New tenant seen as key to Everett Mall revival

EVERETT — When Burlington opens its newest clothing store here later this month, it will fill the largest voids inside Everett Mall.

The discount retailer’s arrival at Everett Mall is the latest change in a decade-long effort to turn around the nearly 40-year-old commercial center. The mall, just off I-5 on Everett Mall Way, has been squeezed by much larger Alderwood in Lynnwood to the south and Seattle Premium Outlets in Tulalip to the north.

Everett Mall’s majority owner, Steadfast Companies of Irvine, Calif., has had financial difficulties, including default on a loan last year related to Everett Mall. Things appear to have stabilized since March, after an investment firm stepped in to pump more money into the property. The company did not respond to a request for comment.

The success of the new store is important not only to the mall’s owners but to Everett city leaders.

“We’re short on quality retail, and we always welcome another entity like that,” said Lanie McMullin, Everett’s economic development director. “The trick, in any shopping center or any downtown core, is to find relevant retail, not just any retail, but relevant retail.”

Burlington earlier projected that the Everett store would employ up to 100 people.

The grand opening for the new store is scheduled for 9:30 a.m. Sept. 20. Everett Mayor Ray Stephanson and City Council President Jeff Moore plan to join store leaders and employees for a ribbon-cutting. To coincide with the opening, the company has announced new charitable campaigns for local causes.

The mall began construction late last year to accommodate Burlington. The work caused some tenants to move. It forced out the Carmel Corn store that operated there for 30 years. It closed for good at the end of 2012.

The Burlington store is in space previously occupied by Steve &Barry’s and, before that, Mervyn’s. Both companies filed for bankruptcy around the time they left Everett.

Last year, the 677,000-square-foot mall had a vacancy rate of about 18 percent. Steadfast attributed the troubles to the recession.

Steadfast last year faced foreclosure on the portion of the mall it owns and defaulted on a $98 million loan. In March, the owner got a cash infusion from Canyon-Johnson Urban Funds, a Los Angeles investment firm with ties to former NBA great Magic Johnson.

Improvements since include a new sign fronting I-5 and parking lot upgrades.

With its Everett Mall digs, Burlington will have six locations in Washington. The company plans to keep its store on Highway 99 in Edmonds. The others are in Auburn, Spokane, Tacoma and Kennewick.

The Burlington, N.J.-based chain has more than 500 stores nationwide. Burlington touts a wide selection of name-brand clothing for men, women, children and babies. The company says its prices are as low as 65 percent below those at department stores.

Everett Mall originally opened in 1974. Steadfast paid $50 million for a large portion of the property in 2004. That followed the mall’s previous owner, Titanic Associates, defaulting on a loan in 2000.

Steadfast quickly pumped more than $30 million into renovation and expansion, overseeing the addition of Regal Cinemas Stadium 16 theaters and attracting Best Buy and TJ Maxx to the outer mall’s buildings.

The mall has lured non-commercial tenants to fill some under-used space.

Last fall, Everett’s New Beginnings Church moved into an old movie theater in the shadow of a Macy’s store. The same former cinema is used by the nonprofit Snohomish County Music Project.

The mall also has provided storage space for Everett Museum of History artifacts.

Noah Haglund: 425-339-3465; nhaglund@heraldnet.com.

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