New shopping and dining options and a 380-unit apartment complex, including affordable units, could be added with future developments at the Brea Mall following the city Planning Commission’s approval of a mixed-use designation for the area, a recommendation that now moves to the City Council.

The commission has unanimously approved the project, which will be completed by Indianapolis-based Simon Property Group, the current property owner.

If the project receives final approval, it would include some demolition and repurposing of sites, including the former Sears, which closed in 2018, and its adjacent parking lot. Commissioners and business leaders said that the revitalization of the shopping center and new housing and job opportunities were much needed for the city. 

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The project, approved mid-December, was first previewed by the commission during a study session in September and then officially introduced at an October public hearing. The Simon Property Group sought the city’s approval to modernize the mall and bring use to the now closed Sears, according to a presentation by Kim Zuppiger, Brea’s assigned contract planner for the project.

The planned additions, which will include a two-story luxury fitness center and a three-level parking garage, would occupy 15.5 acres in the southwest region of the 74-acre mall property, said Zuppiger. Thirty-eight of the housing units would be affordable, which complies with the 10% minimum affordable housing requirement in the Brea city code. Nearly an acre of green and plaza space are also allocated in the plans. 

Ashley Cole, vice chair of housing for the Brea Chamber of Commerce, said the project would positively impact the mall’s existing businesses and employees as well as open the door for new possibilities in the lot.

“When talent lives closer to work, they enjoy shorter commutes, improving Brea’s quality of life and reducing greenhouse gas emissions,” Cole told the planning commissioners during the December meeting. “More housing close to economic centers helps support businesses in the area with thousands of new customers.”

Commissioner Melanie Schlotterbeck, who introduced the motion to approve the project, said she views the potential development as a chance to inject new life in the mall.

“This is an opportunity to redevelop a location that is underutilized. I think it will revitalize that particular geography,” Schlotterbeck added.

Shoppers are also enthusiastic about the project and what it would mean for the future of the shopping center. Like Schlotterbeck, some said the revitalization is an opportunity to breathe new life into the area and attract more customers.

“[The project] would give the businesses more publicity and opportunity. I’m all for new ideas and renovation,” La Habra resident Mary Matute said in a recent interview.

“They should set up a stage in the plaza and have performances. Maybe they can get some smaller local artists to perform,” Matute said.

Gina and Randy Dryden from Yorba Linda, who enjoy shopping and spending time at Brea Mall and have been going there regularly for over 25 years, are optimistic about the project’s proposed features, especially the dining additions. 

“When we’re here shopping, we want a nice meal, something different from Cheesecake Factory or a sandwich at Nordstrom’s,” said Gina Dryden. “If they add more restaurants, then we don’t have to leave the mall for dinner, it’s all here.” 

The couple said in a recent interview that the mall has many regulars, like themselves, who commute from surrounding cities to enjoy the shops and atmosphere.

“The thing about Brea Mall is that it’s resilient. It’s gone through so many changes and adapted to keep itself current,” Randy Dryden said. “We love the mall, we want it to stay.”
The project will go to the City Council for approval at a date still to be set but expected by late spring, according to Liz Pharis, the city’s public information officer. If approved, the staff report noted that a 40-month construction period would begin in summer 2023.

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