If you haven’t been to the Indio Fashion Mall in a while, you’re not the only one. The struggling commercial center has seen a decline in customers for more than a decade.
When you walk around the Indio Fashion Mall, you start to notice something eerie. Store, after store, after store…closed.
"It’s small, hardly any people here. Hardly any stores," said mall patron Ivana Alvarez.
The decline of the Indio Fashion Mall began in 2008 when the economy tanked. When anchor department stores like Sears and Gottshalks left, the mall began to see fewer and fewer costumers.
"The traffic, the people, they don’t come anymore because they think that the mall is closed or they think that no one is here, there’s no more businesses," said Hector Cardona, owner of Hector’s Cell Phones and Accessories.
Store owners say the only people who shop there now are those looking for a specific service or product. They are in, and they are out. But it didn’t always used to be that way. In fact, people used go to the Indio Fashion Mall just to hang out.
"That’s the big difference too. Before they would come, they would have raffles and music, and all kinds of stuff. People would come hang out and have their ice cream and lemonade after church," said Cardona.
A developer bought the mall in 2003 for $16 million dollars with plans to turn in into something like The River in Rancho Mirage. But after the big department stores left, so did any interest in redevelopment. The current owners bought the mall in 2010 for about $8.5 million dollars. The owners are currently being sued by investors who say their money was never used for any renovations. Meanwhile, store owners have their own ideas about what would save the Indio Fashion Mall.
"If a big chain store would take a chance to come in here and open up a business, they wouldn’t regret it. Trust me I know, I‘ve been here for 17 years. I know they wouldn’t regret it," said Cardona.
The city of Indio wants investors to expand the mall onto a 20 acre parcel of land it owns just to the south of the property. But the city won’t pay for the mall’s current asking price and investors are weary of buying a mall where only about 50 percent of the stores have tenants.