Redevelopment Wrecks: Indio, CA

Indio, California

Indio Fashion Mall opened in the mid-1970s, and has since been losing traffic to the trendier Westfield Shoppingtown in Palm Desert.  The mall sits on 16 acres, and the City owns 17 acres behind the shopping center that it acquired through eminent domain in 1988.  Plans called for expansion to the rear of the mall, so the City razed approximately 80 homes, several stores and a low-income housing project that once made up the predominantly black and Hispanic neighborhood of Nobles Ranch. Those plans fell through, and the expansion of the mall failed.[1]

That failure did not stop the City from trying again with a different developer making new promises—and asking for even more land.  Developer Richard Weintraub purchased the mall in November 2003, planning to expand and transform the building into a “destination shopping center.”  Immediately, City officials announced their intention to purchase seven lots that the government’s wrecking ball spared in 1988, including three churches.[2]  According to City Manager Glenn Southard, as of May 2006, all of the land for the redevelopment plan had been acquired or was in escrow.[3]  The City obtained the land by threatening eminent domain on the grounds that Weintraub promises “sales tax for the city.”[4]  The mall project has been a dismal failure, and the City may be setting itself up for more disappointment.

[1] Xochitl Pena, “Southard: More Retail on the Way,” The Desert Sun (Palm Springs, CA), May 12, 2006.

[2] Xochitl Pena, “Mall Makeover in Indio’s Future,” The Desert Sun (Palm Springs, CA), Nov. 15, 2004, at 4R.

[3] Xochitl Pena, “Southard: More Retail on the Way,” The Desert Sun (Palm Springs, CA), May 12, 2006.

[4] Xochitl Pena, “City Piecing Together Fashion Mall,” The Desert Sun (Palm Springs, CA), April 15, 2005.