor Property Group.

Sources:

The Oxnard Press-Courier
http://www.centro.com
http://www.icsc.org
http://www.scribd.com
www.cinematreasures.org
http://www.cinematour.com
Comment post by Greg


FAIR USE OF THE ESPLANADE IMAGES:

The graphics, renderings and photograph from The Oxnard Press-Courier and Online Archive of California illustrate a key moment in the mall's history that is described in the article. The graphic images are of lower resolution than the originals (copies made would be of inferior quality). All 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 the images 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.