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A bit of Tacoma’s retail history is coming down

Demolition of a South Sound centerpiece marks end of an era

The former Sears store at the Tacoma Mall is being demolished to make room for movie theater, more shops.
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The former Sears store at the Tacoma Mall is being demolished to make room for movie theater, more shops.

If you’ve driven by the Tacoma Mall in the past few days, you’ve no doubt seen the former Sears store coming down.

The demolition is to make way for redevelopment. The store closed last year. Its demolition permit was issued last year by the city and had listed January as a tentative start date.

On Thursday, people pulled into the parking lot at the nearby Pier 1 Imports, stopping briefly to watch or take pictures from their vehicles.

In plans submitted last spring, the mall’s owner, Simon Property Group, envisioned several buildings that include a movie theater, shops and restaurants replacing the Sears site.

“The project proposes facing the building inward to create an improved pedestrian experience on internal roadways within the property,” according to the plan at that time.

This week, the Planning and Development Services Department told The News Tribune that “a site development permit, which includes a parking lot, access reconfigurations and creation of new building pads, is ready to be issued.”

According to the department: “A site development permit and building permits are currently under review for construction of three new buildings directly south of the South Steele Street entrance to the mall.”

Tacoma Mall, in a statement, said: “We’re continuing to work our process for the transformation of Tacoma Mall and are on course, but there are a number of factors at play, and it’s still too early to share specifics.”

A market analysis this week by BMO Capital Markets said more than 300 former Sears and Kmart sites could be a good match for Whole Foods or a future Amazon grocery concept.

The former retail giant filed for bankruptcy last fall, emerging from bankruptcy and with a much smaller national footprint in February.

Many former Kmart sites, also under the Sears Holdings retail umbrella, have become homes to new retail.

In Tacoma, the departure of Kmart in the Tahoma Vista Shopping Center near East 72nd Street and Portland Avenue brought a relocation of Big Lots and a new Grocery Outlet to the center, while the Kmart on Martin Way in Olympia is now home to Tractor Supply and Hobby Lobby. The Kmart space in River Road Plaza in Puyallup also has been redeveloped.

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