Mall general manager Gary Fields had no comment on the possibility that Macy’s or another tenant might replace Gottschalks, and he said no deal has been signed with anyone. But he did say the mall expects to announce a future tenant “in the very near future.”
Macy’s could not be reached for comment, but Mayor Brent Ives said the city is working with mall owner General Growth Properties “to explore what’s necessary to form a partnership … to make sure the mall is successful.”
Gottschalks went into bankruptcy and sold off all the store’s assets last spring, leaving a gaping hole in a mall that had already seen one barely rented wing turn into a quasi ghost town, and other tenants depart as well.
Sources familiar with recent talks say Tracy might spend in the mid-six figures to renovate the empty anchor space and lure Macy’s, a tony department store that shoppers in Tracy have been asking for since the mall opened in the mid-1990s.
While Ives said he’s unsure exactly how any city money might be spent, he sees any cash the city spends to land a high-end tenant as “an investment that I believe would be paid over time with sales tax.”
Councilman Steve Abercrombie said any deal would likely have to be approved by the judge presiding over General Growth Properties’ bankruptcy as it reorganizes its debt. Ives said the company might be sold.
If a deal is struck at the mall, it will be the second time in less than a year Tracy officials could vote to spend tax money to help the private sector. Last summer, the City Council voted to spend $400,000 to give away 800 $500 gift cards to those who bought cars in Tracy.
The city passed a resolution to get around a law that bars the private gift of public money, and Ives and Abercrombie said the council would have to pass another resolution if it does something similar at the mall. Ives said the city could move around money for the mall that the city has in its general fund.
If Tracy does spend money at the mall, it will be with the hope the city can boost its sagging sales tax revenues, which along with property tax income is used to pay employees to keep the city running.
Tracy faces a projected $9 million budget deficit this year, and its tax income has collapsed in the past few years.
If Macy’s moves to the mall, officials hope others will follow suit, helping spur new tenants to fill empty space in and around the mall, and boost the city’s sagging revenue.
“It instantly makes it more viable and more attractive,” Ives said. “There’s more traffic in restaurants, more people buying cars. There’s a lot of spin-off value to having the right merchant in that space.”
Fields said the mall has been approached by people who have wanted to rent the Gottschalks space, but it’s looking for a tenant that fits.
“We’ve been diligent working with the city, whether it’s the mayor or the city manager,” Fields said. “When it’s all said and done, we will have the right use for that space.”
• Contact Tracy Press City Editor Eric Firpo at 830-4223 or firstname.lastname@example.org.