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Gap stores leaving Downtown Plaza

Published: Thursday, Jan. 17, 2013 - 12:00 am | Page 6B
Last Modified: Thursday, Jan. 17, 2013 - 8:12 am

Someday, perhaps, Sacramento's Downtown Plaza could be turned into an arena for the Kings.

For now, it's an aging shopping mall struggling to hold onto its tenants.

It lost another important retailer Wednesday, when the Gap and its sister store, Gap Kids, announced they were leaving this month.

The chain's spokeswoman, Edie Kissko, said in a prepared statement that the departure stems from a "long-term real estate strategy."

The strategy is wrapping up, and the Downtown Plaza location is among the last to close down in the chain, she said.

The company announced in late 2011 it would close one fifth of its Gap-brand stores in North America. At the same time, it's been adding low-price outlet stores and expanding aggressively overseas, opening stores for the first time in markets such as Hong Kong and Rome.

Downtown Plaza has been in trouble for years, and was unloaded last summer by longtime owner Westfield Corp. for just $22 million. The mall has 20 vacancies, and city officials say revenue fell 33 pecent from 2005 to 2011.

The new owner, JMA Ventures Inc. of San Francisco, called the Gap's exit "unfortunate" but vowed to turn the mall around.

"We have been hard at work finalizing plans for Downtown Plaza's overall transformation," said JMA chief executive Todd Chapman in a prepared statement. "We look forward to providing more information as details solidify in the coming months."

One possible vision for the mall is basketball. Over the weekend, a JMA spokesman said the company might partner with one of the investor groups studying a possible bid for the Kings as a means of keeping the team from relocating to Seattle.

JMA has already commissioned an arena feasibility study by AECOM, an architecture-engineering firm that's designed several NBA venues. The study showed an arena could be built on the mall site.

City officials are also eyeing the downtown railyard location, the site of the arena project that was approved by the City Council last March but then abandoned by the Kings' owners, the Maloofs.

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Read more articles by Dale Kasler

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