Owners of the Esplanade are close to a deal to sell the mall, according to Sotelo. If the sale proceeds, tenants will not likely be in danger of losing their stores, at least in the near future, one official said.
But because Robinsons-May still owns its portion of the mall and is under no time constraint to divest itself of the space, the city may find it difficult to attract a new major retailer, leaving the mall's future unclear.
While most observers agree that Pacific View will have a devastating effect on the county's most beleaguered mall, there is less of a consensus on what it will do to the county's reigning mall.
Becky Bresson, manager of The Oaks, said she expects the renovated Ventura mall to complement The Oaks' selection of stores--some of which overlap. She isn't concerned about the loss of sales from west county residents who will no longer choose to trek east.
There's a cachet to The Oaks that the west county may never achieve, said William Fulton, a Ventura resident and author of "The Reluctant Metropolis," which chronicles Southern California urban planning.
"If you talk to sophisticated shoppers, they'll say the Macy's in Ventura is not the same as the one in Thousand Oaks," he said. "And stores continue to believe that the west county is more downscale. If you look at demographics, there's some validity to that."
But others can't see Ventura residents heading to Thousand Oaks for what they can now get in their hometown, which has to affect The Oaks. And, according to Kyser, there is always plenty of interest in a new mall.
"[Pacific View] is the new kid on the block," he said. "There's excitement, and everyone will want to go there."
While many argue the merits of one mall over another, others, like Fulton, see no future for malls at all and say the renovation may hurt the city's efforts downtown.
Retailing is either heading in one of two directions, according to Fulton. It is going upscale and toward the shopping experience offered by renewed downtowns, such as Pasadena's Old Town or Santa Monica's Third Street Promenade, he said, or geared entirely to price, such as the successful Camarillo outlets.
"It seems like department stores are circling the wagons," Fulton said. "I really believe that the premium outlets have them cornered. I would be willing to bet money that they won't succeed."
The hallowed Sherman Oaks Galleria wilted. Glendale Fashion Center trudged through its last days.
That's also in part because recreational shopping is dead, lost to two-career families and longer working hours, Kyser said.
But Pacific View has a good outlook, he said, thanks to the increasing number of stores and the very insurance Oxnard's Esplanade didn't have--four anchors.
Certainly any retailer open now is likely to see a good season, Schniepp said. Consumer confidence is high. Unemployment is low. The money should just roll right in.
"This mall is opening at the perfect time for shopping," Kyser said. "It will get off to one heck of a start."