Zoning change OK’d for The Shops at Havasu

March 21, 2019

The Lake Havasu City Planning and Zoning Commission unanimously approved a request by a local developer to rezone sections of The Shops at Havasu Wednesday morning.

With the change from a General Commercial Planned Development District to General Commercial District, the hope is that other retailers will want to open a location at the beleaguered mall. When the shopping center was proposed in 2005, developers speculated it would eventually be one to three anchor stores, four to six mini-anchors, a movie theater, and roughly 80 to 90 shops, with about 1,400 full-time employees. It wasn’t long after they broke ground that Lake Havasu City, along with the rest of America, was caught up in the Great Recession.

Mychal Gorden, of Desert Land Group, and also a member of the planning and zoning commission, recused himself from the vote prior to his brief presentation. He spoke on behalf of the ownership group led by local man, Jarrett Portz, a business owner with a background in private equity. Portz bought 200,000 square feet of the mall, about a third of the total space there, and plans to focus on restaurant and entertainment businesses to create more of a destination atmosphere.

“We want to bring activity drivers to the mall,” Gorden said. “Things for kids, a mix of uses that would help the mall remain viable. For the first time, we have local ownership and that’s important. The Planned Development zoning was restrictive, so we believe this will help.”

Portz addressed the challenges of retail stores in malls that exist across the country.

“Retail has changed dramatically in the last decade, there are a lot of empty spaces there and there isn’t the infrastructure, plumbing, fire sprinklers, etc., that is needed,” Portz said. “Our vision is to do something more in line with what other successful places are doing.”

Portz’s plan is to focus on what he calls omnichannel retailers — an approach to sales and marketing that incorporates a combination of mobile browsing, internet shopping and brick-and-mortar customer service. It’s a trend that’s already caught on at the mall’s three anchor stores, Walmart, JC Penney and Dillard’s.

Portz said he already has a commitment from Our Pampered Home, a local company owned by Tom and Megan Sanders.

“He’s committed to take a space at The Shops,” Portz said. “If we can’t get them here, it inhibits the future of the mall.”

Tom Sanders, a native of Lake Havasu City, said his company has outgrown the locations where they’ve been in the city.

“It’s an amazing opportunity,” Sanders said. “It would be a great fit for us.”

Planning and Zoning Commission member Dan McGowan, who said he was involved in the restaurant business in Nevada, was supportive. But he also talked about some of the difficulties of operating a business in Lake Havasu.

“We desperately need that whole situation corrected,” McGowan said. “But population is going to be an issue.”

McGowan said when the city did a survey of the types of businesses residents wanted here, Costco ranked first, Olive Garden was second and Target was third.

“Costco said it would take 100 years before we had enough people here,” McGowan said.

The workforce was also an issue, according to McGowan.

“In Vegas, there are 2 million people,” he said. “Here we have 100,000 in the winter and half that in the summer, so the labor force is also an issue.”

Portz acknowledged that doing business in the city can be a challenge.

“But we have a lot of discretionary income here, a lot of baby boomers, and I’m willing to invest my money to help bring businesses to the mall,” Portz said.

Portz also talked about the possibility of an indoor soccer facility or arcades.

“It’d be great to have a place for the kids to play during the summer when it’s 120 degrees outside,” Portz said.

If City Council approves the commission’s recommendation, the properties that will be part of the rezoning include a 31.27-acre parcel that contains the mall/town center, food court area, three vacant, undeveloped lots along State Route 95 that are 1.36 acres, 1.77 and 1.21, respectively, and two building pads of about 1.5 acres.

The next council meeting will be at 6 p.m., Tuesday. The next planning and zoning meeting is scheduled for April 3.

Scott Shindledecker may be reached at 928-453-4237, ext. 252, or at sshindledecker@havasunews.com.