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Demolition begins on Elk Grove ‘Ghost Mall,’ clearing the way for new casino and resort

After more than ten years of waiting for construction to resume on a planned mall in Elk Grove, the buildings are finally coming down.

ELK GROVE, Calif. — Cheers mixed with the sound of demolition equipment on Friday morning, as the first big piece of the long-abandoned mall in Elk Grove came crashing down. 

The demolition is making way for the Wilton Rancheria Elk Grove Resort and Casino Project at the north end of the mall site near Kammerer Road and Highway 99. The shells of buildings have been an eyesore in the city for more than a decade and city leaders couldn’t be more thrilled to see them finally come down.

Credit: Giacomo Luca
Demolition started Friday at the old mall site in Elk Grove.

“For far too long, the people of Elk Grove have waited for development to begin on the site of the ghost mall,” Assemblymember Jim Cooper said in a statement. “Now that demolition has begun on this longstanding blighted property, I am hopeful the residents of Elk Grove will finally get the quality retail destination they deserve.”

RELATED: Elk Grove 'Ghost Mall': Four things to know after the city announces demolition

The demolition project is expected to take nearly four weeks. The first buildings to come down are on the site of the Wilton Rancheria Elk Grove Resort and Casino Project.

The mall history

The mall has been in a partially completed state for more than a decade, after the original developer, General Growth Properties, went bankrupt in 2007. Howard Hughes Corporation [HHC] purchased the property and announced plans to rework the existing buildings into an outdoor outlet mall. It also sold a 36-acre parcel in 2016 to the Wilton Rancheria Tribe for the casino and resort project.

Ultimately, Howard Hughes Corp. was never able to get the level of pre-leasing it needed to move forward with construction. In January 2019, the company told Elk Grove city officials it was abandoning the ‘Outlook Collection at Elk Grove’ and planned to demolish what has already been built.

“It’s been a long wait to begin to remove the blight caused by Howard Hughes’ failed ghost mall,” Elk Grove Mayor Steve Ly said.

Resort and casino project

While the city and people of Elk Grove wait for Howard Hughes to announce its plans for the rest of the site, the casino project is making progress. Tribal leaders said construction will begin this year and should take 18-24 months to complete. The Tribe has said in an earlier interview that it plans to open sometime in 2020.

"Our project has never hinged on what Hughes ultimately does with its property,” Wilton Rancheria Chairman Raymond Hitchcock said in a release from the Tribe. “But the zombie mall has been an eyesore for more than 10 years and the people of Elk Grove deserve a first-class development to accompany our first-class resort. “

What's next?

What’s less clear is what happens with the rest of the mall site the Howard Hughes Corp. still owns. Although its agreement with Elk Grove expired in November 2018, the land is still zoned for a “regional mall.”

Darrell Doan, Elk Grove Economic Development Director, said it’s the city’s desire that HHC sells the property. City officials would then work with a new developer to create a regional dining, entertainment and retail space.

"The city did everything within its power to move the project forward, but all decisions on the development of the mall ultimately rest with HHC,” Doan said. “While we are disappointed that HHC was not able to complete the project, we are excited for the opportunity to potentially partner with a new developer who shares the city’s vision for the site and its potential as a regional destination.”

RELATED: Elk Grove development bringing Costco, Olive Garden and more

Howard Hughes Corp. told city leaders it is considering its options. Those options could include a new development concept or selling the property. While Elk Grove officials are hopeful the developer will sell the land, Doan said the city will work with the Howard Hughes Corp. or whoever they sell the land to in order to develop a plan that is in the best interest of the community.

“Like everyone in Elk Grove, we look forward to seeing what the future hold for the site – and we hope to see it soon,” Hitchcock said.

Drone video of abandoned Elk Grove mall

Before it got torn down, here's what the Elk Grove ghost mall looked like. 

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