Desert Fashion Plaza
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Aerial view of the mall during demolition in 2013.
|Location||Palm Springs, California|
|Address||123 N Palm Canyon Dr, Palm Springs, CA 92262|
|Opening date||October 1967|
|Developer||Home Savings and Loan Association|
|No. of stores and services||102|
|No. of anchor tenants||3|
|No. of floors||1 (2 in Saks Fifth Avenue; 3 in I. Magnin)|
Desert Fashion Plaza, formerly known as Desert Inn Fashion Plaza, was an enclosed shopping mall located in Palm Springs, California. The mall was originally developed by Home Savings and Loan Association and sold the shopping center to Desert Plaza Partnership. In the early 1980s, Desert Plaza Partnership sold the property to DeBartolo Corporation which expanded and revamped the mall to accommodate more shops. Subsequently, sales declined prompting major retailers to close down business at the Desert Fashion Plaza. In 2002, John Wessman of Wessman Development bought the property and proposed a significant redevelopment on the whole site. Demolition began to take place in 2013, with plans to open a variety of shops, restaurants, and a six-story hotel.
The site of the Desert Fashion Plaza was formerly a resort hotel named the Desert Inn opened and operated by Nellie Coffman, an early settler of Palm Springs. After Nellie's death in the 1950s, sons George Roberson and Earl Coffman, who had continuously assisted Nellie in the operation of the Inn, sold it in 1955 to actress Marion Davies. Davies attempted to design the Inn as a luxury hotel, however, her health began to dwindle after acquiring the property causing her plans to never reach fruition. She eventually sold the land for $2.5 million to developers Samuel Firks and George Alexander in 1960. Alexander visualized the site of comprising a commercial mall, 1,100 parking spaces, a convention center, a 450-room hotel, and also the city's first skyscraper. On November 14, 1965, Alexander and his spouse Mildred, alongside with their son Robert and his wife Helene, were all killed when their plane impacted shortly after taking off from Palm Springs International Airport. The plane was expected to reach Hollywood-Lockheed Air Terminal, but the plane lost control while in flight and collided into the Chocolate Mountains region near Indio, California.
After Alexander's death, Home Savings and Loan Association obtained the Desert Inn and started development in 1966 on an expansive multimillion-dollar shopping mall. In 1967, Joseph Eichenbaum spent $25 million to build the Desert Fashion Plaza, tearing down The Desert Inn. Former locations of Zaddie Bunker's Garage, the Village Theater, the Palm Springs Hotel, and the Rock House were also victims of the demolition. The first phase of the Desert Inn Fashion Plaza opened in October 1967 with twelve major establishments: Bank of America, Belmont Savings & Loan, P'iddlers Three Restaurant, Stuard's Sahara, Silverwoods, Islamania, Michael's, Robert Sands Hairstyling, Master's Candies, Village Card & Gift Shop and Orange Julius. Joseph Magnin Co. opened their 26,000 square foot store at the corner of N. Palm Canyon Drive and Andreas Road the following year.
During the 1980s, major shopping destinations began to grow rapidly in Palm Desert, California when places like Palm Desert Town Center and the El Paseo Shopping District opened. National chains also opened up businesses throughout the Palm Desert area, as well as local shops that have shifted away from the central hub of Palm Springs. In 1983, Edward J. DeBartolo Corp. announced an agreement with the Fashion Plaza Partnership to renovate the Fashion Plaza for $42 million. Meanwhile, the local redevelopment agency was authorized to help developers acquire the additional property needed for the potential project. The Ohio-based corporation planned to enlarge the mall to accommodate more tenants, a six-story hotel, and underground parking. In 1984, redevelopment took place by first razing historic-period buildings on the site, and setting up the new section on top. The mall was officially renamed and opened as the Desert Fashion Plaza with I. Magnin and Saks Fifth Avenue serving as the main anchors, as well as the opening of Maxim's Paris Suite Hotel.
Despite the success from the new stores that were opened, it wasn't enough to fulfill the traffic of shoppers. In years to come, retail sales declined and in 1991, Silverwoods men's clothing and Marie Callender's moved out of the still partially vacant Desert Fashion Plaza. Hyatt Regency Suites bought the hotel management and renamed it as Hyatt Palm Springs. The next year, I. Magnin closed their doors after seven years in operation citing that their store was not a “suitable location.” In 1995, developer Mark Bragg, a former adviser to Ronald Reagan, and the ever-present Eddie DeBartolo Jr. teamed up to pass a measure which approved card clubs at three sites: two controlled by Bragg, and the third at DeBartolo's Desert Fashion Plaza mall. Palm Springs voted a ballot by a 2-to-1 margin for the gambling establishment.
At a cost of $13.5 million, Phoenix-based Arizona Partners became the new owners of Desert Fashion Plaza. Arizona Partners planned on expanding the Desert Fashion Plaza to over 350,000 square feet and removing the roof to make the mall open-air. The main entrance was to be an open air plaza with outdoor dining, shops, and gather places, plus a 3,000-seat cinema and a 2,400 seat live theater; the project would have been renamed The Promenade. The first phase of the project would begin in mid-1998 and be completed sometime at the end of the year. By the beginning of 1999, about 75% of the tenants inside the mall were closed down. At the same time, San Diego-based Excel Legacy Corporation scrapped Arizona Partners's concepts and proposed its own project. Developer MBK Southern California Ltd. would design the center. Their decision was to bulldoze the whole mall and replace it with an open air plaza. Proposed tenants included Saks, a two-story multiplex theater, a food court, gourmet market, restaurants and various specialty shops. However, the concept was never realized and decided to sell the mall for an asking price of $25 million.
As the 21st century rolled in, developer John Wessman purchased the Desert Fashion Plaza and initially planned a Spanish-Mediterranean plaza on the site. Simultaneously, Saks Fifth Avenue closed down their location and moved to El Paseo down in Palm Desert. At the same time, the attacks on September 11, 2001 caused the project to slow down.
After more than a decade since the mall has sat, redevelopment progress took off on February 7, 2013 with the demolition of the mall. The large, vacant property would be turned into an outdoor shopping center with new shops, restaurants, and a six-story hotel. Wessman pledged that demolition of the plaza would take just four months, and that 90% of the materials would be recycled. Before construction commenced in the middle of the same year, a lawsuit was filed by Frank Tysen, a member of the Citizens for a Sustainable Palm Springs, and owner of Casa Cody Bed & Breakfast. Tysen and his group were suing because it believes the city did not follow the proper protocol when it came to a petition that was submitted. The petition asked the city to place a portion of the concept on a ticket. However, the city of Palm Springs opted out of the deal saying that the redevelopment action was considered as administrative, and not legislative action. In April 2014, the court denied the halt of the project.
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The Desert Inn Fashion Plaza was opened in October 1967, when I.Magnin opened their doors. I know because I worked there from day 1.