A bold, new look, and
IF YOU HAVEN’T VISITED DEVARGAS CENTER IN A FEWWEEKS, you’re in for a surprise. The mall suddenly has interior (public space) seating for 228, many with electric andUSB plugs close at hand. And the central area, which had a Southwestern-theme concrete structure used to support Santa Claus and not much else, is now an open, bright plain with new carpets and lots of chairs, couches, and work stations. The paintings that were previously installed in the skylights were brought down and hung on a corner wall between Las Cosas Kitchen Shoppe and Pizza Etc., two of the mall’s 60 tenants.
“Previously we had about 34 benches, those old turquoise benches, but they were not meant for coming and enjoying,” said Katy Fitzgerald, senior project manager for mall owner Fidelis Realty Partners. Interior designer May Wilson, who worked with Fitzgerald on the remodel, added, “And they were pretty mobile. You’d come in and things were redispersed.”
Fitzgerald said the cost of the work was “upward of a couple hundred thousand dollars, but it was worth it. And that’s the whole mall.” Was it DeVargas Center’s turn for investment by Fidelis? Or was the remodel possible because of good revenues from the now-thriving mix of businesses, many of which moved to the mall from Sanbusco Center? “Ten years ago, when I started, all of thiswas inmy head, but you can’t have one without the other. Ten years ago we needed a few more tenants and the owners weren’t sure about the retail direction. Sanbusco was pure luck. I couldn’t have asked for that to happen.
“One of the things that spurs it, because you have to make the moneywork, is that we have the bowling alley and entertainment center under construction in the old Traveler’s Market space and that will possibly open by December. People don’t realize it, but there’s 21,000 square feet back there and they’ll also have shuffleboard and bocce ball and vintage pinball machines. Then Office Depot will do their new store of the future where the movie theater was. They’ve wanted to have a smaller space. I’m excited about that. And we just sealed a dealwithHomeGoods [a TJX Companies discount home furnishings store] to take the Office Depot space.”
The Office Depot move is expected to occur next year, and Home Goods is slated to open in early 2020.
Last year’s move of Baskin & Robbins from the mall’s south side to the northeast was smart. “They were not doing well because they have a lot of nighttime business and that is not my nighttime side of the mall,” Fitzgerald said. “But nowthey’re by Panda Express, which does a brisk business, and Subway.
“I can’t just pick up tenants and move them and spend that money, so when Sanbusco happened, it allowed me to do the few moves that we needed to make way for Sanbusco and some of the anchors. Then it was time to say to the owners, ‘Now is the time to do this.’ We’ve worked with other designers, but no one had the vision to carry this out until MayWilson. This is a big vision.”
The changes happened quickly. It began with thewing that leads to Starbucks. The promise of a larger remodel was important to retailers like Nina Houle, owner of the On Your Feet shoe store. “I’d been talking to Nina for years. I love Nina, but she was just certain that this was not the place for her. But I kept on her, I told her about this vision, and I told herwewere going to do this, and one of the things I used to move her was telling her, ‘I’ll do your hallway first and you’ll know I’m serious.’” On Your Feet was the last of the eight Sanbusco retailers to move to DeVargas Center; the first was op.cit books.