Chico Mall gets a makeover

New owners remodel Chico’s largest shopping center

The new play area includes Hooker Oak and the Bidwell Mansion.

The new play area includes Hooker Oak and the Bidwell Mansion.

Photo By Kjerstin Wood

When Chico Mall changed ownership in July 2011, new owners Chico Mall Investors wanted to make changes and improvements immediately.

The renovations to the mall include more skylights, new flooring, remodeled restrooms and the addition of a children’s play area, said Chris Cullen, the mall’s general manager.

There will be a renovation celebration at the mall this Saturday and Sunday, Oct. 20 and 21, at which 500 attendees will receive free Chico Bags and three will win $500 mall gift cards, said Marketing Manager Lynette Myers.

Events within the two-day celebration include the Kent Family Magic Circus, a ribbon-cutting ceremony on Saturday at 11 a.m., and multiple dance performances from Kinetics Dance Academy, Momentum and Hype Dance Studio. The weekend will be topped off with a performance by bands from the Chico School of Rock on Saturday.

Among Cullen’s favorite renovations, she said, are the new chairs in the food court area, which are all made from recycled Coca-Cola bottles.

“One chair equals 111 bottles,” she said.

Despite the perception that the mall has been struggling, Chico Mall has always been “healthy,” Cullen said. The stores that have closed, like Gottschalks and Anchor Blue, have done so because their corporate owners have gone bankrupt, not because of the performance of their Chico locations.

General Growth, the company that had owned the Chico Mall since 2003, went into bankruptcy, but the misconception is that the Chico Mall itself went bankrupt, Cullen said. Chico was one of 220 properties that General Growth owned, and resources were limited, so the new owner’s focus on improvements was a big change.

In the coming years, Cullen said, people can expect to see more of the stores they want, including a Dick’s Sporting Goods store that will open in the late summer or early fall of 2013, filling the vacant west end of the mall that was once a Troutman’s department store.

Bringing in new stores depends not only on what vacancies the mall has, but also what a company’s availability is, so Cullen and her team work to build relationships with retailers.

Although the Chico Mall may not be viewed as a place for local businesses, she said, it supplies many jobs to community members, as well as hosting events like the Girl Scout sleepover or Butte Humane Society animal adoptions.

“There is a place for corporate stores in the community,” Cullen said. There’s room for all kinds of outlets, whether a national name and local franchisee or one of the local vendors that rent space during the holiday season, such as the Chico State Wildcat Store or All Fired Up Ceramics.

Myers says that the mall should be viewed as a community center, that they want people to enjoy what they have to offer and for it to be a “destination experience.”

The new play area is a part of trying to tie the community in with the mall, since it is entirely Chico themed, featuring the Honey Run Covered Bridge, Bidwell Mansion and Little Chico Creek.

“The person who built the play area for us had never seen anything like it,” Cullen said. “It’s very unique.”

There is also a tile mural just off the food court made by and dedicated to the children of Chico.

Next year is the 25th anniversary of the mall’s opening, and Cullen said that people can look forward to seeing more of the stores and restaurants they like attracted by the renovation.

The remodel is showing potential business that the owners are invested in Chico Mall, and that makes it more appealing, she said.