An architectural rendering of plans to redevelop the Moreno Valley Mall.
An architectural rendering shows plans to redevelop the Moreno Valley Mall. (Courtesy: NELSON Los Angeles)

The Moreno Valley City Council last week unanimously approved plans to redevelop the Moreno Valley Mall.

“We acquired Moreno Valley Mall in November of 2017,” Matt Ilbak, CEO of IGP Business Group, said. “Since acquisition, my vision has been to create a destination city mall at Moreno Valley Mall.”

That vision focuses on four separate, but integrated, districts: entertainment, residential, hospitality and food.

“The hospitality district is up on the highest elevation of this site and is adjacent to the freeway so the hotel gets primary visibility,” architect Mark Levine said. “The residential district is actually buffered by that hospitality district and is situated in the lower bowl of the surface lots that are adjacent to the existing Sears, so they’re protected and they’re also integrated really into the lower neighborhoods.”

The entertainment district would be anchored by the existing movie theater with an expansion of food and beverage options in the surrounding area and new landscaping to create a semi-enclosed area. As for the food district, which would be integrated into the mall’s current food court, Levine said they’re imagining more of a food hall atmosphere.

“More open air, more grab and go type food products and tenants,” he said.

Levine also said the redevelopment would include art throughout the site to help create a deeper connection between the space and the people who live, work and shop there.

“Metropole is just a name,” he said of the project. “Unless you’ve got an infusion of art, an infusion of all these events and programs that we’ve talked about, then it really doesn’t mean anything. 

“Once you start that, then the name really starts to mean something to the community,” he said. “And it starts to really signify to the whole region that this is really a place to come and spend some time.”

As far as the redevelopment’s economic impact, it’s estimated that the project would create $6.44 million per year in gross tax revenues for the city, roughly 1,600 permanent jobs and 7,072 one-time jobs during construction. Ilbak told the council he would also be supportive of local unionized labor for the project.

He also said he would continue to support small local businesses as tenants of the mall, something Councilmember Elena Baca-Santa Cruz said was very important to the city.

“Our mall really deserves redevelopment,” Councilmember Elena Baca-Santa Cruz said. “We have good businesses there, we have some strong anchor stores that have withstood the 30 years, and I hope to bring more business to them, because the mall is an important part of our community.”

During the public hearing, the council heard from 11 speakers, only one of whom asked the city to vote against the project citing environmental concerns.

“After reviewing the subsequent [environmental impact report] (SEIR), [the Supports Alliance for Environmental Responsibility (SAFER)] concludes that it fails as an informational document, and that it fails to implement all feasible mitigation measures to reduce the project’s significant adverse environmental impacts,” Adam Frankel, an attorney with Lozeau Drury, said. “SAFER therefore respectfully requests that you deny approval of the SEIR and instead direct the city’s planning department to address the shortcomings.”

Mitch Menzer, an attorney representing the developer, addressed the concerns stating that the submitted EIR was “developed by one of the leading environmental consulting firms, with experts in all of the subject matter areas.”

“It’s very important to step back and realize that this project will be very environmentally beneficial and very advanced in that regard,” he said. “It’s an infill project that’s going to bring this development to an existing area, it’s going to replace acres and acres of asphalt with a thriving community that’s going to be beautifully landscaped with public amenities.”

With overwhelming public support for the project, the council voted 4-0, with Councilmember Ed Delgado absent, in favor of allowing the redevelopment of the Moreno Valley Mall to move forward.

“I think this project will ensure the success of the mall for years to come,” Cabrera said. “It’ll make sure that it’s successful and viable.”

The ordinance approving amendments to the Towngate Specific Plan, which will allow the project to move forward, will come back before the council for another vote before it goes into effect.

In other council action: The Moreno Valley City Council voted 4-0, with Councilmember Ed Deglado absent, to deny an appeal by Sipkoi to reject the conditional use permit application for a new cannabis microbusiness at the site of a former grocery store located within the Sunnymead Village Center at the southeast corner of Alessandro Boulevard and Indian Street. The council’s decision allows the business, I.E. Gardens I, LLC,, to move forward with its plans to open at the location. You can watch a recording of the full meeting here.

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