Big mall makeover in the works

January 28, 2010 7:48:25 AM PST
A big mall makeover is in the works for a once popular shopping spot in far west Houston. Developers want people in the community to help them make decisions about the changes. West Oaks Mall off Highway 6 and Westheimer has been around since the 1980s.

Homeowners and residents say this has been a long time coming. While they've watched the West Oaks Mall decline in recent years, there is now a new sense of optimism. Patrons are excited that someone is investing in what was once considered the centerpiece of their neighborhood.

Nearly three years ago, bankruptcy sent the West Oaks Mall into a tailspin. Residents, who long considered it the focal point of their community, watched as the 1.1 million square foot shopping complex in west Houston slowly declined as tenant after tenant packed up and left.

"We sat there grinding our teeth wondering what's going to happen to the mall," said resident Mike Martin.

Something did happen and now West Oaks Mall is on the verge of a huge comeback. Last month, a Los Angeles company called Pacific Retail Capital Partners bought the mall for a reported $15 million. The new owners were in Houston Wednesday touring the property and formulating a game plan.

"It's still a growing area. The Eldridge area is still developing, the Grand Parkway area is still developing. So it's a great idea to revitalize it and get it going again," said resident Jackie Munson.

The owners, who've talked about partnering with the community to create a vision together, say they want to bring in new stores, but are keeping those plans under wraps for now.

In a written statement, one of the principal partners told us, "We're setting the stage now for re-development. This is the ground work. 2011 is when you'll see physical changes to the property. We want to make shopping relevant to the community. Bring in stores that people want."

Martin, who heads up the Greater Mission Bend Area Council, a consortium of about 60,000 homeowners, sees great things happening.

"I think it's going to do a lot to strengthen the economic foundation of this area," said Martin.

That's the hope here - that re-developing the mall will create a ripple effect and stop urban decay.

"As soon as people see that there is money coming in here, maybe they will be more opportunity for more businesses to come through," said resident Vishal Patel.

While nothing is set in stone, there's been talk of creating meeting spaces at the mall for residents to hold community meetings. The new owners say they intend to release more details about their plans for West Oaks Mall in the spring.