Metrocenter mall to be 're-themed' in attempt to bring it back to life

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PHOENIX – Westcor, Arizona's biggest mall owner, is bailing on one of its most troubled sites: the Metrocenter Mall.

With Westcor out and a lot of empty retail space available, can the once-thriving mall be saved?

The mall has other out-of-state owners. It is not closing. In fact, you can expect Metrocenter to change quite a bit over the next few years. It was once the biggest mall in Arizona and the first in the country to have multiple levels and five big anchor stores.

Bill and Ted spent their “excellent adventure” inside Metrocenter.

Gail Morgan, a neighbor, says, “It was the place to come and the place to be for several years." She says she watched Metrocenter rise and decline as anchor stores moved out and crime moved in.

Metrocenter is better known these days as the place where rapper DMX was arrested but neighbors say the mall's reputation is unfair. "All kinds of misconceptions about Metrocenter…those of us who live here really like the area,” explains Morgan.

Now plans are in the works to re-purpose Metrocenter. George Bosworth, with Urban Land Institute, says, “It's gonna need to be re-themed."

The city, neighbors, realty and business experts and the Urban Land Institute are working to rejuvenate Metrocenter. They say it can be saved if it is turned into more of a mixed-use complex.

Bosworth explains, “That'll serve the educational community in the area through private schools, the healthcare industry, which is substantial in that area."

Empty stores could become health offices or classrooms. As for crime, security has increased and the mall's neighbors developed a strong block watch program.

Morgan says, “Our police officer was telling us crime's decreased 50 percent." Gloria Brookins, another neighbor, adds, “A lot of us on this block chose to stay because we did turn it around."

They also say they hope Metrocenter can be turned around, too. The mall still has a great location right off Interstate 17. The surrounding neighborhood has improved a lot so neighbors and developers are confident the mall area can bounce back in time.