Changes are afoot at Stoneridge Shopping Center.
If you've frequented the mall over the past couple of weeks, you may have noticed that some stores have closed while others have sprouted up. And the trend will continue.
Since its acquisition last July by Simon Property Group, the shopping plaza, which was formerly owned by the Mills Corporation, has moved in some new tenants and said goodbye to others.
"Stoneridge is in a good position because it has good occupancy rates of between 97 and 98 percent," said Carrie Williams, director of marketing for the mall. "When a tenant leaves, another fills its place."
And this spring, some well-recognized lessees will be moving into the 1.3-million-square-foot indoor mall. H&M, a Swedish clothing store selling the latest career and casual fashions, will take up 16,000 square feet of space at the north end of the center, near JCPenney. The space was previously habited by Grace's Hallmark on the second level and Radio Shack, McDonald's and Cinnamon on the lower level. The two-story H&M is expected to include women's, men's and teen's clothing, according to Williams. Before Stoneridge, the closest H&M stores were located at Broadway Plaza in Walnut Creek and The Great Mall in Milpitas--another Simon Property Group shopping center. It is expected to open in late spring or early summer, Williams said. A different Hallmark is still located on the lower level.
Another clothing store for the younger set is Buckle, which is moving into the space formerly occupied by Bombay, a retailer of furniture, home accessories and wall decor. Bombay filed for bankruptcy last fall and will be closing all of its stores, including the Stoneridge store, which has already closed. Buckle, a young men's and women's clothing store, will open sometime this spring.
With the H&M moving in, McDonald's has relocated to a different site in the mall with under the brand of its prototype store McCafe. The store, which sells specialty coffee, gourmet cakes, muffins and other snacks, opened in January. Other recent openings include Just Dogs Gourmet, a specialty dog bakery and accessory store, Rocky Mountain Chocolate Factory and ice cream shop Haagen Daz.
Family restaurant Sweet River Bar and Grill, which was located adjacent to the new and highly-successful P.F. Chang's China Bistro and The Cheesecake Factory, closed recently. Williams said she didn't think the closure was related to the two popular eateries which opened last year, adding the owner chose not to renew his lease.
"There are a lot of interested parties (who want that space)," Williams said, but so far, a replacement for that site hasn't been named.
Some plans that haven't gotten off the ground are expansions to Nordstrom department store and parking areas. While the mall's previous owners obtained city approvals for the plans, which at one time included a movie theater, the project was put on hold due to Mills Corp.'s financial difficulties.
Since Simon took over, Williams said "the intention is definitely to move forward with Nordstrom, the parking and (future) restaurants," but added that Simon didn't want to immediately assume the same plans that had been in place when they acquired Stoneridge.
With the takeover also came the appointment of a new general manager for the shopping center. Michael Finley, who has been with such Simon properties as Hilltop Mall in Richmond, Bay Street in Emeryville and The Great Mall, took the reins six months ago.
One thing that will remain fairly the same is the organization of food offerings. When asked why Stoneridge is one of the few malls without a food court, Williams said the operator designed the mall that way and there are no plans currently to change that.
With all of the changes taking place at Stoneridge, many are expected to be announced in the coming year, including an update to the Nordstrom and parking lot expansions, Williams said.
The marketing department is always seeking new tenants that will generate sales and satisfy consumer demand. One of the types of stores that is most requested by customers is a book store, which Williams said has proven difficult for Stoneridge to court because many are either not doing well financially or have trade area requirements regulating the distance between competitors.
Stoneridge will continue to keep the moderate-level retail it's known for, while also adding a few higher-end stores, Williams said.
"Right now, I think Stoneridge has a good merchant mix," she said. "I don't see Stoneridge becoming a luxury property."