■ Kyle Selby / Reporter
Infamously nicknamed the “Hemet Small,” lately, the Hemet Valley Mall seems to be growing into itself, with a brand new pylon sign and a completely redesigned interior. However the construction process of the exterior renovations has seemed to drag out a lot longer than everyone expected. First it was said that they would be finished by November, then it became December, then “late January/early February.” Now that we’re heading into March, shoppers are wondering when the building is going to be safe to walk around again.
“The first reason is weather-related,” explained Daniel Weiss, principal at Hemet Valley Mall’s Corporate firm, M.C. Strauss Company. “With all of these storms, we’ve had to push back a lot of the exterior renovations here and there. But also the complexity of the work — I think our contractor had sort of initially underestimated the timing. I would say lastly, once you start tearing into a wall, especially when it’s a building that you yourself didn’t build, you’ll find some surprises, and we found a couple of those. It’s been a combination of all three that’s led us on this delay.”
Jacor Construction, the contractor heading the renovations, specializes in office tenant improvements, retail, medical, industrial, restaurant and ground up construction, according to the company website. Jacor owner Mike Snyder described the Hemet Valley Mall project as a “facelift of the exterior design.”
While the multi-million dollar project has extended much longer than anybody expected, the internal restoration of the mall was without a doubt a necessary improvement Interior Designer Michael Quagline of San Diego-based Quag Interiors provided brand new interior furniture, flooring, TV and video-sign installation, and restroom accommodations. One of the more significant alterations were the removal of the unreasonably spacious interior planters, which really “opened up the mall,” said Weiss.
The remaining exterior renovations will showcase a brand new display of architectural designs and landscaping from Madelon Design. Based on conceptual design artwork provided by Weiss, the mall intends to incorporate large pillars, towers, protruding walls, and brand new store signs to update the building’s previously retro design, to something much more modern.
“We did make some changes along the way, as we had a chance to see things progress in real life, rather than on a piece of paper,” added Weiss. He says that they also decided to tackle a full landscape renovation, evident by the new palm trees adorned with lights, along the entrance of the parking lot, and lining the mall perimeter as well.
As this long project continues, frequent mall-shoppers are wondering if it’s safe to be around while construction is taking place. Workers experienced a hindrance last week when a scaffolding collapsed in front of the main entrance on Tuesday, Feb. 21.
“One of the [subcontractors] accidentally hit the leg, and yanked it out of place,” confirmed the Hemet Valley Mall’s manager Shella Lazardi. Lazardi said that they promptly removed it after the incident, as they were scheduled to remove it that day anyway. “It was securely attached to the building. It just got leaned forward, that’s it. Luckily no one got hurt.”
J.C. Penney recently announced that it would be closing roughly 130 stores across the country over the next several months, but Weiss doesn’t think that would be the case for Hemet, as their sales numbers were quite high this past month. While M.C. Strauss is unaware of any closures in the near future, they are proactively looking for new business opportunities, such as kiosk tenants, retail shops and restaurants. According to Weiss, there are already a couple of restaurant designs in development, and a spec plan for one near the rear entrance.
Lazardi revealed that once the building’s renovations are complete, the parking lot will be paved with new asphalt as the project’s final improvement. Because of this, Lazardi believes that the grand re-opening will most likely be around mid-May.