The Coachella Valley is a desert region in eastern Riverside County, California, stretching through the desert north of the Salton Sea. One of the fastest-growing metropolitan areas in the country (with an estimated 2010 population of around 600,000 permanent residents, plus hundreds of thousands of seasonal residents), the region has been a popular tourist destination since the 1920s when many in Hollywood were drawn to the hot, sunny weather and seclusion. The region’s anchor city and historic heart (though not the largest community) is Palm Springs, at the far western edge of the valley.
Development patterns in the Coachella Valley are more or less what you would expect of a region developed almost entirely in the 20th century (and very significantly in the last few decades). The region is criss-crossed with a network of wide grid-pattern arterials and a sprawling network of low-slung housing developments, many of them resort-style communities for part-time residents. Like most places that have exploded in this manner, there are dozens of strip malls and big box centers scattered across a 25-mile wide swath of the valley stretching from Palm Springs to Coachella. Buried within that mess, there are no less than four enclosed malls, and shopping in air conditioned comfort makes sense when the region is known for it searing heat and blinding sun. However, 3 out of 4 of these malls are dying (and one of the four is shuttered entirely). We posted the Fiesta Mall in Indio, at the eastern end of the valley, about a year ago. Today’s mall is 25 miles to the west: Palm Springs Mall, while technically still open for now, is one of the near-dead.
Located on Tahquitz Canyon Way about 2 miles northeast of downtown Palm Springs, the Palm Springs Mall is a relatively small, T-shaped community center, with an extension on one side that housed a Von’s supermarket and several smaller outdoor-facing stores. Architecturally, the exterior almost looks like a fairly standard strip mall, but the interior still has terra cotta tiles and other trappings of malls from several decades ago. There are also some interesting soaring ceiling features and skylights that clearly date the mall to its original construction in the late 1960s, even if it otherwise appears to have gotten a facelift sometime in the 80s. Until the middle of this past decade, it was relatively successful, with Gottschalks, True Value, Ross Dress For Less, and Office Max all functioning as the mall’s most recent anchor stores.
The Palm Springs Mall opened with San Diego-based Walker-Scott in 1970, who lasted in the space until the entire chain folded in 1987. Long Beach-based Buffums’ replaced them, but they also folded in 1991. Gottschalks took over the space right up to that company’s demise in 2009. The large anchor at the southern end of the mall was for a time a Kmart store, but that space was subdivided into True Value and Ross Dress For Less at some point later. I can’t find if there was a tenant in that space before Kmart, and to add to the confusion many news articles on the internet seem to confuse this mall with another dead mall in Palm Springs, so there is some question as to whether this mall or the other ever had a JCPenney anchor store. Just over the last few months (since these photos were taken in February, even!) the True Value fled the mall for a new location.
Rumors of a redevelopment have been swirling since at least 2007, when the mall was at least still somewhat viable (and still had its main anchor store in Gottschalks). There continue to be rumors of *something* to happen at the property, but in the meantime it continues to bleed tenants. The location is also somewhat strange and off Palm Springs’ main arterials, so it may make more sense to repurpose the property as something other than retail though the empty lots that dot the nearby area seem to indicate there isn’t a ton of demand.
Like a lot of dying malls in growing sun belt cities, we couldn’t find much about the Palm Springs Mall online–there probably aren’t that many current residents who remember much about the glory days. Do you know more about the history? Use the comments section to fill us in.