Sears at Tacoma Mall could be demolished for new theater, restaurants and shops

The Sears store at the Tacoma Mall has been targeted for demolition, and could be replaced by several buildings — including a 50,000-square-foot movie theater — surrounding a parking lot and a pedestrian corridor.

The mall's owner, Indianapolis-based Simon Property Group, submitted its concept for redeveloping the mall to the city last week. The documents say construction on the estimated $12.7 million makeover could begin early next year.

Plans show five buildings rising from the Sears footprint, which includes a two-story store, a Sears Auto Center and dozens of parking spaces at the northeastern end of the mall.

Under the proposed plan:

Three buildings and a new entrance with a roundabout would be located west of Sears' current location.

The movie theater would anchor the northern end of the property south of South 43rd Street and west of the Krispy Kreme doughnut store.

Another building to the east would front Tacoma Mall Boulevard and include space for three different tenants.

The new buildings would range from 20 to 40 feet high, according to the documents.

Information about specific tenants was not available Tuesday. If Simon decides to move forward, an official permit application with the city would follow.

The northeastern corner of the mall's 100-acre footprint used to have a movie theater, located where Krispy Kreme now stands. The then-34-year-old, two-screen theater, known as Tacoma Mall Theatre, was demolished in 2002.

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In addition to Sears, the mall includes anchor tenants Macy's, Nordstrom and JC Penney.

In an emailed statement, Simon said the company aims to "stay at the forefront of the retail evolution as opportunities present themselves" for the Tacoma property. They include "a free-standing walkable space that will house an exciting mix of new retail and restaurants."

Part of the change is shaped by Tacoma's growing population in the region, and a desire by Simon to maintain the mall's relevance, the documents submitted to the city say.

"Despite its successes in attracting both customers and in-demand tenants," the statement reads, "there are still a number of challenges that need to be solved in order to maintain its prominence in a city that is quickly evolving with increased density, mix of uses, and depth of character."

Sears has a few years remaining on its lease at the mall, a company spokesman said via email Tuesday.

"Moving forward," spokesman Howard Riefs said, "we are considering smaller format stores at this mall and everywhere our Sears leases expire."

If the company opens a smaller concept store at the mall, it will be the continuation of an initiative the company started last year elsewhere in the country.

Sears announced the closure of three Washington sites, including its Federal Way store at The Commons, earlier this year. Last week, it was reported that the company is offering six Sears or Kmart retail sites for sale in Washington state, including its Lacey Sears location and its Westfield Southcenter store.

If Sears plans to stay at the Tacoma Mall in some fashion, where will it go? Neither Simon nor Sears will say.

The largest retail building in the proposed redevelopment is 22,400 square feet. Sears' current store is nearly 162,000 square feet, including the Sears Auto Center, according to county property records.

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CNBC reported last year that mall owners are converting many former Sears Auto Centers in the United States into movie theaters and restaurants. The plans filed with the city show the Tacoma Mall is poised to do exactly that.

Under the new plan, "There are more buildings, and more spread out than the existing large, single-structure mall pattern," said Lisa Spadoni, principal planner for the city.

According to Simon's plan, other features of a redeveloped Tacoma Mall would include:

  • Renovated entrances to provide a consistent identity for the property.

  • A variety of pocket parks at key junctures.
  • Better pedestrian connections from 43rd Street, north of the mall.
  • A widened 43rd Street on the northern boundary of the property.

Simon has a financial interest in 234 properties around the globe, the company website says, with 191 million square feet in North America, Asia and Europe.

Kate Martin: 253-597-8542, @KateReports

Debbie Cockrell: 253-597-8364, @Debbie_Cockrell