SIMI VALLEY : Weak Economy May Delay Mall by 1 Year

The developers of a proposed regional mall in Simi Valley said Thursday that the project may be delayed a year because of the worsening economy.

The developers had hoped to break ground on the 1.5-million-square-foot mall in mid-1993, with the first phase opening in 1995. The City Council approved plans for the project in September.

But Rick Moses, vice president of Homart Development Co. of Chicago, said the mall might not open until 1996. Homart is in partnership with Indianapolis-based Melvin Simon & Associates on the project.

So far, the developers have received a letter of intent from one department store chain and a letter of interest from another about joining the mall, Moses said. But he pointed out that the developers need to sign at least three large retailers to secure financing for the project.

"This is a tenant-driven business," he said. "They are the driving force. It's in their hands."

Moses said the developers were hoping that Christmas sales would help turn things around in the slow retail market, but that does not appear to be the case.

"With the economy the way it is, and the retail business being what it is, everyone is being much more conservative," he said.

Homart and Melvin Simon, which already have invested about $5 million in the project, propose to build a fully enclosed 950,000-square-foot mall on a 126-acre site north of the Simi Valley Freeway between First Street and Erringer Road. The project will also include about 500,000 square feet of offices and commercial space.

Mayor Greg Stratton said he was not surprised that the mall might be delayed because of the recession. Despite the possible setback, he said he was not worried that the developer will back out altogether.

"I don't think that the current people will fall out," he said. "They've got too much invested to give up."

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