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New Name, New Face for Fashion Square

May 22, 1985|BRUCE HOROVITZ | Times Staff Writer

While Orange County malls try to outclass each other with costly remodeling, Fashion Square is about to add a new twist.

A name remodeling.

MainPlace/Santa Ana has been selected as the new name for Fashion Square upon completion of the planned $300-million redevelopment of the center in downtown Santa Ana. Construction of the proposed three-story, 1-million-square-foot shopping mall could begin as early as December, said Robert C. Little, vice president and general manager of JMB/Federated Realty of Cincinnati. The tentative completion date for the 200-store mall is fall of 1987.

Other area malls such as South Coast Plaza and Fashion Island are undergoing multimillion-dollar expansions, but Fashion Square is the first to change its name.

Little said the name change was prompted by the planned additions of hotels and office towers to the center. The present name has an exclusively retail connotation, he said.

But retail industry experts suspect the name change may have also been prompted by a keen desire to bolster image. Retail competition in Orange County has never been more fierce, and even Fashion Square merchants generally agree that the center's image has slipped severely in recent years.

Evening business at the center is virtually nil, some merchants complain, leading them to close their doors after dark. Others have simply moved out over the past few years.

Although the center's sales rose 4.8% during the first three quarters of 1984 compared to the same 1983 period, its annual sales of about $31 million pale in comparison to the $400 million posted by South Coast Plaza in Costa Mesa last year.

The mall, much of which will rise in what is currently a parking lot south of Bullock's, will feature a so-called "Festival Market" with exotic restaurants, a ranch market, and even a garden nursery, Little said. The adjoining project will also include two 450-room hotels and an undetermined number of office towers that will total 1.5 million square feet.

To keep the atmosphere of the present open-air mall, a giant skylight will stretch the length of the mall's rooftop.

Much of the present 30-store shopping center will eventually be demolished to make way for the office towers, Little said. But over the next year or two, full operations will continue at the 500,000-square-foot center on Main Street. Along with renovations at the center's major department stores, Bullock's and I. Magnin, two new anchors will be built, Nordstrom and Robinson's.

Little said the improved center will have greater appeal to nearby upper-middle-class residents. "You've got more than 1 million people in north county who are underserved in quality shopping," Little said. The average household income within a 20-mile radius of the center is $32,151, according to a Fashion Square study.

The center will "complement"--not compete--with South Coast Plaza, Little said. Certainly joint venture partner Henry T. Segerstrom, who is part owner of South Coast Plaza, does not want to see one project cannibalize the other.

That is yet to be seen. Eleanor Drewitz, manager of J. Herbert Hall Jewelers at Fashion Square, said that it was partly the rise of South Coast Plaza that led to "diminished business" at Fashion Square. Joan Buck, owner of Joan Buck, a Fashion Square dress shop, said that South Coast Plaza might lose some customers to the new MainPlace/Santa Ana name, "but it won't hurt them, that's for sure."

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