San Francisco mall loses fifth store this month, occupancy dips to 25%

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By Dan Sears

The battered San Francisco Centre is losing yet another store, marking the fifth closure in the past month and sending the shopping mall’s occupancy rate to just 25%.

Clothing brand Madewell is the latest to announce a closure inside the sprawling Union Square mall — San Francisco’s largest — with a notice on its website that it will down the outpost on Monday.

Madewell’s closure comes after its sister brand, J. Crew, issued a similar notice that it was closing its San Francisco Centre location, also on Monday, Jan. 22.

According to signs posted in the mall viewed by the San Francisco Chronicle, shoe store Aldo will close up shop on Jan. 21, and denim giant Lucky Brand is leaving the mall on Jan. 29.

The mall has seen a mass exodus of prominent retailers since last year, after one of the mall’s biggest tenants, Nordstrom, moved out of its 312,000-square-foot, multilevel space in August.

Shortly thereafter, it bid adieu to Hollister, the Lego Store and its Cinemark movie theatre.

The 1.5 million-square-foot San Francisco Centre has lost five retailers this past month alone after Nordstrom closed its flagship, multilevel space in the mall back in August. It’s since also seen its Cinemark movie theatre flee. Getty Images
Madewell posted a notice on its website that it’s closing down on Jan. 22, the same day its sister brand, J. Crew, is planning to close its San Francisco Centre location. stores.madewell.com

The departures have sent the mall’s value tumbling by a staggering $1 billion.

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The 1.5 million-square-foot property was recently appraised at $290 million, down from its $1.2 billion valuation in 2016, The Real Deal reported, citing investment valuation analysis firm Morningstar Credit Analytics.

The mall’s owners Westfield and Brookfield stopped payments on its $558 mortgage last year, citing dismal foot traffic and plunging sales since the pandemic, according to the SF Chronicle.

“For more than 20 years, Westfield has proudly and successfully operated San Francisco Centre, investing significantly over that time in the vitality of the property,” Westfield said in a statement after it defaulted on its loan.

“Given the challenging operating conditions in downtown San Francisco, which have led to declines in sales, occupancy and foot traffic, we have made the difficult decision to begin the process to transfer management of the shopping center to our lender to allow them to appoint a receiver to operate the property going forward.”

The Westfield-owned San Francisco Centre has lost $1 billion in value since stores’ mass exodus. It was recently appraised at $290 million, down from its $1.2 billion valuation in 2016. David G. McIntyre for NY Post

A judge has since appointed Gregg Williams of Trident Pacific Real Estate Group to take over the beleaguered mall at 865 Market St. He will reportedly be paid $30,000 per month to serve as the San Francisco Centre’s receiver.

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Though it’s unclear what the future holds for the mall, San Francisco Mayor London Breed has proposed redeveloping it into a soccer stadium, even hiring local architectural firm Gensler to work on feasibility studies for the sports arena.

The Post has sought comment from Madewell and the mall’s owners, Brookfield and Unibail-Rodamco-Westfield

San Francisco Centre’s struggles are part of a larger issue in the city, which has been plagued by rampant crime, boarded-up retailers, fleeing Silicon Valley tech darlings and homeless encampments over the past year.

Last week JPMorgan CEO Jamie Dimon declared that “San Francisco is in far worse shape than New York,” pointing to its housing shortage, which has driven the price of a tiny 4-foot high by 3.5-foot wide “pod” space to $700 per month.

San Francisco has been battered by homelessness, rampant crime and boarded-up retailers over the past year. David G. McIntyre

The pods are less than half the size of an RV at Candlestick Point, which the city opened in January 2022 for the homeless. The “safe parking site” called Bayview Triage Center has 30 RVs, each of which cost San Francisco $12,000 per month, though residents live there rent-free with 24/7 security.

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“They [companies] need housing,” Dimon told Fox, arguing that if employers can’t get permits to build affordable housing, they can’t bring in high-paid employees.

Google, for example, is set to build a 15,000-house residential campus surrounding its San Francisco headquarters, which is projected to boast four master-planned Bay area districts worth a combined $15 billion across Sunnyvale, San Jose and Mountain View.

However, the tech behemoth hit a road bump late last year when its developer, Ledlease, backed out of its contract, citing “current market conditions,” although it wasn’t set to break ground on the development until 2026.

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