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(Franciso Kjolseth | The Salt Lake Tribune) Many new improvements have been made at Valley Fair Mall including current construction of a new Bed Bath and Beyond, a Megaplex Theater and improvements to the surrounding grounds in West Valley City.
Valley Fair Mall has risen from near-death experience
Growth » A decade after appearing to be doomed, West Valley City shopping center is experiencing a revival that’s generating much excitement.
First Published Mar 27 2014 07:14 am • Last Updated Mar 28 2014 02:27 pm

West Valley City • Call the Valley Fair Mall the Lazarus of shopping centers.

In 2004 and 2005, it was almost dead. Owned by an indifferent out-of-state real estate company, it looked as though it would be razed like the Cottonwood Mall and replaced by a few large box stores.

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But Valley Fair, which opened with great fanfare in 1969, refused to die despite benign neglect. When a shop closed, another tenant was usually there to take its place.

A combination of redevelopment agency investments by West Valley City, federal and state assistance, new local ownership in Satterfield Helm, work by brokers from Coldwell Banker Commercial Intermountain with experience in leasing Utah shopping centers and investments from national chains and local businesses such as the Larry Miller Group has brought Valley Fair back to life.

"The neighborhood and the city of West Valley has always adored and used that mall," said Richard Coles, vice president and associate broker for Coldwell Banker Commercial Intermountain, which has expertise in regional malls and represents more than 100 national retail tenants.

Consider that the construction of a new Costco, the replacement of the old Mervyn’s store with a popular Larry Miller Megaplex Theater, an indoor remodel that gave the inside a park-like feel with benches, brick floors and old-fashioned light posts and major additions on the west side of the original mall took place during one of the worst economic downturns in U.S. history and the shopping center’s rebirth is nothing short of amazing.

Consider these numbers:

• According to Beau Manwaring, senior leasing manager at Valley Fair Mall, traffic inside the shopping center is up 74 percent since 2009.

•Dollars per square foot on the inside of the mall, which is how the success of most centers of this type is measured, has increased 46 percent.

•Major franchises such as Bed Bath and Beyond and Ulta are currently building new stores on the west side but adjacent to the mall itself.

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•The new Olive Garden is one of the top performing restaurants in the national chain. The new Wells Fargo bank is the top branch in the state for transaction volumes. Stores such as Ross and JC Penney consistently outperform similar stores nationally.

"I don’t know of another mall in the country that has pulled out of a death spiral," said Manwaring. "Once you hit a certain dollars per square foot, it’s done and they scrape it, like Cottonwood Mall. This is the only one I know to pull out of it."

Valley Fair Mall does contain many of the same national chains seen in most malls, with Macy’s and JC Penney anchoring its south and north flanks. But what makes it unique is that a few local stores are included in the mix. This is also a mall where there are a few ethnic stores. It’s possible to see signs in Spanish and Chinese and hear a number of different languages spoken. The food court, though currently struggling with a few empty spots, features some local eateries. Tacos Daniel is set to occupy a spot soon.

Cheron Parker, who owns Fads N’ Fashions and Trinkets & Treasures inside the mall, said that there have been times when staying in business has been a struggle.

"I am happy about the changes they are making," she said. "Our customers like feeling that they get personalized attention. We put an outfit together for them. And Trinkets & Treasures has stuff you can’t find at other places … I am liking it better all the time."

Kearns’ teens Abby Zettler and Alexis Behunin are the kind of young customers most malls hope to attract.

"I think it’s a great place to hang out with friends," said Zettler, 13. "It’s a great place for weekends on Friday and Saturday. You have movies, food, shops and games."

"It’s a fun place to hang out on weekends with friends," added Behunin. "We go to new stores and eat."

Pamela Armenta, who works at the Osaka Japan food court location, has been coming to Valley Fair since high school.

"Everything is changing," she said. "There are new stores. It’s not the same as six years ago. It’s a little slow, but it is coming back a lot. It is more friendly and reviving West Valley again."

And the mall continues to surprise even its owners.

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