bella terra mall
bella terra courtyard


Bella Terra Mall Huntington Beach Marketing Story


Huntington Beach, CA--Bella Terra redevelopment area of Huntington Beach.  What's in store for Bella Terra?


Foods, Gelson’s or something similar—as well as a consumer electronics store, a home furnishings store, a wine bar, cheese shop and bakery, Berman said.  Bella Terra,  Huntington Beach, California is part of the California shopping experience.

“We have to get it right,” said Berman, who’s done work for Walt Disney Co., Nike Inc. and The Grove in Los Angeles.

Rendering of Bella Terra II: some 500 homes part of project

Plans for the second phase are moving ahead despite a slow housing market and a pullback in projects by other developers.

The city, which encouraged the mall’s makeover, has been working with DJM to get Bella Terra II under way. Paul Da Veiga, a project manager for Huntington Beach, said the city would like to see more mixed uses like DJM is proposing.

“The city has been responsive and attentive to us,” Parton said.

Design and the environmental review are happening simultaneously.

Bella Terra II, expected to be finished in two to three years, calls for a large grocery store—Whole
Selling consumers and businesses on a mall that mixes upscale shops, homes and stores geared toward residents could
be a challenge. All the
while, Berman is looking to capture the flavor of Huntington Beach.

The city’s known for its laid-back, surfing and skateboarding culture. It’s also a city that wants to keep its charm.

If the story of Bella Terra is crafted to fit what already exists in Huntington Beach, it can help in the leasing and marketing of Bella Terra, according to Berman.

The Grove, by Caruso Affiliated, headed by Rick Caruso, is a prime example of a branded mall, she said. It has a dedicated budget for holiday events and year-round entertainment as well as a mix of upscale stores and classic Los Angeles brands.

“For Caruso, brand was terribly important,” Berman said.

Closer to Bella Terra, South Coast Plaza arguably is the best branded shopping center. The Costa Mesa center has crafted an image of exclusivity by hosting events, shuttling guests from upscale hotels, putting out its own catalog and landing stores that can’t be found elsewhere in Orange County or, in some cases, anywhere else on the West Coast.

Branding doesn’t replace a mall’s marketing department, Berman said. It arms marketing people with information on how best to promote the mall, she said.

“Most real estate developers don’t see a person like me as part of the process,” she said.

Malls—no matter where they are—tend to inherit their owners’ identity, such as those owned by Indianapolis-based Simon Property Group Inc. and Australia’s Westfield Group.

Bella Terra wants to distinguish itself.

“It’s about keeping it real, keeping it local—capturing the spirit,” Berman said. “That’s a taller order.”

In 2005, DJM bought the mall from J.H. Snyder Co. for $224 million. Last year, it bought the land for phase two, where a boarded up Montgomery Wards building now sits.

Phase two is aiming to be a richer extension of phase one—a casual, outdoor California lifestyle in a resort-like setting.

It will be more natural in terms of landscaping and feature a 1-acre park. Plans call for a concierge service that helps residents with things such as booking travel, Berman said.

DJM also bought the nearby One Pacific Plaza, a 9-acre property that has been renamed the Towers at Bella Terra. There is a 193,000-square-foot, 12-story office tower, two mid-rise towers totaling 189,000 square feet, a Buca di Peppo restaurant and a 24 Hour Fitness gym.

The developer is in it for the long haul, according to Parton.

“We’re really not sellers,” he said.

DJM saw the underachieving Bella Terra as an opportunity, despite frustrations previous owners had in trying to rejuvenate the mall.

Bella Terra, which started out in 1967 as an indoor mall named the Huntington Beach Shopping Center, was a has-been by the 1990s. It sat largely ignored.

In 1996, Santa Monica-based Macerich Co. bought the mall, took off the roof and planned to spend $60 million to renovate it, using Metro Pointe in Costa Mesa as a model. The 1998 reopening never happened.

Macerich sold the mall to Ezralow Retail Properties LLC in 1999 for $48 million. Ezralow brought on J.H. Snyder, which made more headway, attracting Kohl’s, renaming it Bella Terra and going with the Tuscan village theme.

Ezralow and J.H. Snyder had difficulties buying Montgomery Ward’s site, which Sears Roebuck & Co. owned. After DJM bought the mall, it had better leverage to buy out the site—since it held a significant stake in Huntington Beach. It owns and runs 800,000 square feet in the city.

DJM has been able to attract key retailers, such as the Cheesecake Factory and Huntington Surf & Sport.

The Cheesecake Factory was a coup—the prior owners weren’t successful in getting the restaurant to come to Bella Terra, Parton said.

DJM pitched its branding concept to Cheesecake Factory.

“They really got it,” he said. “It’s storytelling. We’re really good at being passionate.”

Huntington Surf & Sport also got the idea of being Huntington Beach-centric. Its connection to local shoppers is what pushed DJM to court the store.

DJM opted for Huntington Surf & Sport instead of national surfwear king PacSun. Pacific Sunwear of California Inc., though based in Anaheim, wasn’t ideal because its stores are in just about every mall, he said.

Huntington Surf & Sport is what Surf City is about, Parton said.

Bill Sharp, Huntington Surf & Sport store manager, said business at Bella Terra has been sporadic but he has seen improvement.

Residents are now coming to Bella Terra to eat and see a movie, he said.

Some of the eateries at Bella Terra: Pinkberry, Johnny Rockets, Rocky Mountain Chocolate Factory, The Cravery, California Pizza Kitchen, Corner Bakery and Daphne’s Greek Cafe.

Bella Terra is looking for young, growing companies, similar to No Rest For Bridget, a women’s clothing boutique that opened at Bella Terra in April.

No Rest For Bridget has one other store on 17th Street in Costa Mesa. Owner Mas Hayakawa looked everywhere for a second store, from south of Los Angeles to Dana Point and Laguna Beach.

Hayakawa chose Bella Terra because many of its Costa Mesa store’s customers were from Huntington Beach, he said.

Justice, a shop for tweens (ages 7 to 14), is one of the best performing stores at the mall, said Patricia Apel, general manager of Bella Terra. And it is New Albany, Ohio-based Tween Brands Inc.’s highest performing store, according to spokesman Robert Atkinson.

Some tenants would like to see a few more anchor stores to draw in traffic, Huntington Surf & Sport’s Sharp said.

“The key to any business is to get the right tenant mix,” he said.



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