More tenant departures possible as rest of Downtown Plaza faces remodel

Some of the remaining tenants at Downtown Plaza could be leaving soon as the mall’s developer considers remodeling the site to coincide with construction of the new Sacramento Kings arena.

With the eastern half of Downtown Plaza almost completely torn down to make way for the arena, mall operator JMA Ventures LLC said Wednesday that it has spoken to remaining tenants about “the possibility of a west mall closure” for redevelopment.

The disruption caused by arena construction, plus the likelihood of an overhaul of the rest of the mall, have already prompted some tenants to re-evaluate their future at Downtown Plaza.

Yummy Yogurt Cafe, one of the 18 tenants that stayed open when demolition began on the arena site in mid-August, closed 10 days ago. Another tenant, River City Brewing, is looking for new space outside the mall after being told a remodel will likely start sometime in early 2015.

River City’s co-owner, Beth Ayres, expressed frustration with a 35 percent drop in business since demolition started and what she described as a lack of communication from JMA about the restaurant’s possible role at Downtown Plaza after the redevelopment.

“Nobody’s reached out to us and said, ‘We want you to stay, we want you to be part of the arena,’ ” Ayres said. She said River City, which has stood at the western end of the mall for 21 years, is looking at downtown sites but could also relocate elsewhere in the city or possibly the suburbs.

JMA said several mall occupants are staying put and are expected to remain open during construction, including Macy’s and Century Theatres in the western half and 24 Hour Fitness at the eastern edge.

JMA, which is based in San Francisco, sold Downtown Plaza to the Kings in January but has an agreement to manage the mall and redevelop the property. A hotel, office space and some retail is expected to fill in the space immediately adjacent to the arena, in the eastern half, but so far JMA hasn’t announced specific plans for redoing the western half.

Kings officials referred questions about mall tenants to JMA.

Todd Chapman, president and chief executive of JMA, acknowledged that mall tenants were “presented some uncertain times,” but said the company has been upfront with tenants about the likelihood of a remodel of what’s left of Downtown Plaza.

“JMA has been in close communication with all tenants to inform them of the possibility of a west mall closure to allow ample time to find new space – if they so desire,” he said in a prepared statement. “Our team has communicated to these tenants that they are welcome to remain open as long as feasible during the center’s redevelopment, and we have discussed with them the opportunities that may exist once merchandising plans have been solidified.”

River City’s lease runs out Dec. 31. Ayres said she was told by JMA that the restaurant could stay open “for a couple of months after that, a month-to-month (basis), and then the mall will be remodeled.”

Jason Yee, owner of Yummy Yogurt, said it made no sense to keep the cafe open after mall traffic declined steeply with the start of arena construction. His hope that construction workers would pick up the slack hasn’t panned out.

“We didn’t think it would be a smart business decision to stay open for two years,” Yee said. “We saw quite a decrease in foot traffic.”

Yee’s other Downtown Plaza business, the Pre-Flite Lounge, was in the portion of the mall that’s been torn down already. He’s making plans to relocate the venerable tavern to a site on 10th Street.

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