Westfield Vancouver mall energized by makeover

Addition of Cinetopia draws new patrons, and stores, to local shopping center

By Cami Joner, Columbian retail & real estate reporter

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Westfield Vancouver mall

Westfield Vancouver Mall Grand reopening set for Oct. 19

Fashion shows, giveaways and live musical performances are among the celebrations planned for the mall's grand reopening, a celebration that will start with a ceremony at 9:30 a.m. Oct. 19 in the courtyard outside Nordstrom.

The 35-year-old mall opened in January 1977 to 12,000 shoppers eager to explore the smaller, 93-store venue on a land tract that was then on Vancouver's northeastern outskirts.

The mall underwent its first expansion, which was completed in June 1979 with a slate of new shops and a new anchor, J.C. Penney's department store.

In 1993, a $17 million remodel and expansion added the food court to the mall, the same year Prudential Insurance Co. of America announced plans to sell its 50 percent interest in the venue for $1 billion to a group of investors that included Westfield Holdings Ltd. of Australia.

According to Westfield officials, the company regularly reinvests in its 108 regional shopping centers in the United Kingdom, Australia, New Zealand, the U.S. and Brazil.

For example, the company in 2008 completed a $240 million renovation of Seattle's Westfield Southcenter mall and a $270 million remodel of the Westfield Galleria at Roseville in the Sacramento, Calif., metropolitan area.

— Cami Joner

Get ready, Clark County shoppers.

Westfield Vancouver mall will hold a grand re-opening later this month that you just might want to take in.

Especially if your last visit was ages ago.

The mall's multimillion-dollar remodel and its most coveted tenant — the Cinetopia Vancouver Mall 23 multiplex theater with the largest movie screen on the West Coast — are paying off in terms of attracting new retail tenants aimed at the urban-chic crowd, said Chris Yates, marketing manager.

"We've broadened the retail mix to attract that demographic," he said. "And everyone from the kids to the grandparents to the moms and dads."

Invitations to the Oct. 19 event aren't just for those loyal customers who come to walk the track and buy cosmetics. Westfield wants to see everyone — from teen fashionistas to 20- and 30-something hipsters. Their boomer-aged parents are welcome, too, say mall officials, who've spent months wiping away the 1990s decor inside Vancouver's biggest shopping venue west of Interstate 205 at state Highway 500.

Where the old mall's outdated block pillars and flooring screamed for a makeover, its sleek new interior heeds the call with a less-cluttered, open-air feel meant to rival the trendiest mall on the Oregon side of the Columbia River.

Yates said foot traffic has increased by double digits since mall remodelers finished up at the end of 2011. The numbers increased once again with Cinetopia's summertime opening.

"Overall mall traffic and sales have both seen double-digit growth," Yates said.

New stores galore

New clothing stores aimed at the young professionals include G by Guess, White House Black Market, Papaya, Etiquette and Express. The mall's Forever 21 store also has been expanded. Westfield plans to add Loft, a favorite among young career women.

Mallgoers can buy tea at the new Teavana, skin care products at the new Body Shop store and exotic imports at the new Earthbound Trading Co.

Starbucks junkies can sit inside the coffee shop's newly expanded and revamped store outside Nordstrom.

Hungry mall visitors can dine at new food court addition Pita Pit or at Sushi Express, while Cinetopia's Brewtopia restaurant will appeal to shoppers who want a bar-and-grill atmosphere.

Yates said the mall will welcome more new stores this fall. For example, comfort footwear retailer The Walking Co.

"When your landlord is making improvements it entices you to come in," he said, adding that mall occupancy has risen from an 80 percent occupancy rate before the remodel to about 90 percent now.

"We have about 140 businesses," Yates said.

Westfield officials call Cinetopia the "crown jewel" of the 18-month mall makeover.

"It's a model that really is drawing the Portland crowd," Yates said, adding that Vancouver-based Cinetopia has verified this by tracking the source of its online ticket sales. "They've seen it at their box office."

The 23-screen movie complex features creature comforts, such as wide seats with more leg room, and huge movie screens designed to make going to the movies more exciting, said Lance Heisler, of Vox Public Relations for Westfield Vancouver mall.

"With the two 70-foot screens and the 80-foot screen, it's definitely bringing more foot traffic to the mall," he said.

Once there, moviegoers can check out a host of new stores aimed at young professionals.

"These are trendy, going out and going-to-work clothes," Heisler said. "We're really trying to get people to come see the mall, now that it's done."