Years later, customers start arriving

Stores have come and gone in $90M development project, and shoppers seem to be taking some notice.

November 08, 2010|By Sarah Peters,
  • New stores have been opening up, including, tpt home, at South Coast Collections while others are closing.
New stores have been opening up, including, tpt home,… (SCOTT SMELTZER,…)

COSTA MESA — Customers are starting to arrive at South Coast Collection, as trendy furnishing stores, a salon school and other retailers open their doors at the remodeled outdoor shopping center in the shadow of the northbound San Diego (405) Freeway near Harbor Boulevard.

The 300,000 square-foot center branded as SoCo is about 80% leased with more than a dozen stores already open, including tpt home, a Tai Pan Trading-owned home decor store, and Paul Mitchell The School, both hosting official grand opening events this week.

The $90-million development project was completed in 2006 and sold a year later to South Coast Home Furnishing Center LLC for just under $110 million.

At one point almost entirely leased out, the center lost momentum during the real-estate slump. Many stores, including Wickes Furniture, closed their doors and the center was bought last year for $40 million by Burnham USA Equities.

"We had the opportunity to really rethink the property," Chief Executive Scott Burnham said. "We had the financial base to do something that perhaps the prior owner did not have the opportunity to do."


The center has undergone a complete remodeling — stacked stone columns, dark glass and metal roofing have been replaced by a modern theme with transparent glass, redwood accents, sustainable landscaping and a central plaza built around a fire pit.

The changes also include an LED sign and other efforts to make the center more visible to commuters on the 405, Burnham said.

To fully rebrand, the center expanded from just furniture. A weekly farmers market debuted in the center's parking lot Saturday and the OC Mart MIX, a collection of diverse shops and vendors Burnham likened to that of San Francisco's Ferry Building, is expected to open in less than a month.

"The question we had to answer was, 'how do we make this project more complementary to the area and a better asset to city?'" Burnham said. "In doing so, we created lifestyle experience that really does not exist in Orange County today."

However, amid the opening of new stores, at least three other retailers (Munro's Furniture, Linder's Furniture and Legends Fine Furniture) have announced Going Out of Business sales.

Although store management was unavailable Monday to provide answers as to why the shops are closing, the scattered customers in the center's parking lot said that it may have to do with the near "hidden" nature of the center.

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