06/30/2020

Phoenix’s Metrocenter mall closes Tuesday; What’s next for the businesses that called it home?

After 47 years, the adventure at Phoenix’s Metrocenter mall is nearly over. The mall will permanently close to shoppers on Tuesday.

Built in 1973, the mall was considered to be a staple in the community and at one point was the largest mall in the state. Long-time customers remember the indoor skating rink, the skate park, and the arcade that made the shopping center a unique spot to hang out.

Over time, however, those attractions went away, shopping patterns changed, and the mall began to see fewer people inside. It was a project that Phoenix City Councilmember Thelda Williams was working to help for the last decade.

“Getting businesses in there, redevelopment,” she said was the goal. “I’ve been working with them for probably 10 years.”

Then, there was the coronavirus pandemic to deal with. Malls, movie theaters, and restaurant dining rooms were ordered to close in March to help slow the spread of the virus. Metrocenter reopened on May 9 after restrictions were lifted, but stores weren’t able to survive.

“With the reopening, we lost a good amount of tenants, almost on a weekly basis giving us notice of closure,” said Kim Ramirez, general manager of Metrocenter. “We just could not sustain the maintenance and upkeep of this large property.”

The businesses that remain have until July 15 to move out, about two weeks after the mall’s closure.

John Kaphing’s business makes and sells custom license plates. He had been part of the mall since 1988 — 32 years. Tuesday will be his last day. He said the future of his business will be mostly online.

“I would tell neighborhoods if you want a mall, you have to support a mall,” he said.

The Phoenix Conservatory of Music, a non-profit music school, has been part of Metrocenter since 2011. Now, its future depends on being able to find a place that is willing to support them.

Executive Director Regina Nixon said the mall let them stay there at a reduced rate.

“I think a lot of them are feeling apprehensive of where, when we’ll be able to get back together,” Nixon said of her students. “When we say how much it means to them, they say it’s a second home to them.”

The Metrocenter property is up for sale. What its future holds is not known. Though, Councilmember Williams believes there is unlimited potential.

“I could still see some retail there,” she said. “You could have apartments, you can have senior living there. It has everything you need.”

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