Editors note: This story pairs with another titled “Provo’s Plumtree Plaza makes way for The Mix at River’s Edge.”
Last summer, Provo announced major renovations to four large retail areas in the city.
In 2016, around 26 percent of Provo’s budget was dependent on tax revenue, so these renovations should come as no surprise, especially since Provo was ranked as Utah’s second fastest growing city in 2014, according to NerdWallet. Provo also has a median age of 23.5 and is home to thousands of students and young families searching for the latest shopping center.
According to Provo’s retail strategist and business development coordinator Scott Bowles, the dynamics of malls across the country are changing, and that includes Provo.
“Malls are turning into places where people want to go have fun, and eat food, and maybe shop,” Bowles said. “The whole face of retail is changing.”
Provo Towne Centre
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The two-story regional mall, located at 1200 Towne Centre Blvd., opened in 1998 and was originally owned by General Growth Properties. At the beginning of 2016, Provo Towne Centre was purchased by Brixton Capital and is now slowly but surely making efforts to grow into a new hotspot for downtown Provo residents.
The mall is home to the only Dillard’s, Sears and JCPenney stores in the county. Another main attraction for Provo Towne Centre is the Cinemark movie theater. Bowles said Brixton Capital is looking to make the mall even more appealing by adding more places for customers to eat.
“They (Brixton Capital investors) look at commercial assets that are not living up to their privileges — maybe the infrastructure’s gotten a little tired or it needs some investment,” Bowles said. “They’re looking at the resurgence of the mall as an entertainment center.”
At last summer’s city council meeting regarding Provo’s retail renovations, Provo Towne Centre manager Scott Hansen said the old owners just “didn’t have the vision of what (the mall) could be.” He said he is more excited than he has been in over 10 years for the changes that will come to the mall with Brixton Capital as the new owners.
“They want to make changes to this mall to make it more of a community center for Provo — make a place that BYU students and millennials would want to hang out at,” Bowles said.
Bowles said one of the big plans for Provo Towne Centre is to build a play place to attract many of the young families in the Provo area. South Provo’s birthrate sits around 25 live births per 1,000 population compared to the country’s overall birthrate of around 13 live births per 1,000, according to Utah’s Public Health Indicator Based Information System, making the Provo Towne Centre a perfect location for a play place for young children.
Bowles said the new owners of the Provo Towne Centre are also planning to consolidate space in the mall to make more open space for socializing, instead of scrambling to keep the dozens of small storefronts full at all times.
Provo Towne Centre is also improving its marketing campaign and plans to host events in upcoming months to draw consumers to the mall. Provo residents — particularly students and families — can look forward to more food options, entertainment options and possible work and living options. Additionally, the construction of a new Marriott hotel was recently announced, and construction for the hotel is expected to begin in the Spring of 2017.
“Be patient with this mall,” Bowles said. “It’s impressive that it’s in as good of shape as it is and it’s performing as well as it is with 12 years of no investment and three or four years with no marketing dollars. Not a single one. So it’s doing very well because now it’s got people who understand the business, they’re actively invested into it and they want to make changes.”
East Bay Shopping Center
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The East Bay Shopping Center is located at 977 S University Ave., just across the street form the Provo Towne Centre. East Bay has struggled to keep tenants in the past, but its developers are looking forward to a bright future.
After Kmart left, East Bay Shopping Center is now anchored by the home decor superstore At Home. The shopping center is also home to Sam’s Club, Staples and Les Schwab Tires. According to Bowles, the shopping center is currently owned by Coldwell Bankers, and a holding company in Texas manages the center’s relationships. This makes investments impossible until the mall can be taken out of receivership.
Provo City has been directly involved with the issue and wants the shopping center to increase in activity and revenue, but also said residents need to be patient with East Bay Shopping Center.
The East Bay Area — East Bay Shopping Center, Provo Towne Centre, and the East Bay technology park — currently produces over 20 percent of Provo’s sales tax revenue. City officials have confidence in the continued success of the area.
“A lot of people have the perception that it is a dead area and that it is failing. It is not. Considering all the challenges it has had, it performs at an amazing level on it’s own,” Bowles said.
The Mix at River’s Edge
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Provo’s current Plumtree Plaza is about to undergo a transformation to become The Mix at River’s Edge.
The new development will include office spaces, multi-unit housing, retail, entertainment and a modern hotel. The development is expected to be completed in 2019.
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Many call The Shops at Riverwoods a “lifestyle center.”
The Riverwoods is located near the mouth of Provo Canyon at 4801 N. University Ave. The retail center has very low vacancy and is in a very good place, according to Bowles.
Last year was a record year for profits for the retail center, which is locally owned.
The Riverwoods is used largely for it’s entertainment, with the Provo Beach Resort, Smash Dance Academy, 3B Yoga and many others. The center also features a gazebo often filled with local performers. Though plans are not publicly available at this time, Provo residents can expect even more entertainment options at The Riverwoods in the next couple of years.
The mall features unique dining, including La Jolla Groves, Ike’s Creamery, Malawi’s Pizza, Shoots and many more. Tucanos Brazilian Grill will be moving locations soon, but the mall can still expect great success.
Bowles said the reasoning for the many retail renovations to the city is not just about revenue tax. The city believes the success of these developments will provide more jobs and improve the quality of life for residents as well as spur on future developments to aid in the continued growth of Provo.
“If you have a mall that vibrant people want to go to, and has great shopping opportunities and entertainment opportunities, would that now encourage more residential development?” Bowles said. “So we look long term, as well as short term.”