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Owner's Plan Seeks to Return Eastland Mall to Its Glory Days : Shopping: Under the proposal, the upper level of the faltering center would be gutted and rebuilt. High-volume stores would occupy the renovated space.

March 02, 1995|CHIP JACOBS | SPECIAL TO THE TIMES

With its debut 38 years ago, the Eastland Shopping Center vaulted into Southland history books as one of the region's first malls.

Except for West Los Angeles, no single locale could boast so many stores clustered in one place, and shoppers would routinely trek 25 miles from the San Fernando Valley or San Bernardino County to reach the West Covina mall.

Since then, hammered by competition from more-modern shopping areas, its dated appearance and the loss of a major department store, Eastland has become a retail dinosaur, despite its prime location off the busy San Bernardino (10) Freeway.

Now the mall's owner and West Covina officials are trying to restore Eastland to a new form of glory. The mall's owner, CenterMark Properties, is proposing to recast the mall as an assemblage of high-volume, low-price retailers catering to a price-conscious and do-it-yourself clientele.

CenterMark has negotiated a deal for Target to locate a 120,000-square-foot department store at the old May Co. site, officials confirmed. Accompanying it would be six to eight smaller stores, probably retailers in the consumer electronics, linens, sporting goods and home repair businesses.

Under preliminary plans submitted to the city, the mall's upper level would be gutted and redesigned to accommodate the new stores. The facade would be modernized with pastel colors, said Chet Yoshizaki, West Covina redevelopment manager.

The $35-million to $40-million project goes before the Planning Commission in April. The 600,000-square-foot mall, with a vacancy rate of more than 30%, generated $670,000 in sales tax revenue last year, and officials believe a successful renovation could double that.

In recent years, Eastland has been eclipsed by other malls, most notably the Santa Anita Fashion Center, the Puente Hills Mall and the Plaza at West Covina. CenterMark also owns and runs the Plaza, which underwent a $100-million renovation several years ago.

In 1992, May Co., the mall's original developer and longtime anchor store, relocated to the Plaza. Since then, several other shops have closed, though the mall is still home to Mervyn's, an Office Depot and a Lucky supermarket.

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