Developers plan to transform Fiesta Mall into a campus focused on health and education.

Mesa history: Once proud mall giving way as Downtown Mesa experiences a rebirth

Recent articles about the death of Fiesta Mall — once Mesa’s premier enclosed shopping mecca — demonstrate just how far a star can fall. The demise of Fiesta Mall where generations shopped and socialized tugs at nostalgic heartstrings.

With one last hope for revitalization, the mall was purchased in 2004 for $135 million.

Today, the new owners, Dimension Financial & Realty Investments Inc., acquired the further depressed property for $6.75 million, just 5 percent of its 2004 value. Plans call for repurposing the former the mall “into a campus focused on health and education.”

It gets one thinking.


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Malls hit East Valley

When Tri-City Mall opened in 1968 at Dobson and University, Mesa and East Valley residents were thrilled to have an enclosed shopping center of their own. No longer did they have to schlep all the way to Phoenix’s Thomas Mall.

Only a handful of malls existed when Tri-City debuted. It’s nearest neighbor, Scottsdale’s Mexican-themed Los Arcos opened a year later.

Tri-City held the Mesa mall monopoly for two years before Sears-owned Homart Development Company announced plans for a mega mall on the edge of town — the southwest corner of Alma School and Southern.

Homart was no upstart in the business. It built its first shopping center in Fort Worth, Texas in 1959. By the time Fiesta Mall opened, Homart was the third-largest shopping center development company in the U.S.

Homart said it was planning one of the largest mall is the Valley. On 120 acres of farmland would be erected 1.2 to 1.4 million square feet of deliciously air-conditioned shopping and eating opportunities. It would spend $35 to $55 million. Fiesta Mall was slated to open in 1973.

One wonders what the folks who owned Tri-City Mall thought about the impending competition.

Fiesta Mall finally opens

They need not have worried … immediately. Planning and building Fiesta Mall took much longer than Homart imagined. Almost exactly nine years to the day after the initial announcement, Fiesta Mall finally opened its doors to great fanfare Oct. 3, 1979.

In addition to a much large space than its former downtown location Sears was the anchor tenant, along with the Broadway and Goldwater’s, followed soon after by Diamonds.

More than 100 smaller stores and restaurants made Fiesta Mall a popular attraction for more than two decades.

To kick-off the opening, Fiesta Mall published a 55-page supplement, featuring ads for virtually all the businesses. It was an insert in the Arizona Republic & Phoenix Gazette, Scottsdale Progress and Pennysaver newspapers.

By the late 1990s, changing demographics — Mesa had expanded many miles east — consumer tastes, and intensive competition — Tempe and Chandler had their own malls — was taking its toll on Fiesta Mall.

Time has a way of being a great equalizer. Tri-City Mall helped spell the demise of Mesa’s downtown shopping district. Fiesta Mall helped put a nail in the coffin of Tri-City. Now we’ve come full circle.

Fiesta Mall is dead. And downtown Mesa is experiencing a rebirth.

Reach historian Jay Mark at [email protected]


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