BAKERSFIELD, Calif. (KERO) — It’s been an eyesore in Northeast Bakersfield for several years now but one area, home to an abandoned mall, is expected to undergo some major changes.
The East Hills Mall, which is adjacent to Highway 178 between Mt. Vernon and Oswell streets, was built back in 1988. However, after losing its anchor stores, the site has deteriorated.
In January 2019, multiple fire crews from the Bakersfield City Fire Department responded to a fire at the old Mervyn's building in the mall. Then in February 2019, the City of Bakersfield labeled the site a potential public nuisance due to its condition. The mall was under new ownership in 2017 and the city had approved a redevelopment plan for the mall in 2018. But no changes were made.
A public auction for the property was canceled in June 2019. Documents obtained by 23ABC at the time showed that Mark Chris Investments, who purchased the property in 2018, owed an estimated $7,752,789.55, including fines and fees accrued since defaulting on its loan in January. Mark Chris Investments, along with City Lights, LLC, bought the property from Retail Equities LLC for $8,750,000 in December of 2016. As a result, ownership was transferred back to the property's original owners, Retail Equities, LLC/Save Mart.
Video from a YouTuber posted in March of 2019 showed the condition of the mall:
“We understand how important East Hills Mall is to the relative success of our commercial sector and we’re excited about a new property owner who sees the same values that we see and saw in the property,” said Christopher Boyle, the Bakersfield Development Services director.
Stephen Zimmerman of ZDI Inc and Michael Heslov, a private investor, are the new owners of the former East Hills Mall and are looking to make major changes. The buyers are in the early stages of development, and according to a release, the mall will be demolished as soon as possible.
“We are extremely impressed with the diverse economy in the Bakersfield market and the quality of growth and development in the city,” noted new owner Stephen Zimmerman in a statement. “This property is extremely well located and is ideally suited for new commercial and perhaps mixed-use development” Stephen Zimmerman added.
Vincent Roche, executive director at Cushman & Wakefield Pacific, who helped with the purchase says, the building has been abandoned for years causing concern in the area.
“They look at the whole area and they see a great piece of land with improvements and buildings on it that are antiquated and functionally obsolete today. There have been multiple fires, there’s been public services that have been demanded out there from the fire and police. It's a public nuisance.”
Roche says after all those issues it's time to restore hope to Northeast Bakersfield.
“When you go to buy a home and live in a community, you want to have services that are there. There’s many good services that are there but there’s this big hole in the middle.”
Roche adds they anticipate a large part of the project will be retail but they are also open to evaluating hospitality or residential areas.
“It gives the northeast part of Bakersfield a commercial center and it will provide them services and goods that they currently don’t have today, that they’re traveling long distance or further than they should be traveling to get.”
As for the city, they will be there to help.
“Any way we can extend support to the project, we will look to do just that,” said Boyle.
Roche says the buyers are looking to demolish the mall starting in August to begin creating plans for 2022.