It's a long time coming, but the renovation of Coddingtown Mall is finally underway.
That was the theme of a glass-breaking ceremony held at Coddingtown Mall on Thursday.
"It's kind of like wait for it, wait for it, wait for it — and then boom, we're ready to go," said Santa Rosa Mayor Ernesto Olivares before he donned a blue hard hat and broke a frosted pane of glass to reveal a rendering of a redesigned entryway.
Coddingtown Mall is beginning renovations that include building a play area, updating the restrooms to be more family-friendly, rebuilding two entrances and installing new light fixtures, flooring and plush seating.
"It's something that has been long-awaited, and certainly is overdue," said Kelly Hartsell, regional vice president for Simon Property Group, which co-owns the mall with Codding Enterprises. "Through this renovation we look forward to bringing in new tenants."
The company has been talking with at least four tenants who are close to some sort of agreement, Hartsell said in an interview. It is "very close" to announcing an agreement with an "exciting national retailer" to move into the empty building vacated by Gottschalks in 2009, she said.
"There's a lot of interest, more interest than we've had in years," Hartsell said.
Lois Codding, vice president of leasing at Codding Enterprises, said the mall was getting close to an agreement with BJ's Restaurant & Brewhouse, but it was not yet finalized. She added that the mall has been talking to a lot of potential tenants but they haven't yet signed leases.
"It will be different from Santa Rosa Plaza, which has a more teen demographic," Codding said. "So this will be a bit older and a bit more family-oriented."
That's already the impression held by Jill Johnson, 50, of Sebastopol who shopped in the mall Thursday for Easter chocolates at See's Candies.
"It seems more for people my age," Johnson said. "Maybe a re-do would be good to attract more teenagers."
Retailers were optimistic, and said the most valuable changes the mall has made were recent repairs to a leaky roof.
"In the wintertime, there were buckets everywhere," said Khris Pandit, manager of shoe store Sole Desire. "I think the main thing they should be focused on is bringing in more retailers."
John Elder, store manager at All American Sports Fan, agreed.
"It's been an empty mall for a while," Elder said. "People walk around here and it's like a ghost town most of the time."