In what was a symbolic day of Elk Grove’s past and present, the process of dismantling the portion the Elk Grove “Ghost Mall” that is on the future site of the Wilton Rancheria Casino has begun.
Flanked by Elk Grove elected officials and other community members, Wilton Rancheria Chairman Raymond Hitchcock gave the signal to begin tearing down the mall structures that sit on the 36 acres of tribal land.
Hitchcock and other speakers talked of removing the eye sore that has plagued the city since the recession some 11 years ago. It was then that the construction of the mall was halted. Former mall developer, General Growth, eventually filed for bankruptcy and sold the property to the Howard Hughes Corporation.
For the past several years, the Hughes Corporation has teased the community with coming soon signs and releasing the names of potential retailers that have signed up.
As each year would come and go, the mall would be delayed. Then last month HHC announced they were abandoning completing the mall and would tear down the existing buildings and sell the property.
There is more to the history of the mall that many local residents may know or remember. Elk Grove Vice Mayor Pat Hume talked briefly of that history today when he compared what happened to the mall to what has been happening to the planned casino.
Several years before the recession, the original concept for the Elk Grove mall was an indoor mall similar to Arden Fair and the Roseville Galleria. A group of local residents, financed by owners of another Sacramento mall filed a lawsuit that stalled the mall for several years. Hume said, “It’s ironic the reason we stand on this stalled property today, is because when the mall was originally coming forward, you had a group of local people being funded by money from competing interests outside the community of Elk Grove. They stalled the project just long enough where it missed that economic window when it would have been viable to move forward. The tribe has been battling that same thing, with local people funded by competing interests outside the community of Elk Grove. “
Press Release from the Wilton Rancheria Tribe
ELK GROVE, CA— FEB. 1—Wilton Rancheria today began demolishing unfinished steel and concrete structures on the site of its future resort and casino, as site preparation work continues on the tribe’s 36-acre parcel in Elk Grove.
“Today marks the beginning of the end to the Ghost Mall structures that have blighted our community for more than a decade,” said Raymond C. Hitchcock, Chairman of Wilton Rancheria. “We are proud to be taking steps to remove the grim reminder of a dark time in our economic history, and we look forward to the next phase of our project and our eventual groundbreaking.”
“It has been 11 years since construction stopped on the infamous ‘ghost mall’ that is an eye sore in our community,” said Dr. Richard Pan, State Senator and pediatrician. “It is time for the people of Elk Grove to have a better future for this space.”
“For far too long the people of Elk Grove have waited for development to begin on the site of the ghost mall,” said Assemblymember Jim Cooper. “I am elated to finally see progress being made and am thrilled for the Wilton Rancheria to begin building their exciting project. Now that demolition has begun on this longstanding blighted property I am hopeful the residents of Elk Grove will finally get the quality retail destination they deserve.”
“It’s been a long wait to begin to remove the blight caused by Howard Hughes’ failed ghost mall,” said Elk Grove Mayor Steve Ly. “We thank Wilton Rancheria for taking the initiative and congratulate them on achieving another milestone in their project, which will bring jobs and revenue to Elk Grove for years to come.”
The structures were originally part of a planned high-end retail mall to be built adjacent to Hwy. 99 in Elk Grove by General Growth Properties, which went bankrupt during construction in late 2007. Howard Hughes Corp. purchased the 99 acres in 2013 and proposed a 63-acre mall called the Outlet Collection at the southern end of the parcel. Wilton Rancheria purchased the northern 36-acre parcel from HHC in 2016. HHC is currently evaluating new options for the remainder of the site, including developing or selling the property.
“Our project has never hinged on what Hughes ultimately does with its property,” said Chairman Hitchcock. “But the zombie mall has been an eyesore for more than 10 years and the people of Elk Grove deserve a first-class development to accompany our first-class resort. Like everyone else in Elk Grove, we look forward to seeing what the future holds for the site – and we hope to see it soon.”
Wilton Rancheria’s resort and casino project will create thousands of jobs, tens of millions of dollars in revenue for the City of Elk Grove and Sacramento County, and the opportunity for the Tribe to finally achieve self-sufficiency.
The 36 acres in Elk Grove were taken into trust on behalf of Wilton Rancheria in February 2017 by the U.S. Department of the Interior. In July 2017, California Governor Jerry Brown and Chairman Hitchcock signed a Tribal/State Gaming Compact, which was ratified unanimously by the State Senate and Assembly in September. The following January, the Department of the Interior published in the Federal Register notice of its approval of the gaming compact.
Then last October, the Chairman of the National Indian Gaming Commission (NIGC) signed and approved the management agreement between Wilton Rancheria and Boyd Gaming to build the resort and casino on the Tribe’s trust land. This approval followed adoption of the federal Bureau of Indian Affairs’ 2016 Final Environmental Impact Statement (FEIS), a lengthy and thorough process that spanned several years with extensive public input.