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Target opens its new store at Coddingtown Mall on Wednesday, and other merchants at the Santa Rosa mall are hoping its presence will attract more retailers and customers to the 52-year-old shopping center.

The 140,000-square-foot store employs 250 part- and full-time workers, and features the Minneapolis-based retailer’s first optical center in the North Bay.

Over the past two years, Coddingtown’s southern exterior was reshaped in order to place the red-and-mustard Target closer to the interior of the shopping center off Highway 101 and Guerneville Road. Merchants happily noted the store includes an entrance into the mall.

“When the mall’s open, the door’s open,” store manager Megan Louie said of the entrance into the shopping center. Target staff will shut the tall metal door when the store is open for business but the rest of the mall is closed.

The addition of the national retailer is a major step forward in the long-anticipated renovation of the 800,000-square-foot mall.

“Target is a critical piece of the redevelopment of Coddingtown,” said Kirstie Moore, development manager for mall co-owner Codding Enterprises. “We couldn’t be more excited about the opening of this store.”

During the recession, a number of the mall’s businesses shuttered their doors, including anchor tenant Gottschalks in 2009. The two-story building occupied by the department store was torn down in late 2012 to make way for Target.

But Codding Enterprises and mall co-owner Simon Property Group celebrated when Whole Foods Market opened a grocery store at Coddingtown in 2010. Since then, the mall’s north side has been reconfigured with five new eateries, including BJ’s Restaurant and Brewhouse and Sea Noodle Bar.

Now comes Target, with its own pharmacy, a Starbucks coffee shop, an eatery run by Pizza Hut and about 85,000 distinct items of merchandise, including clothing, electronics, household goods and groceries.

To stock the store, Louie said, workers unloaded 30 huge truckloads of merchandise in 25 days. Meanwhile, new employees, the vast majority of them from the Santa Rosa area, received initial training and then went for on-the-job experience at Target’s other stores in Santa Rosa and Rohnert Park.

On Monday, workers in the new Optical Center were making final preparations to help walk-in customers with exams and the selection of eyeglasses and contacts.

“We make it simple and fast,” said Dr. Albert Lee, the store’s optometrist. Even shoppers without a vision care plan still can receive discounts of 15 to 30 percent through auto insurance programs with major providers, including AAA, he said.

Those seeking information about the times of operation for the Optical Center and other departments can call the store’s new number, 596-5587.

In order to make way for the new Target, nearly all the stores on Coddingtown’s south side had to be moved to other locations during construction.

As a result, for two winter holiday seasons those store spaces were “completely barricaded off,” said Sherry Martin, the owner of Thomas Kincade Gallery.

Fewer open stores meant fewer customers, which is partly why the mall’s “traffic has gone so low,” said Albert Mouttapa, owner of International Imports, which has been at Coddingtown for 40 years.

The mall still has at least 10 empty interior spaces. But Simon officials noted that three new retailers recently opened inside the mall. And they expressed optimism about the future.

Mall manager John Best said in a statement that “predictions indicate a strong holiday season for retailers, and our center is gearing up to offer a fun and productive holiday shopping experience.”

Both Martin and Mouttapa said they are looking forward to Target’s presence, as well as to the coming operation of nearby Dick’s Sporting Goods. Dick’s is scheduled to open in the first quarter of next year on the site formerly occupied by the Los Robles Lodge, said Moore.

Mouttapa, whose gift and novelty store now sits in the former Sweet River Saloon space, said he plans to extend the discount he gives mall workers to the Target’s new staff members.

“They have 200 employees,” he said, “so that will boost up our sales.”

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