2001 – Montgomery Ward closing in San Bernardino (RXSQ)

San Bernardino’s Carousel Mall may be redeveloped

It appears life as a mall is about to end for downtown San Bernardino’s Carousel Mall — formerly Central City Mall. A buyer has agreed to take control of the 72-acre property with plans for replacing the aging retail center with a more vibrant mix of condos, apartments, offices, and shops.

Opened in 1972, Central City Mall was one of Inland Southern California’s first large, indoor shopping centers. At its peak in the mid-1980s, the center boasted approximately 800,000 square feet of retail space with 3 primary anchor tenants: Harris’, JCPenney, and Montgomery Ward. More importantly, unlike nearly all malls of its day (and for many years to come), it was located in the heart of downtown.

However, after a steady decline that began in the early 1990s and culminated with the closures of all three department store anchors — Harris’ (1999), Montgomery Ward (2001), and JCPenney (2003) — today’s Carousel Mall contains only a small mix of retailers and a few non-retail businesses.

Although it will be difficult to see the downtown mall demolished, it’s quite obvious the best use for the property is indeed something other than an empty indoor shopping center. The mall simply cannot compete with the newer and larger malls (Victoria Gardens, Ontario Mills, etc.) that have appeared within the past decade on the more affluent edges of the mall’s primary market base.

And, with today’s growing acceptance of true mixed-used developments (residences, retail, and offices), the mall’s large parcel in the center of downtown offers San Bernardino some of the best chances at reinvigorating its central core with a strong daily — and nightly — presence once again.

(2024 Update: After multiple sales and proposals to redevelop downtown San Bernardino’s Central City/Carousel Mall fell through over the course of several years, the mostly retail-less mall was shuttered in 2017. A subsequent redevelopment project in 2021 — involving higher density residential and commercial uses — stalled due to legal complications and the mall structure remained standing until demolition began in April 2023. As of June 2024, plans for redevelopment of the site remain in limbo.)


Sources: Riverside Press-Enterprise (PE-20050929, PE-20240412), San Bernardino Sun (SBS-20230505) City of San Bernardino

2024 PAGE UPDATE: Added 2024 update; added years of closure for the three department store anchors; added May 2023 and April 2024 newspaper articles to Related content; removed outdated links to original 2005 newspaper article.

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