There were high expectations for Plaza Pasadena when it opened in September, 1980, as a $100-million redevelopment project. The mall at 300 E. Colorado Blvd. was to be an architectural landmark and revitalize the city's economy.
It already had opponents, who objected to the city tearing down 1920s and Mediterranean-styled buildings along Colorado Boulevard to build it. The dispute sparked the creation of the preservationist group Pasadena Heritage. Even a decade later, ill feeling persists; some residents pride themselves on never having set foot in the mall.
And instead of being a shopping destination where customers while away their hours, the Plaza has become a place to run errands and do last-minute shopping. Workers from nearby City Hall and the county courthouse scoot to the mall, stay for 20 minutes, then zip back to work.
Concha Moreno, 25, a secretary in the Pasadena Superior Court building, is typical. "Most of us go down there, but it's only during our lunch hour," Moreno said. "It's so convenient."
While her co-workers pick up cards or gifts, Moreno said she buys most of her clothes at the Plaza. But on weekends, she shops the Glendale Galleria or malls closer to her Sunland home.
Other Pasadena shopping areas have developed independently. Old Pasadena to the west boasts trendy shops. The Hastings Ranch Shopping Center area near the 210 Freeway pulls in moviegoers with two multiscreen theaters.
South Lake Avenue, meanwhile, still serves the upscale, conservative crowd. Plaza Pasadena is consistently second to South Lake in gross retail sales.
The Hahn Co., which operates the Plaza, recognizes its niche. This holiday season, the mall gave out free shopping bags to encourage more purchases by errands-only shoppers. Most of the Plaza's sales occur in the last two weeks before Christmas, when shoppers run short of time, said Marketing Director Shayne Sherer. The mall also sponsors events geared to workers, such as career-image workshops.
With 125 stores anchored by JC Penney Co. and The Broadway, the Plaza has given up trying to replace its third major store, May Co., which closed last year. The space has been cut into smaller areas for lease.
Several publicized abductions and a pending multimillion-dollar lawsuit charging negligence in one of them have tarnished the mall's reputation. Throughout the holidays, the mall provided a unique free service: escorts to the garage for shoppers with packages.
PLAZA PASADENA PASADENA * Year opened: 1980
* Retail square footage: 571,000
* Anchor stores: JC Penney and The Broadway
* Number of stores: 125
* 1989-90 sales tax paid to city: $773,739
* % of city's sales tax revenue--4.7%
* Memorable feature: Located in Pasadena's Civic Center.