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May Co. to Pull Out of The City Mall Next Month : Retailing: Loss of one of the mall's two anchor stores spurs owners' search for new ways to attract new customers.

June 25, 1991|CHRIS WOODYARD | TIMES STAFF WRITER

ORANGE — The May Co. will close its department store in The City mall and office complex next month, and the owners of the complex said they have hired a consultant to help decide how to revive the struggling mall.

The complex is also losing one of its major office tenants, TRW Inc., which is moving its credit data-processing operations to a new Orange office building.

The City is a 21-year-old mall that has been buffeted by competition from three super malls--MainPlace/Santa Ana, Brea Mall and South Coast Plaza in Costa Mesa.

The City ranked 11th in taxable sales among the 13 malls in Orange County in 1988-89, the latest figures available. Besides the mall, The City complex includes 1.9 million square feet of office space, the 460-room Doubletree Hotel, 10 movie theaters and several restaurants.

With upscale shoppers deserting, the county's smaller malls have been forced to study whether they can transform their appeal to a different type of shopper.

"We're not really sure what we are going to do. We're doing lots of studies from a retail perspective to see what our market will be here," said William M. Durslag, general manager of The City.

The complex's owners, Tishman West Co. and Metropolitan Life Insurance Co., have hired the architectural and planning firm of RTKL Associates Inc. of Los Angeles to develop a new master plan for the 21-year Orange landmark.

May Co., one of two department stores that anchor the mall, opened a store at the nearby MainPlace/Santa Ana mall in April. May Co. Chairman Edgar S. Mangiafico said the MainPlace store drew away shoppers from The City store.

He said the decision to close the store was "a mutual agreement" based on the desire of the mall's owners to make way for redevelopment and May Co.'s interest in not increasing its customer counts at the expense of one of its own stores.

Durslag said the master plan could take more than a year to complete. While other malls have considered converting to discount centers, Durslag said The City mall has to make sure to serve the needs of its office clients in its mix of dining and shopping.

Al Gobar, a Brea retail consultant, said that repositioning the mall might be difficult. He noted that Anaheim Plaza is working on a redevelopment plan to fill its empty storefronts, and Fashion Square in La Habra was completely torn down to make way for a discount center.

"I would be hard-put to say what they can do," he said of Orange mall.

Greg Mickelson, a retail broker for Grubb & Ellis in Newport Beach, said The City will clearly "need another kind of anchor tenant (department store) to serve as a draw to what little retail they have left."

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