West Valley City • Despite all of the sleepless nights Jonny Arbuckle spent worrying about Valley Fair Mall during the recession, the mall is actually faring quite well today.
The mall’s redevelopment, which began in 2007 with the addition of Costco, has met projections despite a rocky beginning, said Arbuckle, vice president of development for Satterfield Helm Management Inc., which owns the mall.
In 2009, a confluence of problems hit the mall, he told the West Valley City Council Tuesday. Construction on the West Valley City TRAX line, the addition of the bus rapid transit lane and the widening of 3300 South blocked mall entrances and decreased the number of visitors.
Retail tenants also dropped contracts with the mall because of poor sales during the recession. And Mervyn’s, one of the mall’s three anchor stores, went bankrupt. Arbuckle said that loss was “extremely challenging to overcome.”
“We could see a path to success,” he said. “But we weren’t sure if we were going to survive long enough to execute it.”
A turnaround came when West Valley City invested $7 million in a redevelopment project that resulted in construction of a town center in front of the mall and new contracts with Ross and Petco.
Since 2009, the mall’s traffic has increased 74 percent from around 3 million visitors per year to more than 5 million in 2014. Retailers inside the mall reported an average sales increase of 46 percent.
Satterfield Helm was able to replace Mervyn’s with the Larry H. Miller Megaplex in 2012, which Arbuckle said brings unique traffic to the mall.
Currently, the redevelopment company is adding Ulta and Bed Bath & Beyond stores to open this fall. It’s also signed three new leases since securing those two stores.
The mall has long-term contracts with all but two of its national tenants, which include Zumiez, Verizon, Foot Locker and Macy’s, among others.
West Valley City Mayor Ron Bigelow called the Valley Fair Mall a “bright star” in the city. Councilman Tom Huynh said it’s “one of the amazing stories” for the area.
“This is great,” Huynh said. “We appreciate it very much, what [they] have done for us.”
Satterfield Helm is redesigning the mall’s interior to look like a streetscape — similar to The Gateway in downtown Salt Lake City — by varying the façades of storefronts. Arbuckle hopes the change will give the mall a “family-friendly” feel.
When the redevelopment is finished, the total cost will be around $100 million.
Arbuckle said the completion date depends on retailers signing leases, and occupancy currently is about 93 percent.
“It’s a true success story ... and we’re not done yet,” Arbuckle said. “We’ve come a long way and we have a long way left to go to finish the project.”