Renovation work at The Shoppes at Carlsbad mall has been proceeding quietly over the past few months, but a flurry of new openings this fall is getting center officials in the Christmas shopping spirit.
Three new retail stores, including Zara, and an Islands restaurant opened in late October. And November’s openings include two of the center’s most hotly anticipated new tenants: Cheesecake Factory and H&M clothing store, with more to come by year-end.
Brian Harper, CEO of mall owners Rouse Properties, said the goal of the revamp is to modernize and brighten the center, broaden its appeal to all ages and create a walkable, garden-like environment that enhances the all-around shopping experience.
“We are focused on creating an experience at the Shoppes at Carlsbad that people can’t get online,” he said.
Originally opened in 1969 as Plaza Camino Real, the mall houses more than 100 tenants in 1.1 million square feet of enclosed space. The mall is situated along the south side of Highway 78 between Cannon Road and El Camino Real.
In 2014, the mall’s former owner, Westfield Corp,. added several major tenants including a 24-Hour Fitness gym, a 12-screen Regal Cinemas and a Panera restaurant, but the mall’s interior corridors remained dated, dark and dingy.
In November 2015, Rouse Properties purchased the center for $170 million and announced a massive modernization plan that began last year. Over the past 15 months, the tile floors in the main corridors have been gradually replaced with natural stone and wood, and natural light has been added with the addition of glass skylight panels and domes.
New furniture and glass railings have also been added throughout the mall. And early this year, another major tenant opened, Dave & Buster’s restaurant and arcade.
Portions of the center remain a construction zone, but Harper said the internal renovations should be finished by the end of the year and external “street-scaping” improvements, including the new “restaurant row” area, should be finished by March.
Since construction started last year, Harper said foot traffic to the mall has grown every quarter and demand for tenant space is strong, with 60 leases totaling 262,000 square feet. Restaurants are a big part of that mix, he said, so choosing the right ones was important.
“What we are trying to do with our restaurant offering is fill the void in the market for a destination that offers a variety of different cuisines in one central location,” he said.
Here’s a look at what’s new at the Shoppes of Carlsbad and what’s coming soon:
Bath & Body Works: On Oct. 27, the personal care products retailer reopened its existing store in the center after a full revamp with the expansion of its White Barn home fragrance collection and a seasonal holiday products section.
American Eagle Outfitters & Aerie: The former American Eagle Outfitters clothing store reopened last week with a new floor layout that divides its space between a smaller AEO store and a new Aerie outlet next door, selling American Eagle’s Aerie line of women’s lingerie, lounge and casual wear.
Zara: On Oct. 26, the Spanish-born on-trend retailer of men’s, women’s and children’s clothing opened a 30,000-square-foot store on the center’s first floor near Dave & Busters. The store is the first Zara outlet in North County.
Islands Restaurant: On Halloween, Carlsbad-based Islands Restaurants opened a new 4,500-square-foot, surfing-themed restaurant at the mall’s southeast corner. The new location has a TV-lined indoor bar and dining room and an outdoor dining patio with a communal fire pit table. Islands President Michael Smith said the opening is an important one for the company: “Carlsbad is our home base, and it means a lot to open our 10th San Diego location here, especially as we celebrate our 35th anniversary this year.”
H&M: The Swedish multinational clothing retailer opens its second Carlsbad store at noon Nov. 9. The popular clothing chain has two other North County stores at the Forum Carlsbad and at Westfield North County mall in Escondido.
The Cheesecake Factory: On Nov. 14, in the north-facing location formerly occupied by Pat & Oscar’s restaurant, Cheesecake Factory will open its first coastal North County location. It joins locations in Escondido, Mission Valley, downtown San Diego and Chula Vista.
The Yard House: The restaurant and sports bar will open a 10,000-square-foot location on Dec. 18. The restaurant, which will specialize in serving local and regional craft beers on tap, will be located on the mall’s second level near Regal Cinemas.
Lucha Libre Gourmet Taco Shop: The whimsical taco chain, inspired by the sport of Mexican masked wrestling, will open its third San Diego County location in December.
Breakfast Republic: The latest outlet in the six-store San Diego-born breakfast/brunch/lunch chain is scheduled to open in May 2018. It will be the hip brunch spot’s first mall location.
Wokcano Asian Restaurant & Lounge: The L.A.-based contemporary Asian restaurant chain plans to open its first San Diego County location at the center in early 2018.
Also planned in the coming months: Pandora, Francesca’s and Graced by Grit apparel shops, and restaurants Texas de Brazil, Nekter and Poke Hut.