‘Ready for a New Vision’: North Tucson Mall Demolished, $500 Million Redevelopment Planned

Article originally posted on AZ Central on May 22, 2023

A Tucson-based developer has major plans for the former Foothills Mall, which has begun demolition near Ina Road and La Cholla Boulevard in the northern part of Tucson.

The Bourn Cos. had owned the mall in the early 1990s and at the time revamped it to focus on outlet stores and food and beverage options, then sold the property, Don Bourn, CEO of the Bourn Cos., said.

In the next few decades, stores in the mall started to close, with many opting instead for locations at a newer outlet mall closer to Interstate 10.

The Bourn Cos. bought the mall again a few years ago, with the intention of redeveloping it. The name of the new development is Uptown.

“There was a tremendous amount of vacant space,” Bourn said. “It was built in the 1980s and was ready for a new vision.”

The northern and northeastern parts of the city have grown a lot, and the vacant mall left an open hole in otherwise well-located real estate.

“The property deserved to be redeveloped into a higher and better use,” he said.

The site is about 51 acres, and the initial buildout will include about 1.2 million square feet of buildings.

That will include about 1,000 residential units, 500 hotel rooms, 25 restaurants and bars, 500,000 square feet of shops and six outdoor common spaces. Plans also call for some office and medical uses. The residential units are planned to be rentals, but Bourn said there could be units to purchase in the future.

The project will cost about $500 million to develop, Bourn said. Some of the mall’s current tenants, including AMC Theatres and bookseller Barnes and Noble, plan to remain at the redeveloped site. AMC renovated its theater to be “state of the art” before the pandemic, and Bourn said his company could build something new for Barnes and Noble. Some other tenants, including locally owned restaurants, also could get new locations in the redevelopment.

Bourn said the development is “consistent with where the world is going,” moving in favor of more food and beverage options and smaller-scale retail rather than large power centers.

An artist's rendering shows a hotel building planned at Uptown, the planned redevelopment of the Foothills Mall in Tucson.

The Bourn Cos. is master planning the entire site and plans to be the developer but also could choose to partner with different companies that bring a specialty, he said.

Demolition on the shuttered mall began in February, and construction on the first building is planned to start in August. The first pieces will be completed around the third quarter of 2025. Full buildout of the 1.2 million square feet could take four to five years.

Bourn said they are planning to bring mid to high-end tenants to Uptown, with the hope that it can be a destination for people multiple times a week, for lunch, coffee, shopping or other activities.

“We don’t want to be overly exclusive. We want to be something the entire community can come to and enjoy,” he said.

An artist's rendering shows the pedestrian promenade through Uptown, the planned redevelopment of the Foothills Mall in Tucson.

As habits have changed, large-scale malls and power centers have generally fallen out of favor for many shoppers, leaving vacant spaces in place of what was once a community hub. Like Foothills Mall, many other malls in the state have been reimagined and redeveloped, ushering in a new era of how mall properties can be used.

In Phoenix, Park Central Mall was redeveloped to reuse the department stores as office space, with new development in what was the parking lots. Paradise Valley Mall, now renamed PV, was mostly razed and is in the early stages of redevelopment into a mixed-use project that will include residential, entertainment and retail uses. Metrocenter Mall will be the next to face the wrecking ball and will be redeveloped, with a focus on attainably priced housing.