Condos or Cocktails to Replace Sears in Montclair?
Now that the Sears store at Montclair Place is closing, the question becomes: What will take its place?
Councilman Bill Ruh, who’s also CVAR’s Director of Government Affairs, cited the North Montclair Specific Plan, which calls for housing, retail and transit.
“I would love to see a combination of something that involves housing and mixed-use,” Ruh said.
Mayor John Dutrey said that the owners of the mall, CIM Group, and Montclair City Hall have been discussing the potential loss of Sears for several years.
“We will make an announcement when additional information is available,” CIM said in an email.
Sears announced on Nov. 8 the closure of the Montclair Place location, plus stores in West Covina, and San Bernardino, leaving a string of empty stores roughly along a stretch of the 10 Freeway corridor coming in February.
Sales Begin Dec. 2
Stores in Victorville, Moreno Valley, Palm Desert, Riverside, Temecula, North Hollywood and Los Angeles also will close. Out-of-business sales are slated to begin Dec. 2, announced Transformco, the company that earlier this year bought the remaining assets of Sears Holdings Inc.
Sears merchandise, such as appliances under the Kenmore brand and tools under Craftsman, are available at other stores, such as Lowe’s.
City Hall and retail economic firms seemed to agree that the three-story department store in Montclair most likely would be split among different tenants. Finding a single occupant for a building that large would be difficult.
A Costco is located in Montclair and a Walmart Superstore is in nearby Ontario, perhaps nixing the idea that a discount big-box store can fill the space at the mall.
“Either the entire building gets demolished or a portion does,” Mayor Dutrey said. “There may have to be more entertainment, restaurants and some retail on that site.”
Plan for Luxury Condos Stalled
A plan submitted to CIM Group two years ago called for demolishing the Sears and building luxury condos, with retail on the ground floor. But that proposal may no longer be viable, said City Manager Edward Starr, because it never reached the city’s planning department. The city is developing a Montclair Place District Specific Plan that will be introduced to the City Council in early 2020, he said.
The mall, which is undergoing a major renovation, recently changed its name from Montclair Plaza to Montclair Place. The old Broadway Department store was demolished and in its place a new AMC Theatres and entertainment complex is being built.
Besides housing, another option is to turn to entertainment venues, said Burt P. Flickinger III, managing director of the Strategic Resource Group, which studies retail trends in Southern California.
“It is possible for them to build a mini theater for e-gaming and e-sports,” Flickinger said. “These are becoming the most popular entertainment venues in the region.”
Other possibilities include a bowling alley or a Dave & Buster’s, an arcade/restaurant usage, he said.
A Viable Venue Along I-10
If CIM had to fill a Sears in south Chicago or Detroit, it would have a much harder task, Flickinger said. But in the Inland Empire, the economy is healthy and the heavy population of families, including people who own pets, makes it a more viable shopping venue. Also, being located along the busy 10 Freeway between eastern Los Angeles and San Bernardino counties makes the site extremely visible.
“The good thing for CIM is that this is one of the best areas in the country for retail, entertainment and restaurants,” Flickinger said.