Baldwin Hills Crenshaw Plaza officials hope the addition of a T.J. Maxx discount clothing outlet, which recently began construction, will help boost the fortunes of the mall, marred for years by empty shops.
"We expect it to be a big draw," plaza manager Joe Rouzan said of the 30,000-square-foot store, scheduled to open in November. "They're (T. J. Maxx) moving real fast. Just over the past weekend, the construction workers made a lot of progress."
Nine storefronts on the plaza's upper level--cleared for a theater complex that will be constructed outside the mall--will be utilized for T.J. Maxx, a national retail chain that operates 44 stores in Southern California.
The addition of T. J. Maxx and two women's clothing stores scheduled to open within the next two months--Trapp's and Forever 21--will increase tenant occupancy from 70% to 85%, Rouzan said.
Though a T. J. Maxx is open in Culver City, a few miles west of the Baldwin Hills mall, spokeswoman Jane Joyce said company officials decided that the Crenshaw Plaza area fit the store's demographic profile.
"We looked at a variety of things--household income, population density, number of families," she said. "Some people pointed out that we do have a store not very far away from the plaza. But we tend to cluster stores in areas that like our merchandise."
The mall has been struggling for four years to attract major retailers. The plaza is anchored by Robinsons-May, the Broadway and Sears.
Since the center was enclosed and refurbished, opening as the Baldwin Hills Crenshaw Plaza in 1988, it has struggled with low occupancy rates.
After the Jan. 17 Northridge earthquake, Robinsons-May shut down for six months, hurting nearby stores that depended on its customers for business. Two stores, McLendon's Hats and Buster Brown shoes, closed during that time.
But, Rouzan said, the new T. J. Maxx shows the mall is on the rebound. And there are other signs as well: The Disney Store, which opened last year, has consistently reported the highest video sales of all Disney stores in the Southern California region, he noted, and Wilson's House of Suede and Leather has out-grossed its sister stores for the past three months.