The shuttered Fiesta Mall, once a Mesa institution and East Valley shopping destination, may be inching toward redevelopment.
The mall’s fractured ownership has slowed plans for redevelopment. In 2017, when developers floated plans to transform the mall into a health and education campus, it had five owners. Once Dillard’s Clearance Center closed in early 2020, the mall was finally completely empty and down to two owners.
Since the mall officially emptied out nearly two years ago, progress has been slow going and the property’s owners have been tight-lipped about its future.
Mesa City Councilmember Francisco Heredia said the property’s two owners are working on a deal to consolidate ownership. From there, Heredia said, crafting a redevelopment master plan for the site would be an ideal next step.
Jerry Tokoph, whose company Dimension Financial and Realty Investments bought the mall’s interior and parking lots in 2017, in an email told The Arizona Republic that “we are not in a position to discuss any proposed sale of our interest and it is inappropriate to speculate.”
Tokoph noted that he plans to make an announcement for the property in early 2022.
Steven Johnson, whose company Verdie Fiesta I owns the former Dillard’s and other former big-box stores, did not respond to requests for comment.
Heredia, whose council district includes the mall, said he’s eager for redevelopment. It could be a “catalyst to bring back that area of town,” he said.
“Right now it’s kind of stagnant, but the movement has been toward getting the property … to one principal owner,” Heredia said. “As a city, we can only do so much because it’s a private owner.”
Previous proposal sought to invest $30 million
The health and education campus promised $30 million in investments to the mall, which opened in 1979.
Plans called for colleges, housing, restaurants and entertainment venues to pepper the property, which is a stone’s throw from Mesa Community College.
But plans stalled. The mall still sits there totally empty.
Tokoph and the late Wayne Howard, whose company bought much of the mall in 2017, had worked on similar projects elsewhere.
The two redeveloped a former Honeywell facility at Interstate 17 and Thunderbird Road in Phoenix into a project with retail, housing and office space.
Elsewhere, leaders look to redevelop shells of former retail giants
Elsewhere in metro Phoenix, city leaders are exploring ways to repurpose the giant husks retailers leave behind going out of business.
When a west Mesa Target closed more than a decade ago, the successful Mekong Plaza took over. The plaza has since become a destination for Asian restaurants and groceries, ranging from Chinese and Filipino food to Vietnamese and Taiwanese food.
Heredia sees similar promise in the Fiesta Mall property.
Just across the street from Fiesta Mall, developers demolished the Fiesta Village Shopping Center on the northwest corner of Alma School Road and Southern Avenue, which Arizona Republic readers rated among the East Valley’s worst eyesores, to make way for apartments.
In both Phoenix and east Mesa, plans are moving forward to repurpose shuttered Kmart stores. Phoenix’s could become a community hub, while Mesa’s could be demolished and turned into hundreds of apartment units.
The Paradise Valley Mall, which opened in 1978, met the wrecking ball this summer to make way for a town center with high-rise residential and shopping.